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Scots and Picts - Ancient Scotland

The Picts were mighty warriors, holding off Romans, Angles, and early Vikings before their culture was absorbed by the Scots.

Iron Age Picts built great duns (stone hill fortresses), crannogs (forts and houses built on stilts in lochs), and, unique to Scotland, brochs. Brochs are round stone towers, tapering inward as they rise from the ground. Hundreds may be found all over the Highlands and the Isles.

The word Picti, means "painted" in Latin. Rather than painting themselves, as in popular myth, some historical records suggest they actually tattooed their faces and bodies.

Northern Ireland is "nae so far" from Scotland. About 500 AD, the sons of Erc, King of Dalriada (present-day county Antrim), established kingdoms in the Western Isles and Argyll, with their seat at Dunadd. These early Scots called their kingdom Dalriada.

There are a great many legends surrounding Kenneth MacAlpin, Scotland's first Scottish king (843 AD). They say he killed the members of all seven Pictish royal houses to secure the throne. Such ruthlessness paid off. While some future kings were styled "King of the Scots" or "King of the Picts", all were buried on Iona as Scottish kings and the name of the country became "Scotia".

Buy Books about the Scots and Picts of Ancient Scotland
Before Scotland
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Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History
by Alistair Moffat


"Alistair Moffat's gripping narrative begins 10,000 years ago, when the power of icebreak and meltwater at the close of the Ice Age produced the familiar Scottish geography of mountains, glens, flatlands, and rugged coasts.

By 3800 BC farmers had become established, creating remarkable timber halls—whose remains have newly come to light—and later the great standing stones at Callanish, the Ring of Brodgar, and elsewhere. And by the first millennium BC a sophisticated Celtic culture animated the whole island...

In the north of Scotland, Pictish culture flourished. Seen against the continuum of 8,000 years of prehistory, the Picts appear less mysterious, their beautiful, unique symbol stones forming a late sequence in a long tradition of sanctity. North Britain began to change into Scotland with the success of the Gaelic kings of Argyll—the name "Scot" originally meant a seaborne raider or pirate." - description.
The Art of the Picts
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The Art of the Picts: Sculpture and Metalwork in Early Medieval Scotland
by George and Isabel Henderson


Drawing upon art historical research and a lifetime of experience, George and Isabel Henderson show how the art of the Picts interacted with the currents of "Insular" art, and was produced by a sophisticated society capable of sustaining large-scale art programs. A masterpiece of scholarship and deduction, the book is illustrated with some 300 photographs and newly commissioned line drawings and maps. The authors illuminate some of the more intractable problems associated with the Picts—not least the meaning of the supposedly "pagan" symbols.
Pictish Warrior
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Pictish Warrior Ad 297-841
by Paul Wagner, illustrated by Wayne Reynolds


Everything you want to know (and is known) about Pictish warrior society including their arms and armor, methods of warfare, training, status of women, and more.
The Picts and the Scots
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The Picts and the Scots
by Lloyd and Jenny Laing


The Laings develop their own theories about the Picts and their relationship to the Scots, tracing the history of the two peoples through their unification in fighting the common enemies - Britons and Anglo-Saxons. Well illustrated.
Picts, Gaels and Scots
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Picts, Gaels and Scots
by Sally Foster


A fully updated, expanded, and newly illustrated version of a classic text on early Scottish history. In captivating detail, it provides insight into the lives and origins of the Scottish people’s ancestors and explains how the Picts and Gaels ultimately forged a nation. Using the latest archaeological discoveries, this comprehensive overview reveals the significance of Pictish symbols and early sculpture, examines the art of war and the role of kingship in tribal society, and delves into the religious beliefs of these 2 peoples and the impact of Christianity. With coverage of settlement, agriculture, industry, and trade, a full and fascinating picture of developing Scotland emerges.
Highlanders : A History of the Gaels
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Highlanders: A History of the Gaels
by John MacLeod


From the stone age through the present day, MacLeod shares the exciting story of the Highlands and Islands - the land and its peoples - Celts, Vikings, Lords of the Isles. Wonderfully readable. Highly recommended.
The Lords of the Isles
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The Lords of the Isles
by Raymond Campbell Patterson


The great clan Donald ruled in the west as Lords of the Isles for over 400 hundred years during the middle ages - causing grief for many Stewart kings. The epitomy of the independent highlanders, this book tells the history of the clan, who trace their roots to the great warrior king, Somerled.
Somerled : Hammer of the Norse
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Somerled: Hammer of the Norse
by Kathleen MacPhee


Somerled, the great Scottish chieftain, was half-Norse through his mother. Forced into exile in Ireland, he grew up as a warrior hermit, until leading his people against the Norse to regain his family's lands and become Thane of Argyll. His invention of the moveable stern rudder gave his sailors an advantage over the Norse war galleys.

At odds with the Scottish king, Somerled invaded the Clyde in 1163 with 164 galleys and 15,000 men and marched on Renfrew. What happened next is unclear but Somerled died in 1164. His legacy was in fathering the Clan Donald, the creation of the finest galleys ever seen in Scottish waters, and the enduring power base of the Lordship of the Isles.
Dunadd : An Early Dalriadic Capital
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Dunadd: An Early Dalriadic Capital
by Alan Lane and Ewan Campbell


Dunadd was the original seat of the early Gaelic kings, before Kenneth MacAlpin moved the seat to Scone. The authors detail the recent archeological discoveries at Dunadd and provide iron age and early medieval history of this capital of Dalriada, founded about 500 AD.