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Thread: Pictish Weapons

  1. #1
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    Pictish Weapons

    Hello,

    Fairly new to the forums...so forgive me for this newbie question.

    I'm trying to do some research on the types of weapons used by the Picts of Northern Scotland. My web-searches have been fairly fruitless...no one seems to get past the "they fought nude and tattooed" thread. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for study resources?

    Thanks,

    Jason
    Dishonesty to oneself is bad discipline...

  2. #2
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    Re: Pictish Weapons

    Originally posted by Jason Hunt
    I'm trying to do some research on the types of weapons used by the Picts of Northern Scotland. My web-searches have been fairly fruitless...no one seems to get past the "they fought nude and tattooed" thread. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for study resources?
    See page 2, 3rd paragraph, of this article: http://www.clannada.org/Online-Docs/...Age%20Gael.pdf
    'S coma leam, 's coma leam cogadh no sith,
    Marbhar 'sa cogadh, no crochar 'san t-sith mi.


    It's all the same to me war or peace,
    I'm killed in the war or hung during peace.

  3. #3
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    A good book on the subject is Pictish Warrior AD 297 - 841 Warrior #50, by Osprey Books.
    "Swords Are Fun!" - Auld Dawg

    "A Sword For Show, But A Broadaxe For Dough." -
    Hagar The Horrible

  4. #4
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    Originally posted by Karl Foster
    A good book on the subject is Pictish Warrior AD 297 - 841 Warrior #50, by Osprey Books.
    Thanks for the book title, I've just ordered it from Amazon. Read the article suggested by Dale, I'd seen in the scant few other sources I've come across that the Picts used a La Tene inspired leaf-blade...attributed to the influence of the Scots immigrants. I'm still wondering what they used before the influence of the Scots. Will see what the book divulges.

    Jason
    Dishonesty to oneself is bad discipline...

  5. #5
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    Originally posted by Jason Hunt
    . . .I'd seen in the scant few other sources I've come across that the Picts used a La Tene inspired leaf-blade...attributed to the influence of the Scots immigrants. I'm still wondering what they used before the influence of the Scots.
    The Picts, or Cruithne in Gaelic, were also still in northern Ireland when the Gaelic tribes known as the Scots went from there to Alba (Scotland), so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they were using the same sort of weaponry. It's also widely considered today that the Picts were themselves a Celtic group, speaking a probably-Brythonic Celtic language. The Romans seem to have considered them to be "some sort of Germans" because they were tall well-built folk with light eyes and red to reddish-blond hair.
    'S coma leam, 's coma leam cogadh no sith,
    Marbhar 'sa cogadh, no crochar 'san t-sith mi.


    It's all the same to me war or peace,
    I'm killed in the war or hung during peace.

  6. #6
    Originally posted by Karl Foster
    A good book on the subject is Pictish Warrior AD 297 - 841 Warrior #50, by Osprey Books.
    And even better, that title is written by a great bloke by the name of Paul Wagner. Paul is a member of the Stocatta School of Defense, and posts on the HES forum here.

    Jason, I recommend PMing Paul... He will be glad to help I'm sure.

  7. #7
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    Originally posted by Dale Seago
    It's also widely considered today that the Picts were themselves a Celtic group, speaking a probably-Brythonic Celtic language.
    What do you have in the way of sources for this? Most of the books that I've read on the Picts are much less firm in their designation of the Picts language tree (and therefore of their membership into the Celtic peoples).

    Since my persona is a Dalriadan (and interaction with the Picts would have probably been a given) I'd be VERY interested in any new information that may have swayed the scholars to finally place them in the Celtic camp.

  8. #8
    The Aberlemno 2 stone, featuring scenes that have been interpreted as representing the battle of Dunnichen Mere in AD685 was carved much later than the battle itself. I cannot recall for sure, but I think that it was carved sometime in the late eigth or ninth century. It is truely a masterpiece and I was standing by it just a couple of weeks ago in the churchyard were it now stands. It features scenes of Northumbrian cavalry and Picish infantry: the latter stood in three ranks, the first being sword armed, the second and third carrying long spears and all having large round shields. A search on the web will probably bring up a good photo of it.

    As for the swords of the Picts... not totally that helpful, especially bearing in mind the time difference between the carving and the protrayed event. I took drawings of all the weapons shown on the stone (and on a modern copy of it nearby) but unfortunately relating them to historical examples isn't that easy. Only two Pictish (and one Northumbrian) swords are represented; none to any detail that can be interpreted with any certainty. The appearance of the Pictish hilts on the stone differs from the Northumbrian sword and appears 'similar' to Roman sword hilts (and I am not seriously suggesting that this is what is represented, even though there was a 'permanent' Roman military presence in North East Scotland on several occasions). The Northumbrian sword hilt features curved upper and lower guards (no pommel is shown). However, as stated above, these carvings cannot be interprested as fact because of the date of the stonework and the relative crudeness of the carving of the weapons.

    As for the archeological remains of Pictish swords suggested in the web article, I cannot say. It is my understanding that there are NO examples of 'Pictish' swords; I wish there were and would love to see some. In fact, there is little to go on to understand the Picts at all; yet many theories persist to explain away who and why they were. As for Irish Picts? The Scotti invaded Western Scotland from the North of Ireland and eventually the Pictish kingdoms were absorbed by/united with the Scotti under Kenneth Mac Alpin. 'Pictii' is a generic title given the native North Britains of the 3rd century by the Romans. This naming of the 'Picts' seems to have been continued into the historic period by the Northumbrians and the Scots. However, the Picts were not litterate and left no history beyond what achaeology and their superb carved stones (which are still not properly understood) can tell us. Most likely, as has been suggestd by Ian Ralston, we should view the Pictish kingdoms as the final stage of an evolution of the native North British tribes that began in the late Bronze age and persisted through the Iron age (with brief Roman interludes) into the Christain period.

    How that affects what swords and other weapons they used, I cannot answer.

    Jonathan.
    Last edited by Jonathan Fletcher; 06-10-2003 at 06:31 AM.

  9. #9

    More Picts....

    Just wanted to add...

    One spearman on the Aberlemno 2 had his shield slung on a long shoulder strap, whilst he held his spear two handed to protect the front rank swordsman.

    Also, there were two Pictish kingdoms in the historical records.

    1- The Northern Picts = the North British tribes/kingdoms loacted north of the Mounth (the shoulder of the Grampian/Graupian mountains that reaches the sea near Stonehaven on the Northeast coast).

    2- The Southern Picts = the North British peoples South of the Mounth, but above the Northumbrians.

    The Southern Picts were further subdivided into four kingdoms;

    The Circenn (or something) of Strathmore
    The Fortrenn of the upper Earn and Forth valleys
    The dirty types of the Fife peninsula
    The Athfotla that lived in the upper Tay and extended into the highlands of the Grampians.

    One hundred points to anyone who can identify the links between these kingdoms and the 1st century tribes of Ptolemy's map of North Britain; more points if they can prove them!

    Unfortunately, the history of this region is fascinating. I say unfortunately because a little enough survives to make it utterly absorbing, yet so much has been lost to time that understanding it anywhere near properly is beyond anyone but Roddy McDowell. Despite this, many authors write quite prolific 'histories'; yet the rock against which most smash themselves upon is unproven suppostion. This latter problem is particulary apparent when trying to read about either the Roman military activity/archaeology of North Britain (Scotland), or the Pictish people. Quite eminent scholars can write utter rubbish based upon their own theories and have these books published as if they present fact.

    Beware all ye who enter....


    J.
    Last edited by Jonathan Fletcher; 06-10-2003 at 06:32 AM.

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by Dan Crowther
    What do you have in the way of sources for this? Most of the books that I've read on the Picts are much less firm in their designation of the Picts language tree (and therefore of their membership into the Celtic peoples).
    Nothing seems established as absolutely conclusive regarding Pictish origins, culture, and language -- there are still a number of competing theories. For example, according to this article,
    Dr Richard Cox, a lecturer in the University’s Department of Celtic, has discovered that the inscriptions on the Pictish symbol stones characteristic of some parts of Scotland are written in Old Norse, the Scandinavian language of the Vikings’ descendants.
    Per another article on Scottish history,
    The Irish name for the Picts was ‘Cruithne’, likewise thought to mean ‘Painted People’ and was a name also used by the Irish, to describe a group of aboriginal people in Ireland prior to the coming of the Celtic Gael. These people were at one time one of the most predominant tribes in the North of Ireland around Ulster. Munster, another part in Ireland was also predominately ‘Cruithne’ and is also the place to have similar inscription stones to that of the Pictish ‘Ogham’.
    Gabriele Roeder provides some sources for the view (which she finds persuasive) that the Picts were a Celtic group in a footnote on this page:
    (8) The Picts were most probably speaking a p-Celtic language. Cfr. Patrick Wormald: The Emergence of the Regnum Scottorum: a Carolingian Hegemony?. In: Barbara E. Crawford (ed) Scotland in Dark Age Britain, 1996; pp. 131-153; Elizabeth Sutherland. In Search of the Picts. London 1994, pp. 200-203; and the research of place names by: Nicolaisen, W.F.H. Scottish Place Names, 2nd ed. 1979. I believe his arguments to be valid.
    'S coma leam, 's coma leam cogadh no sith,
    Marbhar 'sa cogadh, no crochar 'san t-sith mi.


    It's all the same to me war or peace,
    I'm killed in the war or hung during peace.

  11. #11
    Watch out. I see this thread going down the lines of the old debate about who the 'Celts' were and whether they thought of themselves as a single 'Celtic' people....

    It is much easier to view the Picts as the North Britons. If that makes them Celtic in some peoples eyes then so be it. But what must be stressed is that the old invasionist theories of Prehisory are long dead (perhaps excluding the revolutionary period of change to society that appeared all across Europe in the late Bronze age). There was a continuity of society in North Britain from the Bronze age through to the Christian period, when the Anglians slowly encroachd from the South and the Irish from the West. Some even consider the Roman incursions as minor blips in this evolution without having much input. With that in mind, the history and origins of the Picish people are firmly rooted amongst those people who settled Northern Britain from the earliest times. I do not believe that we should see the Picts, who burst into Roman history in the 3rd century, as any 'new' people, differing from the tribes who had settled this region froma much earlier time.

    How the political geography of the country changed through this period I cannot say. That there is evience of warfare cannot be disputed: Scotland is litterally stuffed full of pe-Christian defensive sites (in paricular the native hillfort). Many of these sites were used from the late Bronze age and several show evidence of being re-occupied in the 'Pictish' period. Whether or not the use of these defensive sites implies grand scale warfare between kingdoms/tribes or merely represents defence against raiding of cattle and women by neighbouring tribes and kingdoms, cannot be firmly said. We only have a few classical snap shots of the political geography of this region, thanks to Tacitus, Ptolemy, Dio and later from the annals of the historic period. But none of them correlate too well and interpreting the political geography from them is as yet merely theoreical. As pointed out previously, there is very little concete evience to go on and a lot of what is 'known' today is not based on more than supposition.

    J.

  12. #12
    Here is a web site featuring the Aberlemno 2 stone:

    http://www.brand-dd.com/stones/symbol/aberlemno2.html

    The Ogam inscriptions on some Pictish stones are difficult to prove as contemporary with the original carvings. These stones, like many pre-historic monuments, have survived longer than the memory of their original purpose. This has often resulted in the use of earlier prehistoric monuments in later contexts/activities.

    If I am in Aberdeen next week I'll see if I can get hold of a copy of Dr. Cox's original article, or perhaps the man himself, to give it a better appraisal. Question EVERYTHING you read about the Picts, especially as they are under attack from historians, achaeologists and linguists: all with their own differing theories.

    J.

  13. #13
    I don't know if anybody really cares, but...

    I have not read Dr Cox's article yet, but am troubled by the sugestion that these Old Norse Ogham inscriptions represent some evidence as to the origins of the Pictish nation.

    There are only about thirty Scottish Ogham inscriptions, generally on the East coast, compared to the vast numbers of Pitish stones accross North Britain. What troubles me more is that we know, from both the Annals of Ulster and the Annals of Cambriae, that the Norse under Olafr (the White), pillaged Fortrenn and Dunbarton in the late ninth century. What gains were made in these expeditions we do not know, because of the lack of annals for Scotland. Therefore, the presence of Old Norse incriptions in Pictish territory may be explainable by much more conventional means: these may simply be Norwegian graffiti. It is still not known if the Ogham inscriptions on the stones are contemporary with their original carving: some suggest dates from the eleventh century onwards. Yet, the Picts had been around for considerble time before than that.

    As mentioned before, there is very little history to go on. This results in 'ground breaking' discoveries and grandiose theories by many, without there being a thorough appraisal of what the few facts tell us. I wish we could know more about the Picts, but unfortunately they are very much a lost people.

    J
    Last edited by Jonathan Fletcher; 06-12-2003 at 08:27 AM.

  14. #14
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    Originally posted by jonathan fletcher
    I don't know if anyboy really cares, but...
    I care, Jonathan. I have to admit that I'm not too interested in the Picts; nevertheless, I am interested in your posts regarding them. And I have to agree that Viking/Norse Ogham inscriptions are far, far more likely to have been added to Pitctish stones at a later date than they are to date from the original carving of the stone.
    "Courage is fear holding on a minute longer."--Gen. George S. Patton

  15. #15
    More Vikings in Pictish lands....

    Found this brief article on the web that details some of the Viking associated finds from Perthshire (basically = Fortrenn).

    http://www.tafac.freeuk.com/perthcon/scandinavian1.htm

    It seems these relate to so called 'Danish atrifacts': never the less, it highlights the fact that the archeological record supports a much greater Viking presence in Pictish lands than the little surviving history would let us know. I am due to visit Perth on Saturday: I'll try the town museum to see if any of the weapons described are kept there.

    I'll scour the Scottish archeological journals in the Aberdeen University library next week: maybe there's a published sword find out there that dates to Pictish times and that's been found in a purely Pictish context that I haven't come across yet. If anyone firmly knows of any from their readings then please let me know, because I'd love to see what it looks like... might even lead to a copy...

    J.
    Last edited by Jonathan Fletcher; 06-12-2003 at 09:02 AM.

  16. #16
    Originally posted by Dale Seago

    It's also widely considered today that the Picts were themselves a Celtic group, speaking a probably-Brythonic Celtic language.
    Forgive me, Dale, but would "Brythonic" mean "related to Breton?"

    Jerry
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    Yeri's Page including Hamora Lafan for Old English interests.

  17. #17
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    Originally posted by JMSpiller


    Forgive me, Dale, but would "Brythonic" mean "related to Breton?"

    Jerry
    Not exactly, but you're close. Another term sometimes used in "P-Celtic" (referring to Welsh, Cornish, Breton, and older versions such as Gaulish), in distinction to the "Q-Celtic" (or Goidelic/Gaelic) languages such as Scottish, Irish, and Manx Gaelic.
    'S coma leam, 's coma leam cogadh no sith,
    Marbhar 'sa cogadh, no crochar 'san t-sith mi.


    It's all the same to me war or peace,
    I'm killed in the war or hung during peace.

  18. #18
    Unfortunately, the Aberdeen University library is shut for a week or so whilst they install a new secutiry system. I'll try there again next time I'm up here to scour the archaeological journals for signs of Pictish stuff: perhaps next week, or the one after.

    Meantime, and getting off topic, I am going to try and find out a bit more about the Fendoch Roman sword. Fendoch was one of the Flavian "glen blocking" forts in Perthshire and the sword was found in the infilling of one of the foundation trenches: thus it is assumed to date to the forts demolition in the post Agricolan withdrawl. I had never heard of this piece until I found a photo of it in the Perth museum last week. The report in the Procedings of the Scottish Antiquitaries Society (PSAS or Piss-Ass) for 1939 detailed Sir Ian Richmond's excavations and this included some good info on the sword itself. She's about 25" long, with a 20" blade; 2" wide at the shoulders and estimated at 1/4" thick. Typical pompeii? Not so. The profile taper of the blade gives a gentle rounded sweep to a long point, rather than the straight sided short pointed gladius. More interesting though is the guard of bronze, 2.5" wide, that is more like the crosses of later swords than the typical Roman gladius.

    I have a very bad picture, that really isn't worth posting. This may be remedied at the weekend, as I am hopefully off to Edinburgh to the National museum, where the sword is now kept. If that's no good, I'll get in touch with the keeper of antiquities and buy a good photo of it if possible. And, if I see any Pictish things there then I'll be sure to let you know...

    J.

  19. #19
    The Royal Scottish Museum and the adjoining National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh are well worth a vist. Some very good stuff in both. The National has a huge collection of bronze age weapons and some fine Roman equipment: ranging from swords to the saddle and helmet from Newstead, plus some of those fine cavalry parade helmets. Unfortunately, little Pictish archaeology, beyond more stone carvings. There were some 8th-9th century swords found at various places around the country, but these were all typical 'Viking' styles and several were attributed as Northumbrian/Anglian. Despite the lack of swords though, there were the superb Pictish items from the St. Ninian's isle hoard: including two very fine silver scabbard chapes ( a web search will reveal pictures I am sure) with very fine 'beastie' decorations at the terminals of the uprights. Bar that, little else to go on I am affraid. The closest things to native swords are represented by a series of 4-5 swords or guards found in Roman contexts believed to date from the second century, but thought to be of a native style (the Fendoch sword, 2 from Elginhaugh and Newstead, plus another one in Perth). I had no camera on the day but as usual the lighting (as at the Royal Armouries in Leeds) proved utterly unsuitable for pictures: too dark and too much glass to get more than a big flash reflection or a shadow on a compact). Anyway, I made slight sketches and have translated these into pictures on cruddy old paintbrush: I am sorry but it is the best I can do for now until I make proper drawings to be scanned. The picture that should be attched is the Fendoch bronze hilt. The second picture to follow shows the other type of bronze guard: all the remaining four are almost identical. They are all either native or of a style used by a particular group of the auxillia (?). If they are native then they are the forerunners of any later Pictish weapons.

    J.

  20. #20
    Er, sorry. Pictures too big apparently. I'll try and attach the Fendoch sword again....
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  21. #21
    Like I said, crappy picture, but they give you the idea....

    ...lots of the organic parts missing. I have no idea how these hilts would be with further wooden/bone components coupled to the bronze fittings. Anyway, the Newstead and Elginhaugh types were like this...
    Last edited by Jonathan Fletcher; 07-15-2003 at 03:42 PM.

  22. #22
    Sorry... that picture... (it's late and the pics are getting worse!)
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  23. #23
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    Celto-Romanish

    Originally posted by jonathan fletcher
    Sorry... that picture... (it's late and the pics are getting worse!)

    May not be Pictish... but at least Celto-Romanish.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Two swords
    Lit in Eden’s flame
    One of iron and one of ink
    To place within a bloody hand
    One of God or one of man
    Our souls to one of
    Two eternities

  24. #24
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    And another Celto-Romanish

    The Cotterdale Sword...
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Two swords
    Lit in Eden’s flame
    One of iron and one of ink
    To place within a bloody hand
    One of God or one of man
    Our souls to one of
    Two eternities

  25. #25
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    Celto-Romanish

    Celtic craftsmen working for the emperor...???
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Two swords
    Lit in Eden’s flame
    One of iron and one of ink
    To place within a bloody hand
    One of God or one of man
    Our souls to one of
    Two eternities

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