A historic Pictish stone could be set to return to the north-east village it was discovered in more than four decades ago.
The Rhynie Man is a six-foot-high Pictish standing stone with a stunning axe-wielding figure carved into it.
The archeological find was discovered at Barflat farm in Rhynie in 1978, but now sits in Aberdeenshire Council’s Woodhill House headquarters.
Fergus Mutch, the SNP’s MSP candidate in Aberdeenshire West, has written to Aberdeenshire Council calling for the stone to be returned home to the village.
He said: “Rhynie has such a central place in our heritage – it formed the centre of the Pictish world – and we should celebrate that properly.
“The Rhynie Man is one of Scotland’s most important archeological discoveries and could form a magnificent centrepiece in telling the story of the Picts, drawing tourists from far and wide.
“Currently, he looks a bit sad, forgotten and inaccessible in the lobby of Woodhill House, 35 miles from home.
“A permanent home in the Square in Rhynie would be a far more appropriate setting.
“Rhynie is one of Aberdeenshire’s most beautiful villages but in recent years has sadly seen its hotel close, and visitors to the local area in decline.
“Let’s reverse that trend, bring the Rhynie Man home in 2021 and give the community a welcome boost in the process.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said a feasibility study of options for returning the Rhynie Man home was completed last year, but work had now stalled due to the pandemic.
He said: “Prior to the arrival of the pandemic, Aberdeenshire Council worked with representatives of Rhynie community, John Renshaw Architects, Historic Environment Scotland and University of Aberdeen to look at whether the return of the stone was feasible or not.
“A feasibility study into options was completed at the start of 2020 but work is currently on hold owing to the pandemic, and the council’s funding and staffing priorities. The council will continue to engage with the community on possible options where resources allow.”
Rhynie is an area of huge archeological Pictish importance, with experts last year announcing that nearby Tap O’ Noth hillfort may have been one of the largest and most significant ancient settlements anywhere in Europe of its time.
With that renewed focus, campaigners hope to make the Rhynie Man a focal point for visitors prominently positioned in a secure weatherproof display in the village square.