Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons in the Viking Age

Eamont 927
Regular visitors to Senchus may have noticed a lack of activity this year, with barely one new blogpost per month. The slowdown has been due to a major distraction – I’ve been writing a new book on early medieval history.

The title of my latest tome is Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons in the Viking Age. It’s my fifth book on Dark Age Scotland and my second on the North Britons. It can almost be described as a sequel to The Men Of The North – or more accurately as an expanded version of the last couple of chapters – and is similarly pitched as an undergraduate-level textbook. The primary focus is on the relationship between the Strathclyde Britons or ‘Cumbrians’ and their English neighbours in the Viking period (roughly 800 to 1100 AD). Much of this relationship was characterised by mutual hostility, which is why an early working title for the book was The Cumbrian Wars. These wars, although now absent from the title itself, still represent a major theme running through the book. Many of them are obscure and little-known, partly because Strathclyde has all too often been overlooked or ignored by historians, and partly due to misconceptions about what the term ‘Cumbrian’ actually means in an early medieval context.

Most of these conflicts were fought in the tenth and eleventh centuries. They were recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in other contemporary texts alongside periods of uneasy peace or temporary alliance. This was a volatile era in which ambitious kings in Britain and Ireland competed with one another for land, wealth and status. Treaties were forged, pledges were given and oaths of fealty were broken. Each generation brought a new set of alliances and a reshuffle in the balance of power. Add a few Viking warlords to the mix and it starts looking a bit like Game Of Thrones.

The book is scheduled for publication by Birlinn of Edinburgh in September 2014. At the moment, the front cover is being created (by a designer) and a final ‘proof’ of the text is being checked (by me). In the meantime, I’ve set up a WordPress blog where I’ll post updates on the book’s progress, as well as information on the Viking period in general.

I invite all readers of Senchus and Heart of the Kingdom to take a look at the new blog, which went online today. Click on the link below…

Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons in the Viking Age

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Llyfr Aneirin online

Gododdin of Aneirin

John Koch’s edition and translation of The Gododdin, published in 1997.


Lisa Spangenberg, who runs the excellent blog Scéla on things medieval and Celtic, recently posted an interesting piece of news: Llyfr Aneirin, the Book of Aneirin, is now available online. This thirteenth-century Welsh manuscript contains Y Gododdin, ‘The Gododdin’, a collection of verses seemingly commemorating the near-massacre of an army of Britons from Edinburgh at a place called Catraeth sometime around AD 600. Two versions of the collection are included in Llyfr Aneirin, each transcribed in a different hand.

It’s the manuscript itself that has been digitised, not an edition or translation, so what we’re seeing is one of the great artifacts of medieval Celtic literature in its original form. Whether any part of the contents – the heroic and enigmatic Gododdin verses – was actually composed in North Britain six centuries earlier is a different matter (and a highly controversial one).

I followed the link given by Lisa and selected a random page from Llyfr Aneirin. It contained one of several verses beginning with the words gwyr a aeth gatraeth (‘Men went to Catraeth’), neatly crafted in an elegant script from 800 years ago.

Lisa has helpfully added other relevant links to her blogpost, including the digitised version of Llyfr Taliesin, the Book of Taliesin. Elsewhere on her site you’ll find links to various useful resources, so I recommend a look around if your interests lean towards Celtic medievalia.

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Notes & links

Check out Lisa’s blogpost The Book of Aneirin digitized and online and her Celtic web resources page.

The National Library of Wales ran its own announcement last week: Warriors went to Catraeth.

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Question: How far does the poetry attributed to Aneirin and Taliesin reflect genuine North British history?
The jury is out, so we’re faced with a choice of answers. These range from wide-eyed enthusiasm (‘it’s all true’) through sensible scepticism (‘some of it might be true’) to sombre pessimism (‘this is poetry, not history’). Help is now at hand for those of us who aren’t specialists in Celtic literature, via the papers in Beyond the Gododdin: Dark Age Scotland in Medieval Wales. This very useful book, edited by Alex Woolf and published by the University of St Andrews in 2013, brings us up to date with current research. Anyone who wants to use the Taliesin poetry or The Gododdin as historical sources should read it. The papers represent a variety of opinions, all of them wise and measured, some more optimistic than others. But the main message is simple: let’s be more cautious when using these Old Welsh poems as ‘history’. Accepting them as authentic chronicles from the sixth or seventh centuries, or as reliable gazetteers of ancient North British place names, is no longer an option.

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5th Anniversary

Pictish stone Aberlemno
The Senchus blog is 5 years old today.

Back in 2008 it began as a notepad or jotter for various historical musings, but I’m not sure how to describe it now.

Thanks to everyone who has given input via the comment threads, where many interesting discussions have taken place over the years. And special thanks to Michelle Ziegler for pointing me towards WordPress, which has certainly made the admin side easy and straightforward.

Future plans? Hard to say, but I’ll probably just continue as before. Plenty of ideas for new posts in the pipeline. The biggest problem, as always, is finding enough time – a familiar tale to those of you who run your own sites in the Blogosphere.

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Blogging about Pictish Christianity

Isle of May & St Ethernan's Church

The Isle of May, with the ruined medieval priory in the foreground.


Earlier this month I wrote a blogpost about the presumed Pictish ritual site at Dunino Den, a place seemingly used for pagan ceremonies before being taken over by Christianised Picts in the 8th century or thereabouts.

I had hoped to continue this religious theme by reporting on my visit last year to the Isle of May, a small island in the Firth of Forth. There I explored the remains of a 12th-century priory occupying the site of an earlier church allegedly founded by St Ethernan 300 years earlier. Ethernan seems to have been active in Fife and other Pictish territories in an era of Viking raids.

Unfortunately, I haven’t got around to writing it. I’ve been keeping it on the back-burner because I first wanted to read Peter Yeoman’s paper ‘Pilgrims to St. Ethernan: the archaeology of an early saint of the Picts and Scots’ which I figured would give my report some useful scholarly beef. I still haven’t made any effort to obtain this paper, but I’m now thinking I should go ahead and write something about St Ethernan anyway. So that’s what I’ll do – but not just yet, as I’ve got an item on the Strathclyde Britons in the pipeline for Heart Of The Kingdom, and (like most of you, no doubt) I never seem to have enough time to do all the things I want to do with social media.

In the meantime, and in the absence of my delayed blogpost on Ethernan, those of you with an interest in Pictish Christianity should hike over to A Corner Of Tenth-Century Europe where Jonathan Jarrett has written an excellent and enlightening summary of the current state of play, woven around notes on a lecture delivered last year by Alex Woolf. Our old pal St Ninian or Nynia – formerly a key figure in the story but now increasingly remote – gets a namecheck, as does the slightly less enigmatic St Columba (about whom I have written a book).

In his blogpost Jonathan reminds us that the traditional picture presented by Bede simply doesn’t hold water. What this means for Columba and Ninian is that neither of them can justifiably be called ‘The Apostle of the Picts’, regardless of what Bede says. The old image of two well-organised ‘missions’, respectively evangelising the northern and southern Picts, can no longer be sustained. It’s ecclesiastical propaganda designed to promote the interests of later generations of clerics in Pictland and elsewhere. The story also has to take account of new archaeological evidence from major sites such as Portmahomack. The picture of how Christianity became established in Pictland seems instead to be a multi-textured patchwork of individual missionary endeavours, woven by an unknown number of largely unsung characters working quietly in various districts, setting up their own churches and liaising with local secular elites. These patches were somehow knitted together to form what we now think of as the ‘Pictish Church’ with its primary centres at St Andrews and Dunkeld, but it must have been a slow process. Somewhere along the way, at quite a late stage, St Ethernan slots into the picture. He gets a mention in Jonathan’s blogpost, and Peter Yeoman’s paper gets cited too. As for me, I’m reminded to write my long-overdue report about the old ruined church on the Isle of May.

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Reference:

Peter Yeoman, ‘Pilgrims to St Ethernan: the archaeology of an early saint of the Picts and Scots’, pp.75-91 in Barbara Crawford (ed.) Conversion and Christianity in the North Sea World (St Andrews, 1998).

See the notes at the end of Jonathan’s blogpost for other useful books and articles on Pictish Christianity.

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Bits & Pieces

This is a round-up of various types of online information ranging from blogposts to newspaper articles to announcements of books and e-books.

I’ll begin with books that have recently appeared. These relate to Senchus topics and have been written by people who have commented on past blogposts here. In no particular order….

Hot off the press is The Chronicles of Iona: Exile by medievalist and blogger Paula de Fougerolles. Launched last month at The Haven (‘Boston’s first and only Scottish pub’) it tells through the medium of historical fiction the story of St Columba’s dealings with the early Scottish king Áedán mac Gabráin. Back in March in a roundup from the blogosphere I gave advance notice of this book, which is now available in print and electronic formats. The second volume in the Chronicles of Iona series is already in the pipeline. Check out Paula’s blog to keep up to date with her writing, or follow her on Twitter at @PaulaDeFoug

Seventh century Britain is in transition. Small kingdoms are dissolving and merging…..’ This is the volatile world in which a young Anglo-Saxon woman, the future St Hild of Whitby, is set to play an important part. Hild is the subject of Nicola Griffith’s eponymous novel which is due to be published in New York in the autumn of 2013. Nicola has an impressive track record as a prize-winning author so we know the narrative is in safe hands. In addition, I can vouch for her depiction of seventh-century North Britain as meticulously researched and as historically accurate as it’s possible to get. Those of you who use Twitter will find Nicola at @nicolaz or you can follow the progress of Hild via the Gemaecca blog.

Also newly published is The Last of the Druids: the Mystery of the Pictish Symbol Stones by Iain Forbes. This is another book I mentioned as forthcoming back in March, when I posted a link to the striking cover which shows the Hilton of Cadboll cross-slab. Out in the Twittersphere, where Iain is @IainForbesPict, he and I frequently provide our respective followers with links to pictures of Pictish stones and bounce each other’s tweets to and fro. Iain’s blog is also worth a look if you’re interested in the Picts. It currently has a nice post about the stone from Shandwick in Easter Ross.

Badonicus blogger Mak Wilson is working on an e-book about the historical figure behind the legends of ‘King’ Arthur. I’ve borrowed the inverted commas from the title of the book. The subtitle poses the fundamental question at the heart of the debate: Fact? Fiction? or Confusion? As part of the process Mak is re-working some of his blogposts and posting new links to the updated versions. If you’re a frequent visitor to Senchus you’ve probably seen one or more of Mak’s comments in various threads here. Mak’s on Twitter too, as @MakOfShropshire

Richard Denning will be a name familiar to those of you who follow the comment threads on my blogposts dealing with the Battle of Degsastan. At Richard’s website you’ll see information on his historical novel The Amber Treasure which is set in the era of the battle. Here’s a synopsis of the story… 6th Century Northumbria: Cerdic, the nephew of the great warrior Cynric, grows up dreaming of glory in battle and writing his name in the sagas. When war comes for real though, his sister is kidnapped, his family betrayed and his uncle’s legendary sword stolen. It falls to Cerdic to avenge his family’s loss, rescue his sister and return home with the sword.

Child of Loki, Richard’s second novel about sixth-century North Britain, is also available. In addition, Richard gives his views on Degsastan on the website English Historical Fiction Authors. You can follow him on Twitter where he’s easily recognisable as @RichardDenning

The Viking Highlands – The Norse Age in the Highlands by Dave Kelday is an e-book which looks at one of the most turbulent periods in Scottish history. The description at Amazon says that the author “aims to present a coherent, historical, sometimes speculative, narrative of that long era in Highland history when the people, politics and culture of the Norse played such a vital and significant role in the life and development of the nation.” I’m no stranger to weaving a historical narrative from scattered fragments of data, having used the same technique in my own books. In an email conversation Dave told me he used controversial texts such as the Norse sagas and the Manx Chronicle in this way while keeping in mind their limitations as historical sources.

Moving seamlessly from books and e-books to blogposts, online essays and news items…….

Most of you will know by now that Scotland has been given the Disney/Pixar treatment in a new animated feature called Brave. It looks good and is already out in the US. Michelle Ziegler went to see it and has put up a useful review at her Heavenfield blog. I hope to see Brave in the not-too-distant future and will probably review it here.

Do you remember my series of posts on the origins of Clan Galbraith? One contributor to the comment threads was Peter Kincaid who runs the website kyncades.org which explores the history of his surname. Peter has written an interesting paper on King Coroticus, the slave-raiding warlord castigated by St Patrick for capturing young Irish Christians and selling them to the Picts. One Irish tradition associated Coroticus with Aloo, usually interpreted as a garbled Gaelic form of Alt Clut, the Rock of Clyde at Dumbarton. Peter questions this identification and offers an alternative theory which suggests that Aloo might refer not to a place but to a military unit.

What nationality was St Cuthbert? Being interested in matters of ethnicity and identity in early medieval times it’s the kind of question I like to explore. I’m grateful to Liz Roberts for pointing me to a letter on the Telegraph website suggesting that the answer to this question should not necessarily be ‘English’. It is possible that Cuthbert was as much a Scottish saint as an English one, or maybe we should simply call him ‘Northumbrian’. I know from speaking to Liz that she has her own views on the use of ethnic terminology relating to this period. She’s right to be concerned about it. Terms such as ‘Scottish’ and ‘British’ are sometimes bandied about quite casually in reference to the early medieval period, without much thought being given to what they really meant a thousand years ago.

Here’s another question: where did the Picts defeat the Northumbrians on 20 May 685? The vicinity of Dunnichen Hill in Angus is seen by many as the likeliest location, but Dunachton in Badenoch is another candidate. Either or neither of these places could be the hill (or hillfort) called Dun Nechtáin in the Irish annals. The uncertainty means that the best-known event in Pictish history cannot be listed in an official inventory of battlefields. Historic Scotland’s decision to exclude Dunnichen from the list has not gone down too well in Angus, as this news item from The Courier makes clear.

Further west, in the Hebridean seaways, an archaeological excavation has recently commenced on the island of Eigg, its aim being to discover the origins of the ecclesiastical site at Kildonan. This is supposedly where St Donnan established a monastery in the late sixth century. He and his monks suffered martyrdom in 617 when the island was attacked by pirates. Because of the importance of the site I’ll be following the progress of this excavation closely. At some point I hope to run a blogpost about it.

Another excavation is hoping to unravel the mystery of Trusty’s Hill, a site overlooking the Solway Firth, where Pictish symbols are carved on a rock at the summit. Why are these carvings found here, so far away from the Pictish heartlands? Who occupied the fort on top of the hill? This was territory ruled by Britons, not Picts – or so conventional wisdom tells us. Yet the name Trusty seems to relate in some way to Tristan, and both may derive from the Pictish name Drostan, so are we looking at a genuine connection with the Picts?

Finally, but not for the last time, I recommend a visit to Heavenfield where Michelle has recently posted her latest round-up from the medieval blogs as well as the above-mentioned review of Brave. If you’re a ‘tweep’ you can follow Michelle on Twitter where she’s @MZiegler3. I’m a twitterer as well, in two guises: @EarlyScotland and @GovanStones. Speaking of Govan, I’ll be giving an update on what’s been happening there in my next blogpost, which will be published here at Senchus rather than at Heart of the Kingdom.

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Recommended reading

To those of you who follow A Corner Of Tenth-Century Europe this will be old news. To the rest, it’s a nudge towards a couple of blogposts by Dr Jonathan Jarrett of the University of Oxford.

Jonathan’s areas of teaching and research touch on many of the topics that pop up here at Senchus. Many of you will recognise his name from a number of posts to which he has contributed via the comment thread. At his blog A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe he has recently posted two items that I recommend to anyone who has an interest in early medieval Scotland. One is a book review; the other a report of a seminar paper.

The reviewed book is James E. Fraser’s From Caledonia to Pictland: Scotland to 795, the first volume in the series The New Edinburgh History of Scotland from Edinburgh University Press. Those of you who are familiar with this book will find Jonathan’s review a useful commentary. Fraser has produced what I regard as an essential text, even if chunks of it don’t chime too well with my own views of the period. Some of his theories about the Britons, for instance, are seriously at odds with what I’ve written in The Men Of The North, particularly on key topics such as Rheged, Catraeth and the Maeatae. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly recommend Fraser’s book as the best currently available guide through the swirling mists of the fifth to eighth centuries. It’s a bold attempt to draw all the bits and pieces together into a narrative after testing their validity against a rigorous set of criteria. The result isn’t going to please everyone, which is no bad thing in itself. But don’t take my word for it: read what Jonathan says and get an insightful perspective from academia.

The seminar paper was presented last year by Alex Woolf to an audience in Oxford. Woolf is the author of From Pictland to Alba, 789-1070, the second volume in the EUP series mentioned above and another addition to any list of essential reading on early Scottish history. His paper at the Oxford seminar considered (among other things) the influence of socio-economic factors (i.e. trade) in the shift of political power from early centres such as those in Argyll and Galloway to newer ones primarily in the East. Jonathan gives a synopsis and mentions that these ideas are likely to be incorporated into a new book in which Woolf will deal with the period before 800 previously covered by Fraser. This means two books on the same topic, by two leading scholars. The one is unlikely to duplicate the other but will rather give the reader two perspectives that can then be compared, contrasted and critiqued. When this happens, we shall consider ourselves well-served indeed.

Here are the links to Jonathan’s posts:
Review of From Caledonia to Pictland
Report on Alex Woolf’s seminar paper

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Early Medieval Govan

Govan Sarcophagus

The Govan Sarcophagus (Photo © B Keeling)

I recently uploaded a new post at Heart of the Kingdom, my blog about early medieval Govan and the carved stones of the kingdom of Strathclyde. The post takes a look at the distinctive ‘hogback’ tombstones at Govan and compares them with similar monuments at Penrith in Cumbria.

If you haven’t visited Heart of the Kingdom yet, please go over and have a look around. The topics there are obviously quite close to the ones you’ll find here. People who enjoy my Senchus posts about Pictish sculpture, for instance, may be interested to read about the equally impressive (though less well-known) sculptured stones at Govan. Although every post at Heart of the Kingdom is indexed here at Senchus on the topic page for the kingdom of Strathclyde the following list shows the ones published so far:

Hogback tombstones at Govan and Penrith
Govan: a place of assembly
Govan and the kings of Strathclyde
Pigtails and ponytails on early medieval sculpture
A 19th-century illustration of the Govan Sarcophagus
The Sun Stone at Govan
Book review: Anna Ritchie’s Govan and its Carved Stones
People, place and memory: Govan and the kingdom of Strathclyde
What’s in a name? Choosing a name for my new blog

Early Medieval Govan

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Round-up from the Blogosphere

Shortage of time meant my blogging slowed down last month but I’m looking to get back on track this week. I’ll start with a quick round-up from some other blogs. This is just a small selection of what’s going on at the moment, so I recommend Michelle’s latest round-up at Heavenfield for a wider snapshot. Some of the sites mentioned by Michelle appear in this post.

Over at the Badonicus blog Mak Wilson is publishing a series of posts on the identity of King Arthur and examining the core question of whether we’re dealing with a historical figure or a mythical one, or a combination of the two. This is a comprehensive study of sources and theories so anyone with an Arthurian interest will find it worth a look. Mak offers a balanced treatment of the topic and gives equal space to all sides in the long-running debate about the Historical Arthur. The series is currently up to Part Five.

Perceptions of ‘barbarian’ Celts and Picts is the title of a post by Iain Forbes at his Last of the Druids blog. Iain looks at how the peoples of early medieval Britain are traditionally (and simplistically) presented to schoolchildren as a homogeneous ‘island nation’ who endured wave after wave of invasion by Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. Iain draws on his own memories of how this period of history was taught in Scottish schools. His recollection of learning about a homogeneous mass of ‘Ancient Britons’ struck a particular chord with me as I made a similar point in a talk I gave at the Wigtown Book Festival in 2010, which turned into a book-launch for The Men of the North.

If you visit Iain’s blog, take a look at the stunning cover-image for his forthcoming book on the Pictish symbol stones. It shows a full-sized replica (carved by master-stonemason Barry Grove) of the Hilton of Cadboll stone from Easter Ross.

The next blogpost here at Senchus will be a report on my recent visit to Dacre in Cumbria, site of an Anglo-Saxon monastery mentioned by Bede. Dacre is one of the places suggested as a venue for the famous royal meeting at Eomotum in 927, an event attended by the English king Athelstan and his fellow-monarchs from Strathclyde and Alba. An excellent summary of the meeting and its geographical context can be found in Diane McIlmoyle’s latest post at her Cumbrian blog. Diane has the advantage of being based near Eomotum (the River Eamont) and speaks from first-hand experience when she discusses the sites suggested as possible venues.

Staying with a Cumbrian theme, Professor Karen Jolly of the University of Hawai’i has a new post at Revealing Words, her blog about tenth-century Northumbria. The post is an update on her search for sites in Cumbria possibly visited by the Northumbrian priest Aldred, a member of the community of St Cuthbert. As well as producing a definitive scholarly edition of Aldred’s glosses on a book of prayers, Karen is writing a novel about him and has posted an extract on her blog.

A novel about early medieval Scotland is due to be launched next month. Chronicles of Iona: Exile looks at the relationship between St Columba and his royal patron Aedan mac Gabrain. Its author, Paula de Fougerolles, is a graduate of the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic at Cambridge where she undertook her PhD. Exile will be available in e-book format and also in hardcopy and will be followed by Peregrinatio, the second title in the Iona series. An extract from Perigrinatio can be viewed at Paula’s blog.

Another early medievalist turning her hand to historical fiction is V.M. Whitworth who, as Victoria Thompson, wrote the acclaimed Dying and Death in Later Anglo-Saxon England (2004). Her recently published novel The Bone Thief is described on her blog as ‘a historical thriller set in 900 AD, in the immediate aftermath of the death of King Alfred the Great’. It was launched at York during this year’s Jorvik Viking Festival.

At the start of this year I made a resolution to visit Scotland more frequently than I managed in 2011. I need to replenish my stock of photos for this blog and do some exploring around Strathclyde for Heart of the Kingdom and my other research projects on the Britons. I was in Govan last month and will be there again in April but I hope to get to other places, not only to re-visit historical sites but also to attend events. This will happen if various schedules fall into place. An event much further afield but on my ‘get-to’ list for a rather long time is the International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo in the United States. I always remember the buzz on Ansaxnet (where I used to lurk in the 1990s) whenever the date of ‘Kzoo’ drew near. I really should have made the effort to attend back then, when I probably had more time than I seem to have nowadays. A recent blogpost by Curt Emanuel is a reminder of what I’ve been missing. Although not a professional medievalist Curt is a regular attendee at Kalamazoo and draws on his own happy experience of past congresses to encourage other ‘interested amateurs’ to register for this year’s event. One day, perhaps, I’ll actually make it….

Finally, an opportunity for honest bloggers everywhere to grind their teeth and growl or howl. Theft of our creativity for anonymous re-posting and other unspeakable purposes is one of the prices we pay for an unregulated Internet. It’s a sad but inevitable fact of online life. In his latest blogpost Jonathan Jarrett reports on an instance of his own stuff turning up somewhere else without permission or due credit. Alas, it won’t be the last we hear of this sort of treachery.

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New blog on early medieval Govan

Replica cross at Govan

Replica of a 10th-century cross at Govan (Photograph © B Keeling)


This week I’ve launched a new blog called Heart of the Kingdom. It’s about Govan, an important royal site in the kingdom of Strathclyde and a major centre of stonecarving in the 9th-11th centuries. The old parish church at Govan has an important collection of monuments dating from this period, including the original shaft of the replica cross shown above.

I plan to run the new site alongside Senchus as an additional venue for jottings about the North Britons. Senchus will remain my main venue for posts on things like Rheged, Gododdin, Alt Clut and the battle of Arfderydd and will still host the ongoing series on Strathclyde. Heart of the Kingdom will have a narrower focus on Govan and on the sculpture of the ‘Govan School’. It will also cover news of events or projects in present-day Govan that relate to the carved stones and their period.

Here’s a link to the new site: Heart of the Kingdom

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Picts in many places…

Pictish Symbol Stone Orkney

Symbol stone from South Ronaldsay, Orkney (drawn by JR Allen, 1903)


If you haven’t done so already, pop over to A Corner Of Tenth-Century Europe and read Jonathan Jarrett’s latest blogpost on the Picts. It touches on the old question of what the terms ‘Pict’ and ‘Pictish’ might really mean.

Jonathan has blogged on this topic before, in a post called Pictland should be plural. His latest instalment has the title Picts in many places, if ‘Pict’ is the word. You can probably see where his thoughts on the topic are heading. ‘We talk of the Picts as a people,’ he writes, ‘but much suggests they were many peoples.’

Jonathan’s blogposts usually include attractive pictures and Picts in many places is no exception. I won’t spoil the treat by describing each image but, suffice to say, you’ll see some rather impressive stuff recently unearthed by archaeologists. The thing is, although these discoveries add useful data to what we already know, they don’t provide answers to fundamental questions like ‘Who were the Picts?’ On the contrary, each new discovery throws up a new set of questions, which then require new theories to explain them. All of this is good news for ‘Pictish bloggers’, of course, because it means there’s always something new to write about.

‘More stuff keeps turning up’, says Jonathan. Long may it continue to do so.

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P.S. My own musings on Pictish identity appear on this blog from time to time. I have a particular interest in the ‘Pictishness’ of Cenél nGartnait, a high-status family who lived on Skye in the 7th century.

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