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4 June 2024

HES scientists piece together puzzle of Stone of Destiny fragment

The in-house Science team carried out a series of cutting-edge, non-destructive scientific analyses of the sandstone fragment, comparing it to previous examinations carried out

A scientist examines a fragment of the Stone of Destiny

A new report published today (Tuesday 4 June) by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) showcases the scientific investigation which concluded to a high degree of certainty that a stone fragment HES was asked to examine on behalf of the Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia is a genuine piece of the Stone of Destiny.

The in-house HES Science team carried out a series of cutting-edge, non-destructive scientific analyses of the sandstone fragment, comparing it to previous examinations carried out by HES on the Stone of Destiny.

X-ray fluorescence analysis – a technique which is employed for a range of different purposes, from forensic investigation to analysis of artworks and paintings - examined the chemical element composition of the fragment. Scanning electron microscopy provided detailed, high-resolution microscopic analysis of the fragment’s mineralogy and chemical composition. Other forms of microscopic analysis examined the fragment’s grain structure, texture, shape and compaction, while colour analysis compared the fragment’s colour to that of the Stone of Destiny.

The results of each of these analyses revealed consistency with the sandstone fragment being derived from the Stone of Destiny, beyond any reasonable doubt.

Dr Aurélie Turmel, Science Manager at HES, said:

This has been an exciting piece of scientific detective work for our team to undertake.

“The new scientific analysis that we carried out on the Stone of Destiny ahead of the Coronation last year effectively enabled us to ‘fingerprint’ the Stone, and by performing the same techniques on this fragment we have been able to identify matches in terms of the chemical elements and minerals it comprises, the grain characteristics, and its colour.

"We’re pleased to have had the opportunity to demonstrate the importance and potential of the world-leading heritage science technology we have at our disposal here at HES, in particular how we are now able to combine these different techniques and datasets to strengthen certainty in our findings and how this can help enrich understanding of our past."

View the report

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead body for Scotland’s historic environment, a charity dedicated to the advancement of heritage, culture, education and environmental protection. It is at the forefront of researching and understanding the historic environment and addressing the impacts of climate change on its future, investigating and recording architectural and archaeological sites and landscapes across Scotland and caring for more than 300 properties of national importance. We are also the lead on delivering Scotland's strategy for the historic environment, Our Past, Our Future.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle, and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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For further information, please contact:

Claire Mullaney
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
07721 959 962