The discovery of what is thought to be a Pictish stone is “potentially very exciting”, according to an expert.
Wayne Miles, an amateur metal detectorist, found the stone carved with an eagle on land near his home outside Elgin in Moray having apparently been discarded by builders working on a development project.
The stone, which is around 6ft-long and weighs an estimated two tonnes, appears to be engraved with Pict markings and, although it is yet to be verified, experts believe it could be an important find.
David McGovern, vice-president of the Pictish Art Society, told the Press Association: “If it’s confirmed it’s a very exciting discovery.
“Generally speaking about one of these stones turns up every year but it’s very unusual to find such a big one. It’s a real whopper.”
The Picts populated the north and east of what is now Scotland from the late Iron Age to the Early Middle Ages.
While the purpose of the Pictish stones is not understood, the markings are unique to northern Scotland and are seen as cherished artefacts of local history.
Mr McGovern, who said the stone was likely from the fourth to the sixth century, added: “Pictish art is a very distinctive style of art.
“These early ones have a real vibrancy to them. These symbols don’t appear anywhere else in the world.”
Mr McGovern said the find was reminiscent of another Pictish artefact, the Dandaleith stone, which was discovered in 2013, also in Moray.
“It’s suggestive of it being carved by the same hand, or at least the same workshop,” said McGovern.
“It looks like a specific style of Pictish stone local to the Elgin region.”
The stone is being examined by experts at Elgin Museum, who went to visit the stone on Monday as they attempt to verify whether or not it is authentic.
It was alerted by Mr Miles, who spotted part of the eagle pattern on the stone as he passed it on his way home.
Now cleaned up, the stone can also be seen to contain what Mr McGovern described as a notched rectangle with a Z-rod.
Mr Miles said: “I’ve found Roman coins, bronze age coins, the list goes on. I hand my finds in because I believe people like to see our history.
“I could quite happily give up metal detecting now knowing that I’ve found something this important. I don’t want to but I could. I’ve done my bit.”