Picts
Overview
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age
British Iron Age
The British Iron Age is a conventional name used in the archaeology of Great Britain, referring to the prehistoric and protohistoric phases of the Iron-Age culture of the main island and the smaller islands, typically excluding prehistoric Ireland, and which had an independent Iron Age culture of...

 and Early Mediaeval
Scotland in the Early Middle Ages
Scotland in the early Middle Ages, between the end of Roman authority in southern and central Britain from around 400 and the rise of the kingdom of Alba in 900, was divided into a series of petty kingdoms. Of these the four most important to emerge were the Picts, the Scots of Dál Riata, the...

 people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry
Pitlochry
Pitlochry , is a burgh in the council area of Perth and Kinross, Scotland, lying on the River Tummel. Its population according to the 2001 census was 2,564....

, and Pictish stones
Pictish stones
Pictish stones are monumental stelae found in Scotland, mostly north of the Clyde-Forth line. These stones are the most visible remaining evidence of the Picts and are thought to date from the 6th to 9th centuries, a period during which the Picts became Christianized...

. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest of Britain
Roman conquest of Britain
The Roman conquest of Britain was a gradual process, beginning effectively in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, whose general Aulus Plautius served as first governor of Britannia. Great Britain had already frequently been the target of invasions, planned and actual, by forces of the Roman Republic and...

 until the 10th century, when they merged with the Gaels
Gaels
The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

. They lived to the north of the rivers Forth
River Forth
The River Forth , long, is the major river draining the eastern part of the central belt of Scotland.The Forth rises in Loch Ard in the Trossachs, a mountainous area some west of Stirling...

 and Clyde
River Clyde
The River Clyde is a major river in Scotland. It is the ninth longest river in the United Kingdom, and the third longest in Scotland. Flowing through the major city of Glasgow, it was an important river for shipbuilding and trade in the British Empire....

, and spoke the extinct Pictish language
Pictish language
Pictish is a term used for the extinct language or languages thought to have been spoken by the Picts, the people of northern and central Scotland in the Early Middle Ages...

, thought to have been related to the Brythonic languages
Brythonic languages
The Brythonic or Brittonic languages form one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic language family, the other being Goidelic. The name Brythonic was derived by Welsh Celticist John Rhys from the Welsh word Brython, meaning an indigenous Briton as opposed to an Anglo-Saxon or Gael...

 spoken by the Britons
Britons (historical)
The Britons were the Celtic people culturally dominating Great Britain from the Iron Age through the Early Middle Ages. They spoke the Insular Celtic language known as British or Brythonic...

 to the south.
Encyclopedia
The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age
British Iron Age
The British Iron Age is a conventional name used in the archaeology of Great Britain, referring to the prehistoric and protohistoric phases of the Iron-Age culture of the main island and the smaller islands, typically excluding prehistoric Ireland, and which had an independent Iron Age culture of...

 and Early Mediaeval
Scotland in the Early Middle Ages
Scotland in the early Middle Ages, between the end of Roman authority in southern and central Britain from around 400 and the rise of the kingdom of Alba in 900, was divided into a series of petty kingdoms. Of these the four most important to emerge were the Picts, the Scots of Dál Riata, the...

 people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. There is an association with the distribution of brochs, place names beginning 'Pit-', for instance Pitlochry
Pitlochry
Pitlochry , is a burgh in the council area of Perth and Kinross, Scotland, lying on the River Tummel. Its population according to the 2001 census was 2,564....

, and Pictish stones
Pictish stones
Pictish stones are monumental stelae found in Scotland, mostly north of the Clyde-Forth line. These stones are the most visible remaining evidence of the Picts and are thought to date from the 6th to 9th centuries, a period during which the Picts became Christianized...

. They are recorded from before the Roman conquest of Britain
Roman conquest of Britain
The Roman conquest of Britain was a gradual process, beginning effectively in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, whose general Aulus Plautius served as first governor of Britannia. Great Britain had already frequently been the target of invasions, planned and actual, by forces of the Roman Republic and...

 until the 10th century, when they merged with the Gaels
Gaels
The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

. They lived to the north of the rivers Forth
River Forth
The River Forth , long, is the major river draining the eastern part of the central belt of Scotland.The Forth rises in Loch Ard in the Trossachs, a mountainous area some west of Stirling...

 and Clyde
River Clyde
The River Clyde is a major river in Scotland. It is the ninth longest river in the United Kingdom, and the third longest in Scotland. Flowing through the major city of Glasgow, it was an important river for shipbuilding and trade in the British Empire....

, and spoke the extinct Pictish language
Pictish language
Pictish is a term used for the extinct language or languages thought to have been spoken by the Picts, the people of northern and central Scotland in the Early Middle Ages...

, thought to have been related to the Brythonic languages
Brythonic languages
The Brythonic or Brittonic languages form one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic language family, the other being Goidelic. The name Brythonic was derived by Welsh Celticist John Rhys from the Welsh word Brython, meaning an indigenous Briton as opposed to an Anglo-Saxon or Gael...

 spoken by the Britons
Britons (historical)
The Britons were the Celtic people culturally dominating Great Britain from the Iron Age through the Early Middle Ages. They spoke the Insular Celtic language known as British or Brythonic...

 to the south. They are assumed to have been the descendants of the Caledonii
Caledonians
The Caledonians , or Caledonian Confederacy, is a name given by historians to a group of indigenous peoples of what is now Scotland during the Iron Age and Roman eras. The Romans referred to their territory as Caledonia and initially included them as Britons, but later distinguished as the Picts...

 and other tribes named by Roman historians or found on the world map
Ptolemy's world map
The Ptolemy world map is a map of the known world to Western society in the 2nd century AD. It was based on the description contained in Ptolemy's book Geographia, written c. 150...

 of Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

. Pictland, also known as Pictavia, gradually merged with the Gaelic
Gaels
The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

 kingdom of Dál Riata
Dál Riata
Dál Riata was a Gaelic overkingdom on the western coast of Scotland with some territory on the northeast coast of Ireland...

 to form the Kingdom of Alba
Kingdom of Alba
The name Kingdom of Alba pertains to the Kingdom of Scotland between the deaths of Donald II in 900, and of Alexander III in 1286 which then led indirectly to the Scottish Wars of Independence...

 (Scotland). Alba expanded, absorbing the Brythonic kingdom of Strathclyde
Kingdom of Strathclyde
Strathclyde , originally Brythonic Ystrad Clud, was one of the early medieval kingdoms of the celtic people called the Britons in the Hen Ogledd, the Brythonic-speaking parts of what is now southern Scotland and northern England. The kingdom developed during the post-Roman period...

 and Bernician Lothian
Lothian
Lothian forms a traditional region of Scotland, lying between the southern shore of the Firth of Forth and the Lammermuir Hills....

, and by the 11th century the Pictish identity had been subsumed into the "Scots
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

" 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
Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
The Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum is a work in Latin by Bede on the history of the Christian Churches in England, and of England generally; its main focus is on the conflict between Roman and Celtic Christianity.It is considered to be one of the most important original references on...

, saints' lives
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 such as that of Columba
Columba
Saint Columba —also known as Colum Cille , Colm Cille , Calum Cille and Kolban or Kolbjørn —was a Gaelic Irish missionary monk who propagated Christianity among the Picts during the Early Medieval Period...

 by Adomnán, and various Irish annals
Irish annals
A number of Irish annals were compiled up to and shortly after the end of Gaelic Ireland in the 17th century.Annals were originally a means by which monks determined the yearly chronology of feast days...

. 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
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

, Central
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 and Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 in Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 and the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

, Pictish history and society are well attested.

Names

The name the Picts called themselves is unknown. The Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word Picti first occurs in a panegyric
Panegyric
A panegyric is a formal public speech, or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, a generally highly studied and discriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. It is derived from the Greek πανηγυρικός meaning "a speech fit for a general assembly"...

 written by Eumenius
Eumenius
Eumenius , was one of the Roman panegyrists and author of a speech transmitted in the collection of the Panegyrici Latini .-Life:...

 in AD 297 and is taken to mean "painted or tattoo
Tattoo
A tattoo is made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. Tattoos on humans are a type of body modification, and tattoos on other animals are most commonly used for identification purposes...

ed people" (from Latin pingere "to paint",; pictus, "painted", cf. Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 "πυκτίς" - puktis, "picture"). As Sally M. Foster noted, "Much ink has been spilt over what the ancient writers meant by Picts, but it seems to be a generic term for people living north of the Forth
River Forth
The River Forth , long, is the major river draining the eastern part of the central belt of Scotland.The Forth rises in Loch Ard in the Trossachs, a mountainous area some west of Stirling...

-Clyde
River Clyde
The River Clyde is a major river in Scotland. It is the ninth longest river in the United Kingdom, and the third longest in Scotland. Flowing through the major city of Glasgow, it was an important river for shipbuilding and trade in the British Empire....

 isthmus who raided the Roman Empire."

Their Old English
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

 name gave the modern Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

 form Pechts and the Welsh word Fichti.
In writings from Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, the name Cruthin
Cruthin
The Cruthin were a people of early Ireland, who occupied parts of Counties Down, Antrim and Londonderry in the early medieval period....

, Cruthini, Cruthni, Cruithni or Cruithini (Modern Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

: Cruithne) was used to refer to the Picts and to a group of people who lived alongside the Ulaid
Ulaid
The Ulaid or Ulaidh were a people of early Ireland who gave their name to the modern province of Ulster...

 in eastern Ulster
Ulster
Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland, located in the north of the island. In ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial...

. It is generally accepted that this is derived from *Qritani, which is the Goidelic
Goidelic languages
The Goidelic languages or Gaelic languages are one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic languages, the other consisting of the Brythonic languages. Goidelic languages historically formed a dialect continuum stretching from the south of Ireland through the Isle of Man to the north of Scotland...

/Q-Celtic version of the Britonnic
Brythonic languages
The Brythonic or Brittonic languages form one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic language family, the other being Goidelic. The name Brythonic was derived by Welsh Celticist John Rhys from the Welsh word Brython, meaning an indigenous Briton as opposed to an Anglo-Saxon or Gael...

/P-Celtic *Pritani. From this came Britanni, the Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 name for those now called the Britons
Britons (historical)
The Britons were the Celtic people culturally dominating Great Britain from the Iron Age through the Early Middle Ages. They spoke the Insular Celtic language known as British or Brythonic...

. It has been suggested that Cruthin was a name used to refer to all the Britons who were not conquered by the Romans; those who lived outside Roman Britannia
Britannia
Britannia is an ancient term for Great Britain, and also a female personification of the island. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain. However, by the...

, north of Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall was a defensive fortification in Roman Britain. Begun in AD 122, during the rule of emperor Hadrian, it was the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain, the second being the Antonine Wall, lesser known of the two because its physical remains are less evident today.The...

.

History

The means by which the Pictish confederation formed in Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 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
Taexali
The Taexali were a people of ancient Scotland, known only from a single mention of them by the geographer Ptolemy c. 150. From his general description and the approximate location of their town or principal place that he called 'Devana', their territory was along the northeastern coast of Scotland...

and Venicones
Venicones
The Venicones were a people of ancient Britain, known only from a single mention of them by the geographer Ptolemy c. 150 AD. He recorded that their town was 'Orrea'. This has been identified as the Roman fort of Horrea Classis, located by Rivet and Smith as Monifieth, six miles east of Dundee....

. 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
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

. It appears that they were not the dominant power in Northern Britain for the entire period. The Gael
Gaël
Gaël is a commune in the Ille-et-Vilaine department of Brittany in north-western France.It lies southwest of Rennes between Saint-Méen-le-Grand and Mauron...

s of Dál Riata
Dál Riata
Dál Riata was a Gaelic overkingdom on the western coast of Scotland with some territory on the northeast coast of Ireland...

 controlled their own region for a time, but suffered a series of defeats in the first third of the 7th century. The Angles
Angles
The Angles is a modern English term for a Germanic people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany...

 of Bernicia
Bernicia
Bernicia was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom established by Anglian settlers of the 6th century in what is now southeastern Scotland and North East England....

 overwhelmed the adjacent British kingdoms, and the neighbouring Anglian kingdom of Deira (Bernicia and Deira later being called Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

) was to become the most powerful kingdom in Britain. The Picts were probably tributary to Northumbria until the reign of Bridei map Beli
Bridei III of the Picts
King Bridei III was king of Fortriu and overking of the Picts between 671 and his death in 693....

, 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.
In the reign of Óengus mac Fergusa
Óengus I of the Picts
Óengus son of Fergus , was king of the Picts from 732 until his death in 761. His reign can be reconstructed in some detail from a variety of sources.Óengus became the chief king in Pictland following a period of civil war in the late 720s...

 (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
Caustantín of the Picts
Causantín or Constantín mac Fergusa was king of the Picts , in modern Scotland, from 789 until 820. He was until the Victorian era sometimes counted as Constantine I of Scotland; the title is now generally given to Causantín mac Cináeda...

 (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
Kingdom of Strathclyde
Strathclyde , originally Brythonic Ystrad Clud, was one of the early medieval kingdoms of the celtic people called the Britons in the Hen Ogledd, the Brythonic-speaking parts of what is now southern Scotland and northern England. The kingdom developed during the post-Roman period...

 (Dumbarton) were not successful.

The Viking Age
Viking Age
Viking Age is the term for the period in European history, especially Northern European and Scandinavian history, spanning the late 8th to 11th centuries. Scandinavian Vikings explored Europe by its oceans and rivers through trade and warfare. The Vikings also reached Iceland, Greenland,...

 brought great changes in Britain and Ireland, no less in Scotland than elsewhere. The kingdom of Dál Riata was destroyed, certainly by the middle of the 9th century, when Ketil Flatnose
Ketil Flatnose
Ketill Bjǫrnsson, nicknamed Flatnose , was a Norwegian hersir of the 9th century.-Biography:Ketill Bjǫrnsson was the son of Bjorn Grimmson. He was from Romsdal , a valley in the county of Møre og Romsdal, between Nordmøre and Sunnmøre...

 is said to have founded the Kingdom of the Isles
Kingdom of the Isles
The Kingdom of the Isles comprised the Hebrides, the islands of the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Man from the 9th to the 13th centuries AD. The islands were known to the Norse as the Suðreyjar, or "Southern Isles" as distinct from the Norðreyjar or Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland...

. Northumbria too succumbed to the Vikings, who founded the Kingdom of York, and the Kingdom of Strathclyde
Kingdom of Strathclyde
Strathclyde , originally Brythonic Ystrad Clud, was one of the early medieval kingdoms of the celtic people called the Britons in the Hen Ogledd, the Brythonic-speaking parts of what is now southern Scotland and northern England. The kingdom developed during the post-Roman period...

 was also greatly affected. The king of Fortriu Eógan mac Óengusa
Uen of the Picts
Uuen [Wen] or Eogán in Gaelic was king of the Picts, or of Fortriu , in what is now Scotland....

, the king of Dál Riata Áed mac Boanta
Áed mac Boanta
Áed mac Boanta is believed to have been a king of Dál Riata.The only reference to Áed in the Irish annals is found in the Annals of Ulster, where it is recorded that "Eóganán mac Óengusa, Bran mac Óengusa, Áed mac Boanta, and others almost innumerable" in a battle fought by the men of Fortriu...

, and many more, were killed in a major battle against the Vikings in 839. The rise of Cínaed mac Ailpín
Kenneth I of Scotland
Cináed mac Ailpín , commonly Anglicised as Kenneth MacAlpin and known in most modern regnal lists as Kenneth I was king of the Picts and, according to national myth, first king of Scots, earning him the posthumous nickname of An Ferbasach, "The Conqueror"...

 (Kenneth MacAlpin) in the 840s, in the aftermath of this disaster, brought to power the family who would preside over the last days of the Pictish kingdom and found the new kingdom of Alba, although Cínaed himself was never other than king of the Picts.

In the reign of Cínaed's grandson, Caustantín mac Áeda
Constantine II of Scotland
Constantine, son of Áed was an early King of Scotland, known then by the Gaelic name Alba. The Kingdom of Alba, a name which first appears in Constantine's lifetime, was in northern Great Britain...

 (900–943), the kingdom of the Picts became the kingdom of Alba. The change from Pictland to Alba may not have been noticeable at first; indeed, as we do not know the Pictish name for their land, it may not have been a change at all. The Picts, along with their language, did not disappear suddenly. The process of Gaelicisation, which may have begun generations earlier, continued under Caustantín and his successors. When the last inhabitants of Alba became fully Gaelicised Scots, probably during the 11th century, the Picts were soon forgotten. Later they would reappear in myth
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 and legend
Legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

.

Kings and kingdoms

The early history of Pictland is unclear. In later periods multiple kings existed, ruling over separate kingdoms, with one king, sometimes two, more or less dominating their lesser neighbours. De Situ Albanie
De Situ Albanie
De Situ Albanie is the name given to the first of seven Scottish documents found in the so-called Poppleton Manuscript, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris...

, a late document, the Pictish Chronicle
Pictish Chronicle
The Pictish Chronicle is a name often given by historians to a list of the kings of the Picts beginning many thousand years before history was recorded in Pictavia and ending after Pictavia had been enveloped by Scotland...

, the Duan Albanach
Duan Albanach
The Duan Albanach is a Middle Gaelic poem found with the Lebor Bretnach, a Gaelic version of the Historia Brittonum of Nennius, with extensive additional material ....

, along with Irish legends, have been used to argue the existence of seven Pictish kingdoms. These are as follows; those in bold are known to have had kings, or are otherwise attested in the Pictish period:

  • Cait, situated in modern Caithness
    Caithness
    Caithness is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic local government area of Scotland. The name was used also for the earldom of Caithness and the Caithness constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom . Boundaries are not identical in all contexts, but the Caithness area is...

     and Sutherland
    Sutherland
    Sutherland is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic administrative county of Scotland. It is now within the Highland local government area. In Gaelic the area is referred to according to its traditional areas: Dùthaich 'IcAoidh , Asainte , and Cataibh...

  • Ce, situated in modern Mar
    Marr
    Marr is one of six committee areas in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, bordering Atholl, Badenoch, Gowrie, The Mearns, Banff and Buchan. It has a population of 34,038...

     and Buchan
    Buchan
    Buchan is one of the six committee areas and administrative areas of Aberdeenshire Council, Scotland. These areas were created by the council in 1996, when the Aberdeenshire unitary council area was created under the Local Government etc Act 1994...

  • Circinn, perhaps situated in modern Angus
    Angus
    Angus is one of the 32 local government council areas of Scotland, a registration county and a lieutenancy area. The council area borders Aberdeenshire, Perth and Kinross and Dundee City...

     and the Mearns
  • Fib, the modern Fife
    Fife
    Fife is a council area and former county of Scotland. It is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire...

    , known to this day as 'the Kingdom of Fife'
  • Fidach, location unknown
  • Fotla, modern Atholl
    Atholl
    Atholl or Athole is a large historical division in the Scottish Highlands. Today it forms the northern part of Perth and Kinross, Scotland bordering Marr, Badenoch, Breadalbane, Strathearn, Perth and Lochaber....

     (Ath-Fotla)
  • Fortriu
    Fortriu
    Fortriu or the Kingdom of Fortriu is the name given by historians for an ancient Pictish kingdom, and often used synonymously with Pictland in general...

    , cognate with the Verturiones of the Romans; recently shown to be centered around Moray
    Moray
    Moray is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland. It lies in the north-east of the country, with coastline on the Moray Firth, and borders the council areas of Aberdeenshire and Highland.- History :...



More small kingdoms may have existed. Some evidence suggests that a Pictish kingdom also existed in Orkney. De Situ Albanie is not the most reliable of sources, and the number of kingdoms, one for each of the seven sons of Cruithne, the eponym
Eponym
An eponym is the name of a person or thing, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named...

ous founder of the Picts, may well be grounds enough for disbelief. Regardless of the exact number of kingdoms and their names, the Pictish nation was not a united one.

For most of Pictish recorded history the kingdom of Fortriu appears dominant, so much so that king of Fortriu and king of the Picts may mean one and the same thing in the annals. This was previously thought to lie in the area around Perth
Perth, Scotland
Perth is a town and former city and royal burgh in central Scotland. Located on the banks of the River Tay, it is the administrative centre of Perth and Kinross council area and the historic county town of Perthshire...

 and the southern Strathearn
Strathearn
Strathearn or Strath Earn is the strath of the River Earn, in Scotland. It extends from Loch Earn in Perth and Kinross to the River Tay....

, whereas recent work has convinced those working in the field that Moray (a name referring to a very much larger area in the High Middle Ages than the county of Moray), was the core of Fortriu.

The Picts are often said to have practised matrilineal succession on the basis of Irish legends and a statement in Bede
Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

's history. In fact, Bede merely says that the Picts used matrilineal succession in exceptional cases. The kings of the Picts when Bede was writing were Bridei and Nechtan, sons of Der Ilei, who indeed claimed the throne through their mother Der Ilei, daughter of an earlier Pictish king.

In Ireland, kings were expected to come from among those who had a great-grandfather who had been king. Kingly fathers were not frequently succeeded by their sons, not because the Picts practised matrilineal succession, but because they were usually followed by their own brothers or cousins, more likely to be experienced men with the authority and the support necessary to be king.

The nature of kingship changed considerably during the centuries of Pictish history. While kings had to be successful war leaders to maintain their authority, kingship became rather less personalised and more institutionalised during this time. Bureaucratic kingship was still far in the future when Pictland became Alba, but the support of the church, and the apparent ability of a small number of families to control the kingship for much of the period from the later 7th century onwards, provided a considerable degree of continuity. In much the same period, the Picts' neighbours in Dál Riata and Northumbria faced considerable difficulties, as the stability of succession and rule that previously benefited them ended.

The later Mormaer
Mormaer
The title of Mormaer designates a regional or provincial ruler in the medieval Kingdom of the Scots. In theory, although not always in practice, a Mormaer was second only to the King of Scots, and the senior of a toisech.-Origin:...

s are thought to have originated in Pictish times, and to have been copied from, or inspired by, Northumbrian usages. It is unclear whether the Mormaers were originally former kings, royal officials, or local nobles, or some combination of these. Likewise, the Pictish shires and thanages, traces of which are found in later times, are thought to have been adopted from their southern neighbours.

Society

The archaeological record provides evidence of the material culture
Material culture
In the social sciences, material culture is a term that refers to the relationship between artifacts and social relations. Studying a culture's relationship to materiality is a lens through which social and cultural attitudes can be discussed...

 of the Picts. It tells of a society not readily distinguishable from its similar Gaelic and British neighbours, nor very different from the Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 to the south. Although analogy and knowledge of other Celtic societies may be a useful guide, these extended across a very large area. Relying on knowledge of pre-Roman Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, or 13th century Ireland, as a guide to the Picts of the 6th century may be misleading if analogy is pursued too far.

As with most peoples in the north of Europe in Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

, the Picts were farmers living in small communities. Cattle and horses were an obvious sign of wealth and prestige, sheep and pigs were kept in large numbers, and place names suggest that transhumance
Transhumance
Transhumance is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. In montane regions it implies movement between higher pastures in summer and to lower valleys in winter. Herders have a permanent home, typically in valleys. Only the herds travel, with...

 was common. Animals were small by later standards, although horses from Britain were imported into Ireland as breed-stock to enlarge native horses. From Irish sources it appears that the élite engaged in competitive cattle-breeding for size, and this may have been the case in Pictland also. Carvings show hunting with dogs, and also, unlike in Ireland, with falcons. Cereal crops included wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

, barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, oats
OATS
OATS - Open Source Assistive Technology Software - is a source code repository or "forge" for assistive technology software. It was launched in 2006 with the goal to provide a one-stop “shop” for end users, clinicians and open-source developers to promote and develop open source assistive...

 and rye
Rye
Rye is a grass grown extensively as a grain and as a forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe and is closely related to barley and wheat. Rye grain is used for flour, rye bread, rye beer, some whiskeys, some vodkas, and animal fodder...

. Vegetables included kale
Kale
Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane , a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming,...

, cabbage
Cabbage
Cabbage is a popular cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea Linne of the Family Brassicaceae and is a leafy green vegetable...

, onions and leeks, peas
PEAS
P.E.A.S. is an acronym in artificial intelligence that stands for Performance, Environment, Actuators, Sensors.-Performance:Performance is a function that measures the quality of the actions the agent did....

 and beans, turnips and carrots, and some types no longer common, such as skirret. Plants such as wild garlic
Ramsons
Ramsons — also known as buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek, and bear's garlic — is a wild relative of chives native to Europe and Asia...

, nettles and watercress
Watercress
Watercresses are fast-growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennial plants native from Europe to central Asia, and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by human beings...

 may have been gathered in the wild. The pastoral economy meant that hides and leather were readily available. Wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

 was the main source of fibres for clothing, and flax
Flax
Flax is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent...

 was also common, although it is not clear if they grew it for fibres, for oil, or as a foodstuff. Fish, shellfish, seals, and whales were exploited along coasts and rivers. The importance of domesticated animals argues that meat and milk products were a major part of the diet of ordinary people, while the élite would have eaten a diet rich in meat from farming and hunting.

No Pictish counterparts to the areas of denser settlement around important fortresses in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and southern Britain, or any other significant urban settlements, are known. Larger, but not large, settlements existed around royal forts, such as at Burghead
Burghead
Burghead is a small town in Moray, Scotland, about 8 miles north-west of Elgin. The town is mainly built on a Peninsula which projects north-westward into the Moray Firth, meaning that most of the town has sea on 3 sides. The present town was built between 1805 and 1809, destroying in the...

, or associated with religious foundations. No towns are known in Scotland until the 12th century.

The technology of everyday life is not well recorded, but archaeological evidence shows it to have been similar to that in Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England. Recently evidence has been found of watermill
Watermill
A watermill is a structure that uses a water wheel or turbine to drive a mechanical process such as flour, lumber or textile production, or metal shaping .- History :...

s in Pictland. Kilns were used for drying kernels of wheat or barley, not otherwise easy in the changeable, temperate climate.

The early Picts are associated with piracy and raiding along the coasts of Roman Britain
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

. Even in the Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages
The Late Middle Ages was the period of European history generally comprising the 14th to the 16th century . The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern era ....

, the line between traders and pirates was unclear, so that Pictish pirates were probably merchants on other occasions. It is generally assumed that trade collapsed with the Roman Empire, but this is to overstate the case. There is only limited evidence of long-distance trade with Pictland, but tableware and storage vessels from Gaul, probably transported up the Irish Sea
Irish Sea
The Irish Sea separates the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. It is connected to the Celtic Sea in the south by St George's Channel, and to the Atlantic Ocean in the north by the North Channel. Anglesey is the largest island within the Irish Sea, followed by the Isle of Man...

, have been found. This trade may have been controlled from Dunadd
Dunadd
Dunadd, , is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, Scotland and believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata.-Description:...

 in Dál Riata, where such goods appear to have been common. While long-distance travel was unusual in Pictish times, it was far from unknown as stories of missionaries, travelling clerics and exiles show.

Brochs are popularly associated with the Picts. Although these were built earlier in the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

, with construction ending around 100 AD, they remained in use into and beyond the Pictish period. Crannóg
Crannog
A crannog is typically a partially or entirely artificial island, usually built in lakes, rivers and estuarine waters of Scotland and Ireland. Crannogs were used as dwellings over five millennia from the European Neolithic Period, to as late as the 17th/early 18th century although in Scotland,...

, which may originate in Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 Scotland, may have been rebuilt, and some were still in use in the time of the Picts. The most common sort of buildings would have been roundhouses
Roundhouse (dwelling)
The roundhouse is a type of house with a circular plan, originally built in western Europe before the Roman occupation using walls made either of stone or of wooden posts joined by wattle-and-daub panels and a conical thatched roof. Roundhouses ranged in size from less than 5m in diameter to over 15m...

 and rectangular timbered halls. While many churches were built in wood, from the early 8th century, if not earlier, some were built in stone.

The Picts are often said to have tattooed themselves, but evidence for this is limited. Naturalistic depictions of Pictish nobles, hunters and warriors, male and female, without obvious tattoos, are found on monumental stones
Pictish stones
Pictish stones are monumental stelae found in Scotland, mostly north of the Clyde-Forth line. These stones are the most visible remaining evidence of the Picts and are thought to date from the 6th to 9th centuries, a period during which the Picts became Christianized...

. These stones include inscriptions in Latin and ogham
Ogham
Ogham is an Early Medieval alphabet used primarily to write the Old Irish language, and occasionally the Brythonic language. Ogham is sometimes called the "Celtic Tree Alphabet", based on a High Medieval Bríatharogam tradition ascribing names of trees to the individual letters.There are roughly...

 script, not all of which have been deciphered. The well known Pictish symbols found on stones, and elsewhere, are obscure in meaning. A variety of esoteric explanations have been offered, but the simplest conclusion may be that these symbols represent the names of those who had raised, or are commemorated on, the stones. Pictish art can be classed as Celtic
Celtic art
Celtic art is the art associated with the peoples known as Celts; those who spoke the Celtic languages in Europe from pre-history through to the modern period, as well as the art of ancient peoples whose language is uncertain, but have cultural and stylistic similarities with speakers of Celtic...

, and later as Insular. Irish poets portrayed their Pictish counterparts as very much like themselves.

Religion

Early Pictish religion is presumed to have resembled Celtic polytheism
Celtic polytheism
Celtic polytheism, commonly known as Celtic paganism, refers to the religious beliefs and practices adhered to by the Iron Age peoples of Western Europe now known as the Celts, roughly between 500 BCE and 500 CE, spanning the La Tène period and the Roman era, and in the case of the Insular Celts...

 in general, although only place names remain from the pre-Christian era. When the Pictish elite converted to Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 is uncertain, but traditions place Saint Palladius
Palladius
Palladius was the first Bishop of the Christians of Ireland, preceding Saint Patrick. The Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion consider Palladius a saint.-Armorica:...

 in Pictland after he left Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, and link Abernethy with Saint Brigid of Kildare
Brigid of Kildare
Saint Brigit of Kildare, or Brigit of Ireland , nicknamed Mary of the Gael is one of Ireland's patron saints along with Saints Patrick and Columba...

. Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick was a Romano-Briton and Christian missionary, who is the most generally recognized patron saint of Ireland or the Apostle of Ireland, although Brigid of Kildare and Colmcille are also formally patron saints....

 refers to "apostate Picts", while the poem Y Gododdin
Y Gododdin
Y Gododdin is a medieval Welsh poem consisting of a series of elegies to the men of the Britonnic kingdom of Gododdin and its allies who, according to the conventional interpretation, died fighting the Angles of Deira and Bernicia at a place named Catraeth...

does not remark on the Picts as pagans. Bede wrote that Saint Ninian
Saint Ninian
Saint Ninian is a Christian saint first mentioned in the 8th century as being an early missionary among the Pictish peoples of what is now Scotland...

 (confused by some with Saint Finnian of Moville
Finnian of Moville
Finnian of Movilla Abbey, Irish Christian missionary, 495–589.-Origins and life:Finnian was a Christian missionary who became a legendary figure in medieval Ireland. He should not to be confused with his namesake Finnian of Clonard...

, who died c. 589), had converted the southern Picts. Recent archaeological work at Portmahomack
Portmahomack
Portmahomack is a small fishing village in Easter Ross, Scotland. It is situated in the Tarbat Peninsula in the parish of Tarbat. Tarbat Ness Lighthouse is about three miles from the village at the end of the Tarbat Peninsula. Ballone Castle lies about a mile from the village...

 places the foundation of the monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 there, an area once assumed to be among the last converted, in the late 6th century. This is contemporary with Bridei mac Maelchon
Bridei I of the Picts
Bridei son of Maelchon, was king of the Picts until his death around 584 to 586.Bridei is first mentioned in Irish annals for 558–560, when the Annals of Ulster report "the migration before Máelchú's son i.e. king Bruide". The Ulster annalist does not say who fled, but the later Annals of...

 and Columba, but the process of establishing Christianity throughout Pictland will have extended over a much longer period.

Pictland was not solely influenced by Iona
Iona
Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It was a centre of Irish monasticism for four centuries and is today renowned for its tranquility and natural beauty. It is a popular tourist destination and a place for retreats...

 and Ireland. It also had ties to churches in Northumbria, as seen in the reign of Nechtan mac Der Ilei
Nechtan IV of the Picts
Nechtan mac Der-Ilei or Nechtan mac Dargarto was king of the Picts in the early 8th century. He succeeded his brother Bridei in 706. He is associated with significant religious reforms in Pictland. He abdicated in 724 in favour of his nephew and became a monk...

. The reported expulsion of Ionan monks and clergy by Nechtan in 717 may have been related to the controversy over the dating of Easter, and the manner of tonsure
Tonsure
Tonsure is the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp of clerics, monastics, and, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all baptized members...

, where Nechtan appears to have supported the Roman usages, but may equally have been intended to increase royal power over the church. Nonetheless, the evidence of place names suggests a wide area of Ionan influence in Pictland. Likewise, the Cáin Adomnáin
Cáin Adomnáin
The Cáin Adomnáin , also known as the Lex Innocentium was promulgated amongst a gathering of Irish, Dál Riatan and Pictish notables at the Synod of Birr in 697. It is named after its initiator Adomnán of Iona, ninth Abbot of Iona after St...

(Law of Adomnán, Lex Innocentium) counts Nechtan's brother Bridei
Bridei IV of the Picts
Bruide mac Der-Ilei was king of the Picts. He became king when Taran was deposed in 697.He was the brother of his successor Nechtan. It has been suggested that Bruide's father was Dargart mac Finguine of the Cenél Comgaill, a kingroup in Dál Riata who controlled Cowal and the Isle of Bute...

 among its guarantors.

The importance of monastic centres in Pictland was not, perhaps, as great as in Ireland. In areas that have been studied, such as Strathspey
Strathspey, Scotland
Strathspey is the area around the strath of the River Spey, Scotland, in both the Moray council area and the Badenoch and Strathspey committee area of Highland....

 and Perthshire
Perthshire
Perthshire, officially the County of Perth , is a registration county in central Scotland. It extends from Strathmore in the east, to the Pass of Drumochter in the north, Rannoch Moor and Ben Lui in the west, and Aberfoyle in the south...

, it appears that the parochial structure of the High Middle Ages
Scotland in the High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages of Scotland encompass Scotland in the era between the death of Domnall II in 900 AD and the death of king Alexander III in 1286...

 existed in early medieval times. Among the major religious sites of eastern Pictland were Portmahomack, Cennrígmonaid (later St Andrews
St Andrews
St Andrews is a university town and former royal burgh on the east coast of Fife in Scotland. The town is named after Saint Andrew the Apostle.St Andrews has a population of 16,680, making this the fifth largest settlement in Fife....

), Dunkeld
Dunkeld
Dunkeld is a small town in Strathtay, Perth and Kinross, Scotland. It is about 15 miles north of Perth on the eastern side of the A9 road into the Scottish Highlands and on the opposite side of the Tay from the Victorian village of Birnam. Dunkeld and Birnam share a railway station, on the...

, Abernethy and Rosemarkie
Rosemarkie
Rosemarkie is a village on the south coast of the Black Isle peninsula in northern Scotland.-Geography:Rosemarkie lies a quarter of a mile east of the town of Fortrose...

. It appears that these are associated with Pictish kings, which argues for a considerable degree of royal patronage and control of the church. Portmahomack in particular has been the subject of recent excavation and research, published by Martin Carver
Martin Carver
Martin Oswald Hugh Carver FSA , is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of York, England, director of the Sutton Hoo Research Project and a leading exponent of new methods in excavation and survey. He specialises in the archaeology of early Medieval Europe...

.

The cult of Saints was, as throughout Christian lands, of great importance in later Pictland. While kings might patronise great Saints, such as Saint Peter
Saint Peter
Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The son of John or of Jonah and from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, his brother Andrew was also an apostle...

 in the case of Nechtan, and perhaps Saint Andrew
Saint Andrew
Saint Andrew , called in the Orthodox tradition Prōtoklētos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle and the brother of Saint Peter. The name "Andrew" , like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews from the 3rd or 2nd century BC. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him...

 in the case of the second Óengus mac Fergusa
Óengus II of the Picts
Óengus mac Fergusa was king of the Picts , in modern Scotland, from about 820 until 834. Tradition associates him with the cult of Saint Andrew and the Flag of Scotland....

, many lesser Saints, some now obscure, were important. The Pictish Saint Drostan
Drostan
Saint Drostan , also Drustan, Dustan, and Throstan, was the founder and abbot of the monastery of Old Deer in Aberdeenshire. His relics were translated to the church at New Aberdour and his holy well lies nearby. Saint Drostan's day is July 11.-Biography:A Scottish abbot who flourished about A.D....

 appears to have had a wide following in the north in earlier times, although all but forgotten by the 12th century. Saint Serf of Culross
Culross
The town of Culross, pronounced "Coo-ros", is a former royal burgh in Fife, Scotland.According to the 2006 estimate, the village has a population of 395...

 was associated with Nechtan's brother Bridei. It appears, as is well known in later times, that noble kin groups had their own patron saints, and their own churches or abbeys.

Art

Pictish art appears on stones, metalwork and small objects of stone and bone. It uses a distinctive form of the general Celtic Early Medieval development of La Tène style with increasing influences from the Insular art
Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Great Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe...

 of 7th and 8th century Ireland and Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, and then Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon art
Anglo-Saxon art covers art produced within the Anglo-Saxon period of English history, beginning with the Migration period style that the Anglo-Saxons brought with them from the continent in the 5th century, and ending in 1066 with the Norman Conquest of a large Anglo-Saxon nation-state whose...

 and Irish art as the Early Medieval period continues. The most conspicuous survivals are the many Pictish stones
Pictish stones
Pictish stones are monumental stelae found in Scotland, mostly north of the Clyde-Forth line. These stones are the most visible remaining evidence of the Picts and are thought to date from the 6th to 9th centuries, a period during which the Picts became Christianized...

 that are located all over Pictland, from Inverness to Lanarkshire. An illustrated catalogue of these stones was produced by J. Romilly Allen as part of The Early Church Monuments of Scotland, with lists of their symbols and patterns. The symbols and patterns consist of animals including the Pictish Beast
Pictish Beast
The Pictish Beast is an artistic representation of an animal, and is depicted on Pictish symbol stones. It is not easily identifiable with any real animal, but resembles a seahorse, especially when depicted upright...

, the "rectangle", the "mirror and comb", "double-disk and Z-rod" and the "crescent and V-rod," among many others. There are also bosses and lenses with pelta and spiral designs. The patterns are curvilinear with hatchings. The so-called cross-slabs are carved with Pictish symbols, Insular-derived interlace and Christian imagery, though interpretation is often difficult due to wear and obscurity. Several of the Christian images carved on various stones, such as David the harpist, David and the lion, or scenes of St Paul and St Anthony meeting in the desert, have been influenced by the Insular
Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Great Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe...

 manuscript tradition.

Pictish metalwork is found throughout Pictland and also further south; the Picts appear to have a considerable amount of silver available, probably from raiding further south, or the payment of subsidies to keep them from doing so. The very large hoard of late Roman hacksilver
Hacksilver
thumb|300px|right|Hacksilver from the medieval period, Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Hamburg, Germany.Hacksilver, or Hack-silver, is fragments of cut and bent silver items treated as bullion, either for ease of carrying before melting down for re-use, or simply used as currency by weight...

 found at Traprain Law
Traprain Law
Traprain Law is a hill about 221m in elevation, located east of Haddington in East Lothian, Scotland. It is the site of an oppidum or hill fort, which covered at its maximum extent about 16 ha and must have been a veritable town...

 may have originated in either way. The largest hoard of early Pictish metalwork was found in 1819 at Norrie's Law in Fife, but unfortunately much was dispersed and melted down (Scottish law on treasure finds has always been unhelpful to preservation). Two famous 7th century silver and enamel
Vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...

 plaques from the hoard, one shown above, have a "Z-rod", one of the Pictish symbols, in a particularly well-preserved and elegant form; unfortunately few comparable pieces have survived. Over ten heavy silver chains, some over 0.5m long, have been found from this period; the double-linked Whitecleuch Chain
Whitecleuch Chain
The Whitecleuch Chain is a large Pictish silver chain found in Whitecleuch, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1869. A high status piece, it is likely to have been worn as a choker neck ornament for ceremonial purposes. It dates from 400 to 800 AD.-Location:...

 is one of only two that have a penannular ring, with symbol decoration including enamel, which shows how these were probably used as "choker" necklaces.

In the 8th and 9th centuries, after Christianization, the Pictish elite adopted a particular form of the Celtic brooch
Celtic brooch
The Celtic brooch, more properly called the penannular brooch, and its closely related type, the pseudo-penannular brooch, are types of brooch clothes fasteners, often rather large...

 from Ireland, preferring true penannular brooches with lobed terminals. Some older Irish pseudo-penannular brooches were adapted to the Pictish style, for example the Breadalbane Brooch (British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

). The St Ninian's Isle Treasure contains the best collection of Pictish forms. Other characteristics of Pictish metalwork are dotted backgrounds or designs and animal forms influenced by Insular art. The 8th century Monymusk Reliquary
Monymusk Reliquary
The Monymusk Reliquary is an eighth century Scottish reliquary made of wood and metal characterised by an Insular fusion of Gaelic and Pictish design and Anglo-Saxon metalworking, probably by Ionan monks. It has been said to be the Brecbennoch of St...

 has elements of Pictish and Irish style.

Language

The Pictish language
Pictish language
Pictish is a term used for the extinct language or languages thought to have been spoken by the Picts, the people of northern and central Scotland in the Early Middle Ages...

 has not survived. Evidence is limited to place names, the names of people found on monuments, and the contemporary records. The evidence of place-names and personal names
Onomastics
Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names. The words are from the Greek: "ὀνομαστικός" , "of or belonging to naming" and "ὀνοματολογία" , from "ὄνομα" "name". Toponymy or toponomastics, the study of place names, is one of the principal branches of...

 argues strongly that the Picts spoke Insular Celtic languages
Insular Celtic languages
Insular Celtic languages are those Celtic languages that originated in the British Isles, in contrast to the Continental Celtic languages of mainland Europe and Anatolia. All surviving Celtic languages are from the Insular Celtic group; the Continental Celtic languages are extinct...

 related to the more southerly Brythonic languages
Brythonic languages
The Brythonic or Brittonic languages form one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic language family, the other being Goidelic. The name Brythonic was derived by Welsh Celticist John Rhys from the Welsh word Brython, meaning an indigenous Briton as opposed to an Anglo-Saxon or Gael...

. A number of ogham inscriptions have been argued to be unidentifiable as Celtic, and on this basis, it has been suggested that non-Celtic languages were also in use.

The absence of surviving written material in Pictish - if we discount the ambiguous "Pictish inscriptions" in the ogham script - does not indicate a pre-literate society. The church certainly required literacy in Latin, and could not function without copyists to produce liturgical documents. Pictish iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

 shows books being read, and carried, and its naturalistic style gives every reason to suppose that such images were of real life. Literacy was not widespread, but among the senior clergy, and in monasteries, it would have been common enough.

Place-names often allow us to deduce the existence of historic Pictish settlements in Scotland. Those prefixed with the Welsh prefixes "Aber-", "Lhan-", or "Pit-" (=? "peth", a thing) are claimed to indicate regions inhabited by Picts in the past (for example: Aberdeen
Aberdeen
Aberdeen is Scotland's third most populous city, one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas and the United Kingdom's 25th most populous city, with an official population estimate of ....

, Lhanbryde
Lhanbryde
Lhanbryde is a village in Moray, Scotland, four miles east of Elgin. Previously bisected by the A96, it was bypassed in the early 1990s and now lies to the north of this busy trunk road....

, Pitmedden
Pitmedden
Pitmedden is a rural village in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, situated midway between Ellon and Oldmeldrum, and approximately distant from Aberdeen. In addition to local shops, primary school, church, village hall and parks, the village is home to the National Trust for Scotland's Pitmedden Garden and...

, etc.). Some of these, such as "Pit-" (portion, share), may have been formed after Pictish times, and may refer to previous "shires" or "thanages".

The evidence of place-names may also reveal the advance of Gaelic into Pictland. As noted, Atholl
Atholl
Atholl or Athole is a large historical division in the Scottish Highlands. Today it forms the northern part of Perth and Kinross, Scotland bordering Marr, Badenoch, Breadalbane, Strathearn, Perth and Lochaber....

, meaning New Ireland, is attested in the early 8th century. This may be an indication of the advance of Gaelic. Fortriu also contains place-names suggesting Gaelic settlement, or Gaelic influences.

In literature and popular culture

Pulp fiction author Robert E. Howard
Robert E. Howard
Robert Ervin Howard was an American author who wrote pulp fiction in a diverse range of genres. Best known for his character Conan the Barbarian, he is regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre....

 wrote extensively about his romanticized version of the Picts, especially in his short stories revolving around the fictional character Bran Mak Morn
Bran Mak Morn
Bran Mak Morn is a hero of several pulp fiction short stories by Robert E. Howard. In the stories, most of which were first published in Weird Tales, Bran is the last king of Howard's romanticized version of the tribal race of Picts....

, but also in many other of his stories.

Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

 devotes several chapters to the Picts in his book Puck of Pook's Hill
Puck of Pook's Hill
Puck of Pook's Hill is a historical fantasy book by Rudyard Kipling, published in 1906, containing a series of short stories set in different periods of English history. The stories are all narrated to two children living near Burwash, in the area of Kipling's own house Bateman's, by people...

.
Historical fantasy author Juliet Marillier
Juliet Marillier
Juliet Marillier is a New Zealand-born writer of fantasy, especially historical fantasy. She currently lives in Western Australia. While Marillier writes mostly for adults, her recent books have included Cybele's Secret, a sequel to her novel for young adults Wildwood Dancing. Cybele's Secret won...

's series The Bridei Chronicles
The Bridei Chronicles
The Bridei Chronicles is Juliet Marillier's third series of historical fantasy novels. They depict the tutelage by Broichan, rise to power, and reign of King Bridei I of the Picts in the sixth century....

tells of the Picts and Gaels
Gaels
The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

 in the sixth century A.D. Nancy Farmer
Nancy Farmer (author)
Nancy Farmer is a prominent children's book author from the United States.Farmer was born in Phoenix, Arizona. She earned her B.A. at Reed College and later studied chemistry and entomology at the University of California, Berkeley...

's series The Sea of Trolls
The Sea of Trolls
The Sea of Trolls is the first volume of a fantasy trilogy by three-time Newbery Honor winning author Nancy Farmer. The second part is The Land of the Silver Apples , and the final volume, The Islands of the Blessed, was published in 2009.-Plot summary:The Sea of Trolls is set in A.D. 793 in...

depicts fictional Picts. Anne Rice
Anne Rice
Anne Rice is a best-selling Southern American author of metaphysical gothic fiction, Christian literature and erotica from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history...

 also wrote of fictional Picts, crafting them into the Taltos
Taltos
Taltos may refer to:* Táltos, in Hungarian tradition a human being similar to a shaman, or alternately the horse of such a person, called the Táltos Horse* Taltos , a 1988 novel by Steven Brust...

 for her book series The Lives of the Mayfair Witches.

Yet another use of the Picts in a fantasy setting comes in Jacqueline Carey
Jacqueline Carey
Jacqueline Carey is an author and novelist, primarily of fantasy fiction.-Life:She attended Lake Forest College, receiving B.A.'s in psychology and English literature. During college, she spent 6 months working in a bookstore in London as part of a work exchange program. While there, she decided...

's Kushiel's Legacy
Kushiel's Legacy
Kushiel's Legacy is a series of fantasy novels by Jacqueline Carey, comprising the Phèdre Trilogy and the Imriel Trilogy...

 fantasy series concerning the Kingdom of Alba and the Picts, and their dealings with Terre D'Ange.

Matthew Stover
Matthew Stover
Matthew Woodring Stover is an American fantasy and science fiction novelist. He is perhaps best known for his four Star Wars novels, including the novelization of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. He has also written several fantasy novels, including Iron Dawn and Jericho Moon...

's Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 fantasy novels Iron Dawn and Jericho Moon chronicle the adventures of Barra Coll Eigg Rhum, a Pictish princess.

The 1982 film Conan The Barbarian features bodybuilder Franco Columbu
Franco Columbu
Franco Columbu is an Italian actor, former bodybuilder and World's Strongest Man competitor.-Bodybuilding:Columbu was born in Ollolai, Sardinia . Starting out his athletic career as a boxer, Columbu progressed into the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, powerlifting and later bodybuilding, winning...

 in a cameo as a blue-tattooed Pictish scout. The 2004 film King Arthur
King Arthur (film)
King Arthur is a 2004 film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by David Franzoni. It stars Clive Owen as the title character, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, and Keira Knightley as Guinevere....

depicts the Picts (called "Woads" in the film) as tattooed and painted savage forest people, led by the dark magician Merlin
Merlin
Merlin is a legendary figure best known as the wizard featured in the Arthurian legend. The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written c. 1136, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures...

. Originally enemies to Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

 and his knights, they later unite to defeat the Saxons at Badon Hill. Neil Marshall
Neil Marshall
Neil Marshall is an English film director, editor and screenwriter. Marshall began his career in editing and in 2002 directed his first feature film Dog Soldiers, which became a cult film. He followed up with the critically acclaimed horror film The Descent in 2005...

's 2010 film Centurion
Centurion (film)
Centurion is a 2010 British action thriller film directed by Neil Marshall, loosely based on the supposed disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion in Caledonia in the second century CE. The film stars Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko and Dominic West....

features a conflict between a band of Picts and the Roman Ninth Legion
Legio IX Hispana
Legio Nona Hispana was a Roman legion, which operated from the first century BCE until mid 2nd century CE. The Spanish Legion's disappearance has raised speculations over its fate, largely of its alleged destruction in Scotland in about 117 CE, though some scholars believe it was destroyed in the...

. Duncan Kenworthy
Duncan Kenworthy
Duncan H. Kenworthy, OBE is a British film and television producer, and co-founder of the production company DNA Films. He is currently a producer at Toledo Productions....

's 2011 film The Eagle depicts the quest of a Roman officer, portrayed as the son of the commander of the Ninth Legion, into the country of the Picts to retrieve the Ninth's standard along with his Brigantian
Brigantes
The Brigantes were a Celtic tribe who in pre-Roman times controlled the largest section of what would become Northern England, and a significant part of the Midlands. Their kingdom is sometimes called Brigantia, and it was centred in what was later known as Yorkshire...

 slave, whom he frees during their journey.

In Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett
Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE is an English novelist, known for his frequently comical work in the fantasy genre. He is best known for his popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels...

's Discworld
Discworld
Discworld is a comic fantasy book series by English author Sir Terry Pratchett, set on the Discworld, a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle, Great A'Tuin. The books frequently parody, or at least take inspiration from, J. R. R....

 novels, particularly those featuring the Lancre witches, the Picts are an obvious influence on the Nac Mac Feegle, a race of tiny wood-fairies whose speech is influenced by Scottish Gaelic and who are tattooed with blue war-paint. In Carpe Jugulum
Carpe Jugulum
Carpe Jugulum ) is a comic fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett, the twenty-third in the Discworld series. It was first published in 1998....

, they are called "Pictsies."

On their 1969 album Ummagumma
Ummagumma
Ummagumma is a double album by English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, released in 1969 by Harvest and EMI in the United Kingdom and Harvest and Capitol in the United States...

, Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

 included a song called "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict
Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict
"Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" is a track written and performed by Roger Waters from the two-part 1969 Pink Floyd album, Ummagumma....

", which consisted, as its name suggests, of various animal noises followed by supposedly "Pictish" speech.

In the 1st season episode of Bones
Bones (TV series)
Bones is an American crime drama television series that premiered on the Fox Network on September 13, 2005. The show is based on forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology, with each episode focusing on an FBI case file concerning the mystery behind human remains brought by FBI Special Agent...

, "The Woman at the Airport
The Woman at the Airport
"The Woman at the Airport" is the tenth episode of the first season of the television series, Bones. Originally aired on January 25, 2006 on Fox network, the episode is written by Teresa Lin and directed by Greg Yaitanes. While the series takes place mostly in Washington, D.C., this episode is also...

", the Jeffersonian team is called in to identify a Bronze Age skeleton that Dr Goodman identifies as a Pict.

See also

  • Caledonians
    Caledonians
    The Caledonians , or Caledonian Confederacy, is a name given by historians to a group of indigenous peoples of what is now Scotland during the Iron Age and Roman eras. The Romans referred to their territory as Caledonia and initially included them as Britons, but later distinguished as the Picts...

  • Duan Albanach
    Duan Albanach
    The Duan Albanach is a Middle Gaelic poem found with the Lebor Bretnach, a Gaelic version of the Historia Brittonum of Nennius, with extensive additional material ....

  • Fortriu
    Fortriu
    Fortriu or the Kingdom of Fortriu is the name given by historians for an ancient Pictish kingdom, and often used synonymously with Pictland in general...

  • Kings of the Picts

  • Mormaer
    Mormaer
    The title of Mormaer designates a regional or provincial ruler in the medieval Kingdom of the Scots. In theory, although not always in practice, a Mormaer was second only to the King of Scots, and the senior of a toisech.-Origin:...

  • Origins of the Kingdom of Alba
    Origins of the Kingdom of Alba
    The Origins of the Kingdom of Alba pertains to the origins of the Kingdom of Alba, or the Gaelic Kingdom of Scotland, either as a mythological event or a historical process, during the Early Middle Ages.-Medieval version:...

  • Painted pebbles
    Painted pebbles
    Painted pebbles are a class of Pictish artifact unique to northern Scotland in the first millennium AD.- Appearance :They are small rounded beach pebbles made of quartzite, which have been painted with simple designs in a dye which is now dark brown in colour. The size varies from 18 mm by...

  • Pictish stones
    Pictish stones
    Pictish stones are monumental stelae found in Scotland, mostly north of the Clyde-Forth line. These stones are the most visible remaining evidence of the Picts and are thought to date from the 6th to 9th centuries, a period during which the Picts became Christianized...


  • Picts in fantasy
    Picts in fantasy
    Many writers have been drawn to the idea of the Picts and created fictional stories and mythology about them in the absence of much real data. This romanticised view tends to portray them as noble savages, much as the view of Europeans on Native Americans in the 18th century.-The Usage of the word...

  • Prehistoric Scotland
    Prehistoric Scotland
    Archaeology and geology continue to reveal the secrets of prehistoric Scotland, uncovering a complex and dramatic past before the Romans brought Scotland into the scope of recorded history...

  • St Andrews Sarcophagus
    St Andrews Sarcophagus
    The Saint Andrews Sarcophagus is a Pictish monument dating from the second half of the 8th century. The sarcophagus was recovered beginning in 1833 during excavations by St Andrew's Cathedral, but it was not until 1922 that the surviving components were reunited...

  • Scotland in the Early Middle Ages
    Scotland in the Early Middle Ages
    Scotland in the early Middle Ages, between the end of Roman authority in southern and central Britain from around 400 and the rise of the kingdom of Alba in 900, was divided into a series of petty kingdoms. Of these the four most important to emerge were the Picts, the Scots of Dál Riata, the...



Further reading

  • James E. Fraser, The New Edinburgh History Of Scotland Vol.1 - From Caledonia To Pictland, Edinburgh University Press(2009) ISBN 978-0-7486-1232-1
  • Fraser Hunter, Beyond the Edge of Empire: Caledonians, Picts and Romans, Groam House Museum, Rosemarkie (2007) ISBN 978-0-9540-9992-3
  • Lex Ritman, Eric de Noorman en Erwin de Noorman, Antoninus Pius, Den Haag (2003)
  • Alex Woolf, The New Edinburgh History Of Scotland Vol.2 - From Pictland To Aba, Edinburgh University Press,(2007) ISBN 978-0-7486-1234-5

External links


  • Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
    Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
    The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland is the senior antiquarian body in Scotland, with its headquarters in the National Museum, Chambers Street, Edinburgh...

     (PSAS) through 1999 (pdf).
  • Tarbat Discovery Programme with reports on excavations at Portmahomack.
  • SPNS the Scottish Place-Name Society
    Scottish Place-Name Society
    The Scottish Place-Name Society is a learned society in Scotland concerned with toponymy, the study of place-names...

    (Comann Ainmean-Áite na h-Alba), including commentary on and extracts from Watson's The History of the Celtic Place-names of Scotland.
  • The Picts and Scots in history
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