The Artognou stone is an archaeological artefact uncovered in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It was discovered in 1998 in securely dated sixth-century contexts among the ruins at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, a secular, high status settlement of sub-Roman Britain. Apparently originally a practice dedication stone for some building or other public structure, it was broken in two and re-used as part of a drain when the original structure was destroyed. Upon its discovery the stone achieved some notoriety due to the suggestion that "Artognou" was connected to the legendary King Arthur, though scholars such as John Koch have criticized the evidence for this connection.
The dating of the stone has been arrived at by two methods: first, the stone came from a securely stratified context in association with imported pottery of known types dating to the fifth/sixth centuries; second, forms of certain letters noted on the slate appear in British inscribed stones from Scotland to Cornwall post-500 and are certainly known elsewhere from 6th century north Cornwall (part of the kingdom of Dumnonia).
At the top right-hand corner of the fragment is a deeply cut motif consisting (as visible) of a letter A and another incomplete character on either side of a large diagonal cross; the whole may represent a common Christian symbol, a Christogram--the Greek alphabet letters Alpha and Omega flanking a large Greek letter Chi (written like a Roman X), the initial of Christos (Christ). Below this and to the left, but overlapping it slightly, is a smaller, more lightly incised inscription in Latin, reading: PATERN[--] COLI AVI FICIT ARTOGNOU . This seems to have been repeated lower down and to the right; only the letters COL[.] and FICIT, on two lines, can be seen on the fragment. This repetition, the overlap with the Christogram and the shallow carving (scratching would be a more accurate description) all suggest that what we have here is no formal inscription but rather an example of graffiti.
The inscription has been translated by the Celtic Inscribed Stones Project as "Artognou descendant of Patern[us] Colus made (this). Colus made (this)."
Also found in the sixth-century fort at Tintagel were numerous remains of expensive pottery, glasswork, and coins from Visigothic Spain and the Byzantine Empire (when excavated in the 1930s by C. A. Ralegh Radford). It would have had to be a powerful state to have sustained trade with the Mediterranean.
Possible Arthurian connection
After its discovery the stone was advanced as possible evidence for the historical basis for the legendary King Arthur, with the name Artognou proposed as a variant of Arthur. The stone's dating fits the general timeframe usually given for an "historical Arthur", and according to a tradition first recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth, he was conceived at Tintagel Castle. However, the Celticist John Koch and others have rejected this idea, arguing against the connection between the names and saying there is no reason to suspect an association with an historical Arthur.
- "Tintagel Island". Celtic Inscribed Stones Project (UCL). Retrieved 5 December 2009.
- Koch, John, "Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia", ABC-CLIO, 2006, p. 1669.
- Barrowman, Rachel C., Batey, Colleen E., Morris, Christopher D., "Excavations at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, 1990-1999", Society of Antiquaries of London, 2007, p. 199.
- Celtic Inscribed Stones Project
- Glasgow University: Tintagel Excavations 1998. The archaeological context of the find: "Although Tintagel is often associated with the mysterious and mythical past, we must dismiss any idea that the name on this stone is in any way to be associated with the legendary and literary figure Arthur. Arthur was only associated with Tintagel through the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century, six hundred years later. As Professor Thomas states, "All this stone shows in the name ARTOGNOU, is the use of this (Celtic) element".
- "Tintagel Excavations 1998". Archaeology@Glasgow. Retrieved 2011-08-24. (Archived at Archive.org)
- "'ARTHUR' Stone Discovered at Tintagel". Fragments of Time. 2002. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
- "Early Medieval Tintagel: An Interview with Archaeologists Rachel Harry and Kevin Brady"