IT is one of Scotland's most historic artifacts but now a heritage expert is to explore the modern day meanings and values of the Stone of Destiny.

Ahead of the Stone's use at the coronation of King Charles III, Professor Sally Foster has received a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship of more than £50,000 for her research study Authenticity's child: contemporary meanings and future destinies for the Stone of Scone.

The research aims to widen public engagement with the Stone by producing memorable research-led stories of contemporary relevance that provoke new thinking about this national icon.

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Professor Foster, of the University of Stirling, said: “The 2023 coronation of Charles III in Westminster Abbey and the 2024 relocation of the medieval Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny to Perth’s new museum is rekindling interest in the future of this national icon, what stories to tell about it and how. 

“There is an unparalleled opportunity to explore, for the first time, the Stone’s contemporary authenticity and social value in real time while it moves between multiple contexts. 

"The Stone is the supreme example of an object defined across time and space by how diverse communities negotiate its authenticity or inauthenticity and contest its meanings.”

Seen as a sacred object, its earliest origins are unknown but the Stone of Destiny – also known as the Stone of Scone – is an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy, used for centuries in the inauguration of its kings and queens. 

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Having been seized by King Edward I of England in 1296, in 1950 it was stolen from Westminster Abbey by four Scottish students, before being officially returned to Scotland in 1996. 

It is currently displayed alongside the Honours of Scotland at Edinburgh Castle but, in a top secret and highly choreographed move, it will be temporarily transported to Westminster for the coronation on May 6. 

In 2024 will return to its Perthshire roots, moving there as the centrepiece of the new Perth Museum.

Dr Foster’s work is also being supported by the Leverhulme Trust through the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant Scheme. 

An exhibition relating to the research: ‘The Stone of Destiny – a moving story’, which features an artwork Stone of Destiny created by the artist George Wyllie, is currently open at the Pathfoot building at the University of Stirling. 

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In 1996, when the Conservative Government returned the Stone to Scotland, Wyllie made a series of portable, limited-edition concrete breeze-block stones, which feature an aluminium handle and the word ‘Destiny’ on one side, to allow for all the possible claimants to the real stone to have one.

Earlier this month, researchers in Stirling used cutting-edge digital technologies and scientific analysis to find out more about the Stone, including created a 3D-printed replica of the object.

This exact replica has been used in practicing the choreography of the move to London but it has also given academics and researchers the chance to see new aspects of the Stone, such as tool marks and newly discovered Roman numerals.  

Its documented history spans about 800 years but the Stone, made from sandstone of the Scone Sandstone Formation, is around 400 million years old.

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis was undertaken during the analysis work in Stirling to determine the elemental composition of the Stone, leading to the discovery of traces of copper alloy on its top surface that coincide with a dark stain near its centre.

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This suggests a bronze or brass object has been in contact with or placed on the Stone at some time in its history.

Microscopic traces of gypsum plaster were also found to be present and it is thought these could be traces of a plaster cast that was taken some time in the past.