The Picardy Stone stands in a field a few yards south of a minor road two miles north-west of Insch in Aberdeenshire. Just over a mile to the stone's south, and clearly visible from it, is the hillfort at Dunnideer and there may have been a link between the two.
Pictish symbol stones come in many shapes and sizes, and date back to the era between the mid 500s and the mid 800s. The Picardy Stone is a rough triangular pillar 1.98m high and it carries a series of carvings on its south face. The roughness of the stone and, especially, of the face carrying the carvings suggest it is one of the earliest Pictish stones to have been found.
The Picardy Stone - the origin of the odd name is unclear - is unusual because it seems to be standing in its original location. A dig carried out in 1856 discovered that the stone stands in the centre of a low cairn, 1.9m in diameter, associated with an apparently empty grave.
The carvings on the south face of the Picardy Stone are forms of three Pictish symbols that are found quite commonly. The top symbol is a "double disc and Z-rod". Beneath it is a "serpent and Z-rod", while the third of the carvings is of a mirror: the type of polished bronze hand mirror found in the area at the time. This is a variant of the more usually found "mirror and comb" symbol.
Very little is known about the purpose of Pictish stones and the real meaning of the symbols they carry. In terms of their function, theories include their serving as grave markers or memorials to Pictish nobles, or their standing as territorial markers. There are a wide variety of symbols used, but many are repeated in different places. It has been suggested that they may be an early form of heraldry, identifying local families or clans; or that different symbols may signify different ranks within society; or perhaps a combination of the two. In large measure this ignorance is simply a reflection of a larger void in our knowledge, about the Picts generally: a void that is all the more remarkable given we are talking of a people who lived here after the Romans had disappeared from the scene and in an age that, elsewhere in Britain, was beginning to be recorded in writing.