Ancient and medieval tribal confederation in northern Britain / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Picts were a group of peoples who lived in Britain north of the ForthClyde isthmus in the Pre-Viking, Early Middle Ages.[1] Where they lived and details of their culture can be inferred from early medieval texts and Pictish stones. The term Picti appears in written records as an exonym from the late third century AD, but was adopted as an endonym in the late seventh century during the Verturian hegemony. This lasted around 160 years until the succession of the Alpínid dynasty, when the Pictish kingdom merged with that of Dál Riata to form the Kingdom of Alba. The concept of "Pictish kingship" continued for a few decades until it was abandoned entirely as a contemporary signifier during the reign of Caustantín mac Áeda.[2]

The Aberlemno I roadside symbol stone, Class I Pictish stone with Pictish symbols, showing (top to bottom) the serpent, the double disc and Z-rod and the mirror and comb

Early medieval sources report the existence of a distinct Pictish language, which is thought to have been an Insular Celtic language, closely related to the Brittonic spoken by the Britons who lived to the south. Pictish is assumed to have been gradually displaced by Middle Gaelic as part of the wider Gaelicisation from the late ninth century. Picts are assumed to have been descendants of the Caledonii and other Iron Age tribes mentioned by Roman historians or on the world map of Ptolemy.

Pictish society was typical of many early mediaeval societies in northern Europe and had parallels with neighbouring groups. Archaeology gives some impression of their culture. While very little Pictish writing has survived, much of its history is known from external sources, including Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, hagiography of saints' lives such as that of Columba by Adomnán, and the Irish annals.