pictish symbols

Lost Arthurian Kingdom May Be Found

You probably are familiar with Camelot and Avalon. Legendary places in British legends, they were places the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur visited or lived, sometime in the unsettled 500s between the collapse of Roman power and the coming of Saxon invaders. One of the less-well-known places in Arthurian legend is Rheged. It was home to a famous knight in the legends: Sir Owain, son of King Urian and Morgan le Fay, the man who killed the Black Knight. And now archaeologists may have found Rheged.

The researchers were drawn to Trusty’s Hill, a hill fort in Galloway in Southern Scotland, because there are pictish symbols carved into its bedrock. They are unique in the region, and archaeologists (plus 60 volunteers) wanted to survey what they could about the mysterious Picts. And in the course of their examination in summer 2016, archaeologists realized they had accidentally uncovered something else: the Pictish symbols seemed to form a symbolic entranceway, which in many sites in Scotland is associated with royalty. Had they found a royal stronghold? Then the dig uncovered pottery from France, and a workshop exclusively to produce costly fine metalwork and jewelry, which support that the site was a significant trade center at the time.

Putting everything together, it seemed they had accidentally uncovered a royal hillfort stronghold, which flourished sometime around 600 CE under the rule of Britons who lived in Galloway. The region’s wealth, demonstrated by the finds at Trusty’s Hill, make it the strongest contender we have for the legendary kingdom of Rheged.

We are pretty sure Rheged existed, and hence are looking for it, because we have two sources. First, Rheged is mentioned in Arthurian legends dating to the 1100s, and second, Urien of Rheged was praised in verse by Taliesen, a poet we know lived around the 500s CE.

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Carved face in the rock in the Den behind Dunino Church by Merlin Photography, Scotland
Via Flickr:
Carved face in the rock in the Den behind Dunino Church (pictish?)

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Pictish Hoard Chain, 5th-8th Century AD

A substantial silver chain composed of twenty-seven pairs of round-section links and a connector formed as a penannular gusseted band with inlaid gold ‘Pictish’ geometric symbol.

Chains of this type have been found in 'Pictish’ hoards in Scotland and the Northern Isles, usually assumed to have been buried to conceal them from marauding Scandinavians. Similar examples were recovered at Whitecleugh, Lanarkshire, and Torvean, Inverness. The massive double-link construction and inlaid symbol are unique features in northern Europe at this time.

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'Unusual' carved Pictish stone displayed at Elgin Museum

A standing stone with an “unusual” and possibly even “unique” positioning of Pictish carvings is to go on public display for the first time.

The Dandaleith Stone was uncovered by a farmer’s plough three years ago.

While the carvings, which include a large eagle, are typical Pictish symbols, archaeologists say their positioning and alignment are not.

The stone found near Craigellachie and dating from the 8th or 9th Century has been installed at Elgin Museum.

The museum opens for its new season on Saturday. 

Weighing more than a ton and stretching to 1.7m (5ft 6"), the stone was named after the farm where it was found in Moray. Read more.

Front and back of the Pictish cross-slab in the churchyard at Aberlemno in Angus, Scotland. The stone was carved in the 8th century AD and commemorates a battle, possibly the great victory at ‘Nechtanesmere’ in 685 where the Picts defeated an invading English army. Illustration from John Stuart’s The Sculptured Stones of Scotland (1856).

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Pictish Silver Chain,  6th-7th Century AD

This massive silver chain was found at Whitecleugh in Lanarkshire, Scotland. It is one of ten surviving heavy silver chains, of a type found only in Scotland and generally attributed to the Picts. They were symbols of high status, worn between 400 and 800 AD.

The chain consists of 44 circular rings linked together in pairs with a penannular terminal ring. The ring is decorated with symbols similar to those found on Pictish stones, here inlaid with red enamel.  The chain weighs 1.73 kilograms.

Although commonly attributed to the Picts, only three chains have been found in the Pictish kingdom proper. This chain is one of two decorated with Pictish symbols. These chains were almost certainly badges of high rank or power.