St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. © RCAHMS. Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk
Stone has been used as a principal building material throughout Scotland from prehistoric times to the present. Carved into a wide range of functional, decorative and sculptural components, it mainly survives in standing structures and as ex situ stonework from the medieval period onwards.
This material provides a rich source of evidence for understanding and appreciating the built environment and its significance in a wider cultural context. Architectural carved stones can yield valuable technical information about quarrying and construction techniques, and stylistic evidence that can be used to date buildings and understand the development of regional and international building traditions. Systematic analysis of ex situ carved stones can be used as evidence to help visualise and reconstruct lost buildings and structures. Mason’s marks, inscriptions, graffiti, date stones and heraldic devices can also provide a source of historical information.
Buildings can incorporate functional, decorative and sculptural carved stones. Functional stonework and integral elements such as arches, columns, jambs, window tracery and voussoirs can incorporate ornate and figurative details including vault bosses, canopies, corbels, cornices and column capitals. Significant sculptural elements, such as niche carvings, friezes, heraldic panels, gargoyles and finials can also be incorporated into buildings as architectural elements.
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