Throwback Thursday – Crafting Kingdoms The rise of the Northern Picts

This weeks Throwback Thursday takes us back to the depths of winter, January 2015 and the opening of The Crafting Kingdoms exhibition at Kings Museum, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen.

After our trip to Aberdeen on the dark and chilly night we were given a warm welcome by the volunteers and members of the team who installed and curated this amazing summary of the Northern Picts.

Putting Rhynie right in the centre of things and the context amongst other pictish centres
Putting Rhynie right in the centre of things and the context amongst other pictish centres

The exhibition told the story of the Picts in, what is now, Scotland and then focused into the domain of the Northern Picts (where I come from).  It also highlighted the key find locations in the North East called Cé (pronounced ‘he’ as in S’he’ and Bennachie) which includes Tillytarmont, Gaulcross, Rhynie and Burghead (which could now possibly be augmented with the find at Dunnicaer in April 2015).  The exhibition was jointly curated between the Museum and Dr Gordon Nobel the lead archaeologist on the Northern Picts Project.

The gallery above shows the range and skill of craft(wo)manship that we had and were on show at the exhibition.  I don’t think the Romans were that complementary about us but I would argue that we knew what we liked, had highly developed aesthetic skills and sense of style and design.  We were also skilled traders and knew how to get hold of the odd bit of Roman silver when they weren’t looking!

Rhynie a very royal place, of course!
Rhynie a very royal place, of course!

It’s great to see that our history has not been forgotten, even though the archaeologists have not found that much of what we produced and how we lived.  The exploration is continuing and inspiring groups and communities like SSW and Rhynie Woman.  I’m happy in the knowledge that we won’t be forgotten, we just need to support these groups to make things happen.

the team getting ready to climb Dunnicaer!
the team getting ready to climb Dunnicaer!

There are lots of opportunities to get involved, whether it’s being involved in a dig, supporting a project or funding further research, so keep an eye on the Northern Picts facebook group and the Northern Picts Project website.  They are currently trying to raise funds to do some more digging at Dunnicaer:  on the sea stack, in the middle of the sea, with a big drop down off all sides, in the cold north wind where they need harnesses so they don’t blow away.  I’m off to calm down, I can’t cope with heights either; where’s one of Daisy’s Tap of Noth buns when you need one!

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Throwback Thursday – Crafting Kingdoms The rise of the Northern Picts

From Turf to Tools

Last August I went along to visit Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden, just down the road from Rhynie.  SSW was established in 1979 by sculptor Fred Bushe, RSA OBE.  Their website describes their purpose.

SSW is a making and thinking facility – offering the time, space, support and facilities to artists from all backgrounds to develop their practice, with an emphasis on experimentation and exploration of sculpture within the expanded field.

The project they have been working on at the time was called From Turf to Tools, it is an ongoing investigation into landscape, material and craft, inspired by local archeological investigations in Rhynie, Aberdeenshire.

The collaboration of Scottish Sculpture Workshop artist Eden Jolly and master blacksmith Darrell Markewitz, with Dr. Gordon Noble, archeologist at University of Aberdeen, will seek to recreate a ceremonial axe – as seen on the Rhynie Man standing stone – through smelting and forging locally sourced materials. Two writers, Maxime Hourani (Lebanon) and Deirdre O’Mahony (Ireland) will document the collaborative research process

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The event was spectacular and reminded me of when I was growing up in Rhynie, not just what they were doing but the sounds, sights and smells were so evocative.  What a great way of bringing our history alive.

as-rhynie
@SSW photo of Darrell Markewitz with the axe and my good self – not a bad likeness

The axe let the experts and public see how it could have potentially been used and they concluded that it was more likely to be ceremonial and not an axe for cutting wood, perhaps it was for knocking beasts over the head with!  I’m still keeping them guessing, but through the making process they are getting a closer understanding of how we lived and the considerable effort and skill we employed in making our tools.  We were a sophisticated bunch!

From Turf to Tools