The Rhynie Man is a cartoon-like depiction, over a metre high, of a man carrying an axe, beautifully carved on a gabbro slab. The slab, itself 1.78m high, was uncovered during ploughing at Barflat, just to the south of Rhynie in Aberdeenshire, in 1978.
Today you find the Rhynie Man standing in the reception area of Woodhill House, the headquarters of Aberdeenshire Council, on the edge of Aberdeen. He can be visited - if you can find somewhere to park - during normal office opening hours.
Why it was felt appropriate to house him in a building with such ill-signed and inadequate visitor parking is unclear, but it takes a little effort to find many of the best of Scotland's Pictish stones, and in that much at least, Rhynie Man is no exception.
In every other way, however, Rhynie Man is very unusual indeed. Very few carvings of figures have been found dating back to the Pictish period. One consequence of this is that there is very little with which to compare Rhynie Man and the stone he is carved on: and this in turn makes dating him extremely difficult. The absence of even a vague idea of a date makes it very difficult to agree what the stone actually depicts.
But there are no shortage of theories. The stone could date to any time between the 500s and the 800s. If it is of an early date, then Rhynie Man could be a depiction of the Celtic God Esus, who the Picts' predecessors, the Celts, depicted as a woodman with an axe (and to whom they sacrificed victims who they strung up from trees). Alternatively, if the stone is of a later date, it could represent a Pictish King or a figure from legend, or even St Matthew.
Whoever the figure is intended to represent, he has a disproportionately large head complete with a distinctive haircut, beaked nose, pointed teeth and a long beard. He is wearing a tunic belted at the waist. It has been suggested that the very thin shaft of the axe Rhynie Man is carrying means it is intended for ceremonial purposes rather than as a weapon or a tool.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map
Address: Woodhill House, Westburn Road, Aberdeen, AB16 5GB.
Grid Ref: NJ 912 069