What I’m posting here isn’t so much a blogpost as a signpost to somewhere else, in this case the blog of Professor Guy Halsall, a historian at the University of York. I am grateful to Michelle of Heavenfield for bringing this to my attention.
Follow the link below, and take a look at Prof. Halsall’s thoughts on various aspects of Pictish society: burial customs, kingship and state-formation. It’s a detailed, fascinating study and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in early Scottish history. Whether you prefer your Picts to be Mysterious (or Fairly Un-Mysterious), Mystical & Enigmatic (or Pretty Normal Barbarians After All), it’s a useful lesson in caution. To those of the latter persuasion, such as myself, Prof. Halsall advises us to hold back a bit, to not take the idea of a sophisticated ‘Pictish state’ too far. As he rightly reminds us, political evolution is not necessarily a straightforward linear process. Two steps forward can sometimes mean one step backward. He discusses key topics such as overlordship, the role of local elites and the geographical extent of royal power. Comparisons with the Frankish kingdoms provide useful contrasts and similarities with what Pictish kings might (or might not) have been doing in the 6th to 9th centuries. It’s quite a long blogpost, so be ready to set aside a few minutes of your time.