Builders reinforcing an old wall near a ruined church in Temple, Midlothian, have uncovered a stone carved with strange symbols.
It’s a flat, rectangular stone, possibly a sarcophagus lid. The carvings look vaguely Viking, vaguely Celtic and are vaguely dated to the 10th, 12th, 13th or 14th century. Since it was found near the ruins of what was once a Templar preceptory, there’s a certain Da Vinci Code intrigue to it.
Historian and author John Ritchie said the stone raised many questions. “It is a crude carving, quite primitive, but I have never seen anything like it in my life,” he said. “It has a whole series of symbols on it and the symbols are very interesting.
“The symbols at the bottom look like Viking sun compasses, while the dials at the top look a little bit like a Celtic cross but with notches carved on them.”
Then on the left there’s the sword and shield with what looks eerily like Pac-Man engraved on it. (See where the arrow is pointing below.)
Nobody really knows what they mean, although there’s speculation that they might be sheep shears or hawking bells, perhaps carved on a knight’s headstone.
Expert David Connolly, of Connolly Heritage Consultancy, said he believed the stone was from the 13th or 14th century.
“It is a significant site because it was the Templar Preceptory for Scotland,” he said. “I think from the condition, it may once have been set inside the church – which was once much bigger,” he added.
“He could be a Templar, he could be a Hospitaller, he could just be a knight who wanted to be buried there – but the heraldry is like nothing anyone has seen before.”
Or it could all just be a big lark carved by wacky kids in the throes of 70’s videogame mania. We just don’t know, and we won’t know anything about it for sure until historians get to do some serious analysis.
The stone is still in place, and the landowner, Crispin Miller, says when he restores the churchyard he’ll put an arch over the stone so historians can study it further in situ.