Jun 13 2012
Pic: R. J. Henery
|The University of Strathclyde and Glasgow is doing some phenomenal work in collecting and collating details of all the Pictish stones that have been found. They have built an online databse that we all can have access to giving images and details off all the stones as well as their precise location. There is even an overall map so that you can see their distribution. The project is called STAMS Pictish Stone Database.You can search by name, symbol, any other term or browse through all the stones. Fantastic piece of work! For example, the stone you see to the left comes from Brandsbutt in Inverurie, it has a crescent & V marking, a serpent & Z as well as Ogham. It is located near a stone circle and the database gives precise map references for potential visitors.|
Who were the Picts?
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval Celtic people living in ancient eastern and northern Scotland. There is an association with the geographical distribution of brochs, Brythonic place name elements, and Pictish stones. Picts are recorded from before the Roman conquest of Britain until the 10th century, when they merged with the Gaels. They lived to the north of the rivers Forth and Clyde, and spoke the extinct Pictish language, thought to have been related to the Brythonic languages spoken by the Britons to the south.
They are assumed to have been the descendants of the Caledonii and other tribes named by Roman historians or found on the world map of Ptolemy. Pictland, also known as Pictavia, gradually merged with the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata to form the Kingdom of Alba (Scotland). Alba expanded, absorbing the Brythonic kingdom of Strathclyde and Bernician Lothian, and by the 11th century the Pictish identity had been subsumed into the “Scots” amalgamation of peoples.
Pictish society was typical of many Iron Age societies in northern Europe, having “wide connections and parallels” with neighbouring groups.
Archaeology gives some impression of the society of the Picts. While very little in the way of Pictish writing has survived, Pictish history since the late 6th century is known from a variety of sources, including Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, saints’ lives such as that of Columba by Adomnán, and various Irish annals. Although the popular impression of the Picts may be one of an obscure, mysterious people, this is far from being the case. When compared with the generality of Northern, Central and Eastern Europe in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, Pictish history and society are well attested.
History of the Picts
The means by which the Pictish confederation formed in Late Antiquity from a number of tribes is unknown, although there is speculation that reaction to the growth of the Roman Empire was a factor.
Pictland had previously been described as the home of the Caledonii. Other tribes said to have lived in the area included the Verturiones, Taexali and Venicones. Except for the Caledonians, the names may be second- or third-hand: perhaps as reported to the Romans by speakers of Brythonic or Gaulish languages.
|Pictish recorded history begins in the Dark Ages. It appears that they were not the dominant power in Northern Britain for the entire period. The Gaels of Dál Riata controlled their own region for a time, but suffered a series of defeats in the first third of the 7th century. The Angles of Bernicia overwhelmed the adjacent British kingdoms, and the neighbouring Anglian kingdom of Deira (Bernicia and Deira later being called Northumbria) was to become the most powerful kingdom in Britain. The Picts were probably tributary to Northumbria until the reign of Bridei map Beli, when the Anglians suffered a defeat at the Battle of Dun Nechtain that halted their northward expansion. The Northumbrians continued to dominate southern Scotland for the remainder of the Pictish period.||
The Whitecleuch Chain
High status Pictish silver chain, one of ten known to exist, dating from between 400 and 800 AD.
In the reign of Óengus mac Fergusa (729–761), Dál Riata was very much subject to the Pictish king. Although it had its own kings from the 760s, it appears that Dál Riata did not recover. A later Pictish king, Caustantín mac Fergusa (793–820), placed his son Domnall on the throne of Dál Riata (811–835). Pictish attempts to achieve a similar dominance over the Britons of Alt Clut (Dumbarton) were not successful.
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