Aberdeenshire Council is in discussions with members of the Rhynie community over proposals to return a vital piece of Pictish history that was removed from the village in 1978.
Rhynie Man, a 6ft-high carving of a fearsome fellow carrying an axe, was ploughed up from Barflat Farm and dates back to the 6th or 7th centuries.
It currently resides at Aberdeenshire Council’s headquarters at Woodhill House, but the authority is considering returning it to Rhynie.
A spokesman for the council said: “Prior to the arrival of the pandemic, Aberdeenshire Council worked with representatives of Rhynie community, John Renshaw Architects, Historic Environment Scotland and Aberdeen University to look at whether the return of the stone was feasible or not.
“A feasibility study into options was completed at the start of 2020 but work is currently on hold owing to the pandemic, and the council’s funding and staffing priorities.
“The council will continue to engage with the community on possible options where resources allow.”
Rhynie Man was first moved to the former Grampian Regional Council headquarters in 1987, and currently resides at the reception of Woodhill House.
It was moved after lying behind a steading for some time, while negotiations took place between the National Museum, the Crown Agent and the owner of the land the stone was unearthed.
Fergus Mutch, SNP candidate for the Aberdeenshire West MSP seat, has backed efforts to move the ancient stone back to the community it was discovered.
He said: “Rhynie has such a central place in our heritage — it formed the centre of the Pictish world — and we should celebrate that properly.
“The Rhynie Man is one of Scotland’s most important archaeological discoveries and could form a magnificent centrepiece in telling the story of the Picts, drawing tourists from far and wide.
“Currently, he looks a bit sad, forgotten and inaccessible in the lobby of Woodhill House, 35 miles from home.
“A permanent home in the Square in Rhynie would be a far more appropriate setting.
“Rhynie is one of Aberdeenshire’s most beautiful villages but in recent years has sadly seen its hotel close, and visitors to the local area in decline.
“Let’s reverse that trend, bring the Rhynie Man home in 2021 and give the community a welcome boost in the process.”