Forteviot and the Southern Picts

If the 8th century sculptured stone at Fowlis Wester is anything to go by, the Picts were a dapper looking bunch. The men, that is, as they’re the ones depicted on the carved stones we see today. With razor-sharp beards and nifty topknots, they’d be quite at home amongst today’s hirsute males. And as both mirrors and combs feature among the symbols carved on Pictish stones, they must have been deemed to be of great importance to be given such lasting status. Cool dudes, indeed!

Yet they’re an elusive bunch, our Pictish ancestors. We know they were tribes in northern and eastern Scotland who spoke a Celtic language and flourished from the 3rd to the 9th centuries, spanning the late Iron Age and the early medieval period. Yet there’s still much about them we don’t know.

Fortunately, there have been a number of Pictish-related archaeological projects in recent years. These excavations have unearthed (and are still unearthing) finds that have added greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the Picts. And as knowledge of the past is not static, as any archaeologist worth his or her salt knows, there’s always more to discover.

East of Fowlis Wester is the village of Forteviot: a small, unassuming place, yet one with a remarkable past. It was once the heart of the mighty kingdom of the southern Picts and would go on to be acknowledged as the ‘cradle of Scotland’. The place where the Scots and the Picts finally came together as the Kingdom of Alba, which in turn gave birth to the nation that would become Scotland.

That transformation is a fascinating story. And one which I examine in this month’s article. The story of our Pictish ancestors is riveting history. And slowly but surely, bit by bit, we’re learning more.

iScot issue 93