The Enigma of the Picts


  • Jonathon M. Wooding


The Picts are the first chapter in Scottish history. Indeed, they are
really more of a foreword or a preface: for it is only with their merger with
the kingdom of S£Q.ui of Dalriada (in Argyllshire) in 843 A.D. that we have a
kingdom called 'Scotland' for the first time. The language and customs of
these S£.Q.1tl (Irish migrants from around the fifth century A.D. or earlier)
came to dominate the culture of the new kingdom, at the expense of that of the
Picts and it is with the decline of the Picts that 'Scot'tish history begins.
Nonetheless many elements of Pictish culture must have gone into the making
of Scottish civilisation. But there is much disagreement as to what Pictish
civilisation was really like. This 'enigma' of the Picts (as I will call it), the
controversy and unanswered questions surrounding the identity of these
previous occupants of Scotland, have a compelling and fascinating quality, for
academics as much as for the general reader. So I suppose I had best begin by
stating that I am a scholar behind whom stretches a long and noble tradition of
failure! Many scholars have set out to solve the enigma of the Picts, some
great names among them, but there is still little agreement. It would certainly
be vain of me to suppose that I will do any better in attempting to resolve the