|Scotland's Kingdoms 600 AD
As with so much of the discussion around this period, there is no agreed definition
of the name Pict. It may refer to 'painted people' (they loved a tattoo even more than a modern-day hipster Glaswegian) or derive from the Roman blanket term for the, diverse, tribes of northern Scotland or it may be a mis-hearing of the Old Norse name which was Pecht/Pettir. Whatever the origin, they live on in tales of a savage warlike people, covered in woad and in some Scottish place names such as aber (a river mouth) in Aberdeen, pert (a copse or woodland) in Perth and the use of pit (a share of land) in Pitlochry. They also live on in the wonderful, intricately carved standing stones which have been found throughout Scotland - stones which tell of a far-more sophisticated people than perhaps popular imagination gives these early tribes credit for.
|The Pictish Beast
The stones are largely sandstone and many have been carved over or simply weathered by time but archaelogists have been able to identify three symbol types: recurrent and consistent abstract or geometric designs; real and mythical creatures including the Pictish beast which is like a dolphin/legless elephant hybrid and the manticore which has a human head, a lion's body and wings; real-life objects in pairs, such as a comb and mirror or an anvil and hammer.
|Some Pictish stone symbols
I am lucky enough to live in Scotland so, last weekend, we went on a stone-hunting journey to the little village of Meigle where the Scottish Pictish Stones Museum is located. The collection there is large but we were on the trail of one particular stone: Guinevere's burial marker. Yes, Guinevere, of King Arthur fame, Keira Knightley's pout and far too many romantic-myths.
|The Guinevere Stone
|Norma Lorre Goodrich