Preserving and Promoting local history for the former Rideau Township
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After the Romans abandoned Briannia in the 5th century the Picts began to form into the Pictish Kingdom. It was divided into 7 provinces, in two realms, north and south. They were consolidated in 670 under Bridei, and subsequently Orkney, Dal Riata and Northumbria were conquered. The last ruler of the Picts was Donald MacAlpine, brother of Kenneth MacAlpine, the Gaelic King of Dal Riata who brought about the fall of Pictland.  

Map of Scotland 600 AD

Scotland around 600 AD. The patches indicate the areas of the various tribes.

The main archaeological evidence of the Picts are Standing Stones. The Class I stones were the earliest ones, from the 6th and 7th centuries; they were larger boulders or stone slabs with symbols that have not been deciphered. Class II stones were later, in the 8th and 9th centuries; they often featured Christian elements.

pict standing stones

An example of Pict  standing stones.  The main archaeological evidence of the Picts.

Scott then talked about some of the early writers who mentioned Picts. These included Caesar and Eumenius, another Roman writer; Gildas, a 6th century Roman cleric; Adomnen, the 7th century Abbot of Iona; Bede, an 8th century British monk; and Hector Boece who wrote in 549.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (compiled by Alexander the Great) and the Pictish Chronicle are sources of information but unfortunately are incomplete. They do include a list of Pictish Kings, back to the time of Noah (apparently).

Many theories exist about what happened to the Picts:

· mutual collaboration with the Gaels

· eradication by the Vikings and/or the Gaels (no evidence exists)

· conquest and military defeat by the Gaels (Scott’s choice; some evidence exists)

Following Scott’s presentation there were several questions and comments from the interested audience, including compliments on his research. One member said he had given us lots of information and lots to think about, but it was “like drinking from a fire hose”!

Our featured speaker at our April meeting was Scott Cameron, a soon-to-be graduate of Carleton University in history and political science, long-time guide/interpreter at Watson’s Mill, and RTHS member.

Scott Cameron presenting

Scott Cameron.   He was obviously enjoying the presentation and so did the audience.

Scott is an excellent speaker, enthusiastic, entertaining, and knowledgeable about his subject (as was his great-aunt Coral). He is immensely proud of his Scottish heritage and has spent a good part of the last year and a half researching the Picts, very early inhabitants of Scotland. He was introduced to them in a university course on the Celtic Iron Age, and wanted to know more. He warned us that there’s a lack of knowledge about them, and not a lot of definite answers although several theories. But he then proceeded to give us a fair amount of information on them, gleaned from early writers including Caesar.

The Picts lived in what is now northern and eastern Scotland up to the end of the 9th century when they seem to have disappeared. They were savage people who used guerilla warfare; Hadrian’s Wall (122 A.D.) and the Antonine Wall (142 A.D.) were constructed to keep them out.

Pictland in North-

They were also naked people who painted themselves blue. In the interests of good taste Scott was unable to show us any pictures of them. They were Christianized around 600 A.D. and apparently started to wear clothes then.

   “Picti” means “Painted One” in Latin, hence the name we know them by, but that’s not what they called themselves. Their language was not written, so we don’t have records of it.

The Picts, A Lost Civilation

Presentation by Scott Cameron,
Orchard View on the Rideau, April 20, 2016

Article by Susan McKellar, Photos by Liam Norris