On the hunt for the Picts – Part Two

Travelling around Aberdeenshire, I’ve been looking out for symbol stones and how they are interpreted in the area.  Having started off in January at Crafting Kingdoms, a fantastic exhibition at Aberdeen University’s King’s Museum (37 miles to Rhynie), I was really encouraged and enthusiastic to search further afield and headed out into Aberdeenshire to find Museums and visitor centres. Unfortunately, I had been spoilt by the temporary exhibition at the University, I was sadly disappointed.  With such a unique, long and interesting history of people living in this area, I had to really search very widely to find out more about them.


Going by Aberdeenshire Council’s website Huntly’s Brander Museum (9 miles from Rhynie) has staffing issues and is not currently open, Archaeolink (13 miles from Rhynie) and Pictavia (58 miles from Rhynie) were both pre-history parks that finally closed in 2013 and 2014 respectively, all, sadly, have not reopened despite community interest.

The nearest museum to Rhynie, with Pictish information and artefacts on permanent display, was in Elgin (37 miles from Rhynie), across the border into Moray.  A brilliant Independent and award winning museum, not without it’s own financial problems, yet a lot of interesting collections and themed sections that kept me busy for ages finding out about what has happened in this area over the centuries.  Although they had a great collection of Symbol Stones, their map only referred to places in Moray and stopped at the borders missing out Rhynie just over the hill as well as a host of other sites between Elgin and Aberdeen to the south and Elgin and Orkney in the North.


Going beyond the North East and into the Highlands, there are at least five further Museums with Pictish connections; Tarbat Discovery Centre, Groam House Museum in Rosemarkie Timespan in Helmsdale, Caithness Horizons and the Orkney Museum, Kirkwall.  I will update you on what I found in Timespan and Orkney at a later stage, but it sounds like a great trip to do, perhaps one day I’ll get to go on the train and take in the old landscape.

In the meantime, Rhynie is buzzing with anticipation of the archaeologists returning in the Summer and of course this is accompanied by another opportunity to test out Rhynie Woman treats, walks and activities, who needs to go anywhere else to find out about the Picts.  If you cant get to Rhynie then Tarbat Discovery Centre have just launched an interesting book which you can find on ebay which has introduced me to what they call the Northern Picts……an interesting read!

Elgin Museum (29)
I think I might have some competition!
On the hunt for the Picts – Part Two

On the hunt for the Picts – part one.

I recently went on a treasure hunt to find out what information was available in the 21st Century about the Picts.  As much as I am curious, I’d much rather be outside putting my feet into the dewy grass and having the sunlight on my face, but it had to be done.

First of all, the word ‘Picts’ is a sensitive one due to the lack of written records of us, no-one really knows what we were called.  The Pict name is said to have derived from a derogatory name given to us by a Roman Scholar from the Latin pingere “to paint” and we are often referred to as the “painted” or “tattooed” people.  More recent scholars, such as Dr Sally Foster of Stirling University is more philosophical about our name. Have a look through her book Picts, Gaels and Scots for more information.  It is a great overview of pre Scottish History and of course I feature as Figure 32!

“Much ink has been spilt over what the ancient writers meant by Picts, but it seems to be a generic term for people living north of the Forth of Clyde isthmus who raided the Roman Empire.”

Foster, S. M.,1996. Picts, Gaels and Scots. London: B.T. Batsford/Historic Scotland

As I’m really interested in technology and Woodhill House has Wifi I thought I’d start with the internet.  If you put the word ‘Pict*’ into the search engine you get over 51 million results!  I understand this will not all be relevant to the Picts, but still, that is a LOT of information!  Of course, I couldn’t resist putting ‘Rhynie Man’ in next…..43,700, a bit disappointing but an indication that there are people out there who have heard of me.


Reading through the records that appeared showed me just how interesting we were and how little information and evidence is available on how we lived.  The words ‘enigmatic’, ‘uncertainty’, ‘kings’, ‘warriors’ and ‘mysterious’ come up regularly, as do ‘savage’ and ‘barbarian’, but who knows, I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to work it out for yourselves.

There are even scientists who are interested in whether ancestors of the picts still live in the world! They say that

TEN per cent of Scottish men are directly descended from the Picts, according to a new discovery by a DNA project…

Alistair Moffat quoted by , The Telegraph, 2013

What I find most interesting about articles such as this one, are the comments and discussions that they raise. This article raised issues of ethnicity, racism, Scotland’s Independence, technical accuracy of journalism, sensationalism, politics, scottish history, the corporate world, power, kin(g)ship, community, popular press v peer review, digital dark ages, regional names, oral history, accents, matrilineal debates just to name a few.  It certainly raises emotions and taped into people’s imagination; some romantically and others more critically.Picts in pictures

Equally amusing are the representations of the Picts, from the romantically floral and un-warrior styled images to the battle scenes and our run in with other people, but what a great idea for a fancy dress party!    The only real records are our Symbol Stones; fascinating and confusing and with artefacts from archaeological digs a small insight into our history.  There is a lot more you can learn from us; use us as a mirror to view how you live today and think & take action about shaping your future.

The lack of evidence, information and means of interpreting findings leaves room for imagination as well as questioning, it indicates a need to establish an identity, highlights belonging and ask some critical questions over community, landscape and stewardship. Factors that are indicative of all human beings, whether they were born in the 21st Century or the 1st.

On the hunt for the Picts – part one.

I’ve been on the Telly don’t you know!

I’m not boasting when I say I’m quite media savvy not to mention photogenic!  I’ve been in a few articles, books, newspapers and on television in my time.  I like to think Madonna models herself on me, rebranding herself each time a new song or genre develops.  I’ve been described as a warrior, a pilgrim, Rhynie Number 7, a king, a slaughterman, just to name a few and I’m just going to keep you guessing, it’s much more fun that way.canmoreAbove is a link to Canmore’s swish new website entry, it’s all very serious and factual, great if you are a historian, archaeologist, visitor of stones but there is no mention of nettle pesto and roasted beetroot on their site to get the taste buds watering.Rhynie man aberdeenshire monument recordAberdeenshire Council also has a record of my good self including some brilliant map overlays and all the amazing books I’ve featured in over the years.  They are the chaps to contact if you find any artefacts Pictish or not. For more information check out their website or email archaeology@aberdeenshire.gov.uknorthern PictsThe University of Aberdeen also has a keen interest in all things Northern Picts, under the all seeing eye of Dr Gordon Nobel.  Hopefully the archaeologists will reveal some more interesting things about me in the Summer.  They’ll be digging where I was found and further in the same field.  Just look out for them in mid August to early September.

The digging efforts should mean that even more people will get the chance to see my good looks when they present papers and workshops at conferences over the Winter and Spring. If you’d like to take part in the digs get in touch with g.noble@abdn.ac.uk  I’m reliably informed that Rhynie Woman treats will also make an appearance at some point as well.


Canmore and Aberdeenshire Council’s Sites and Monument Record are the main sources of information and starting points for research and academic dialogue. There are a whole host of other websites and blogs that write about me (some more accurate than others). Just search under my various descriptions and you’ll see.  A good starting point is Historic Scotland’s micro site Pictish Stones, which has links to some amazing laser scans of some other pictish stones.

If you’re interested in creative things and want to see how others have been inspired you can find out more at the following facebook pages.

Rhynie Woma

Rhynie Woman are by far my biggest fans, they want me back in Rhynie. They are an artists collective that aims to enhance their community by raising awareness of their landscape, history, and people through food and celebration.  I’m up for any kind of food and celebration, especially a Tap O’ Noth bun and some elderflower cordial!

rhynie wifie facebook

Unlike Rhynie Woman, Rhynie Wifies are another matter completely.  To cut a long story short, I seem to have been married to all four of them at some point and must have upset them somehow, I can’t imagine why.  I met them a good few years ago, they haven’t aged well and we won’t mention the nagging, the wee herbal night caps, the hair dyeing, speaking in tongues (really unnerving) and the fleas!

I have been the inspiration for batik painting, poetry, souvenirs, t shirts and towels, sweeties, cookies, Scots fiddle music (thanks to Paul Anderson) and stories.  Have you been inspired to create something about me?  I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve been on the Telly don’t you know!