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Thread: The Picts

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    How about the phenotype of the Picts? If I recall correctly they were described as small-framed and swarthy, in contrast with Celts... (Sardinian type comes to mind :))

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    TARANIS... can you enlighten me in regards to St. Ninians stone. I was reading something on the net that I came across by chance. It was in German so I could only understand about three words out of every five or so. It was a theory (do not know by whom) that taking the meqq from Besmeqqnanammovvez as "son" and "...bes" as the person in question, rather than anammovvez being two names ( and this is the bit I wonder about) he takes this through a series of renderings and says it could be from the old Nordic word for mother ie; "mutter". Are you aware of this theory or the author? Before I could read it in full or find the source my computer closed down and I have been unable to find it again.
    In my opinion this seems a bit out there.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by hope View Post
    TARANIS... can you enlighten me in regards to St. Ninians stone. I was reading something on the net that I came across by chance. It was in German so I could only understand about three words out of every five or so. It was a theory (do not know by whom) that taking the meqq from Besmeqqnanammovvez as "son" and "...bes" as the person in question, rather than anammovvez being two names ( and this is the bit I wonder about) he takes this through a series of renderings and says it could be from the old Nordic word for mother ie; "mutter". Are you aware of this theory or the author? Before I could read it in full or find the source my computer closed down and I have been unable to find it again.
    In my opinion this seems a bit out there.
    I think any attempt to connect Pictish with Norse doesn't really make sense. About the St. Ninians inscription I cannot say anything in particular because I never saw it myself, only transcriptions (which are not always unambiguous). The phrase "maqq" or "meqq" occurs frequently in Pictish inscriptions and may be the same as Irish "mac" ("son"). This is surprising however, since we know from the Greek/Roman and Gaelic sources that Pictish was a P-Celtic language, so the expected Pictish word would be something akin to Gaulish "mapos" or Breton "mab".

    The Norse obviously were in Scotland, eventually, and in fact the arrival of the Vikings was crucial for the demise of the Picts as a separate ethnicity. If we look at this map where Pictish rock art has been found, it is clear that the heartland of the Picts lay in the northeastern part of what today is Scotland, especially along the coast. These areas were hardest-hit when the Vikings began their raids. It is thus not surprising at all that what remained of the Picts by the mid-9th century was absorbed by the Gaels.


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    I am inclined to agree, it was just that it being from the Shetlands made me wonder about possibilities. Thankyou for your insight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keegah View Post
    So, the common consensus here seems to be that the Picts were a Celtic people - in that case, again, why does it seem like they are they so often referred to as separate from their surrounding Celtic neighbors?

    I mean, if I had to guess, I would say that it's because since we know fairly little about the Pictish language, we can't be absolutely certain that it was, in fact, Celtic. But it seems like the lion's share of the evidence points to it being similar to the other Brythonic languages.
    I don't think so. The Picts were a distinct people living in modern day Scotland, and were joined in the first half of the first millennium AD by Celtic Irish. The name "Picts" means "the Painted Ones" and it was given to them by the Romans. It was the Irish culture which came to be most prevalent in Scotland.

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    Quote Originally Posted by toyomotor View Post
    I don't think so. The Picts were a distinct people living in modern day Scotland, and were joined in the first half of the first millennium AD by Celtic Irish. The name "Picts" means "the Painted Ones" and it was given to them by the Romans. It was the Irish culture which came to be most prevalent in Scotland.
    I don't think that there was ever any debate as to whether the Picts were Gaels. They were not. If they were, why would Columba have needed an interpreter for his mission to Scotland? The question was whether the Picts were Celtic at all. More specifically, the question was why popular culture seems to labor under the belief that the Picts were not Celts, when most evidence seems to indicate that they were.

    I'm glad that this topic was revived, though. I've been thinking lately about the Pictish language and why the Romans claimed it to be totally distinct from the British language, despite its almost certainly Brythonic nature. I'm wondering if perhaps Pictish had a similar relationship to Irish as English does to French. English is an essentially West Germanic language, and that accounts for the language's core lexicon and grammar. However, French has a huge influence on English, accounting for a very large amount of its vocabulary. What if Pictish, whilst being an essentially Brythonic, P-Celtic language, had a substantial Irish substrate? This would explain many things. The supposed lack of Pictish and Brythonic mutual intelligibility would make sense, as would the occurrence of "maqq" and "meqq" - mentioned earlier by Taranis - on Pictish inscriptions.

    This Irish substrate can be explained if we make a few assumptions about the nature of the Gaels' and the Picts' relationship. Now, I freely admit that what I'm about to say is pure conjecture, but it makes sense to me. I am no expert on this subject. If anyone sees any holes in my argument, by all means, please point them out. I believe that the Irish and the Picts may have had much closer relations than previously thought. We know that the Gaels and the Picts were aware of each other long before the founding of the Dál Riata. There existed a subset of the Irish population called the "Cruithne", centered in Ulster. This most likely derived from the same word as P-Celtic "Priteni" or "Britanni". "Cruithne" is also the word that the Irish used to refer to the Picts. Now, the Annalists don't really describe the Cruithne as being any different from the other Irish clans and groups as far as I know. However, simply by virtue of their name and the fact that the Annalists also refer to the Picts as "Cruithne", I believe that the Cruithne were likely Picts that crossed the Irish Sea and settled in Ulster. This supposed settlement would have likely occurred when Pictish and Brythonic was still mutually intelligible, or even before there existed a distinction between Pict and Brython. Hence the Irish would have still referred to them as Brythons, or "Cruithne" in their own tongue. This distinction would have survived long after the Pictish settlers adopted the Irish language, and perhaps the memory of the Cruithne's origin accounts for why the Annalists referred to their Pictish contemporaries as Cruithne. Again, conjecture. It makes sense to me however.

    Now, if the Picts and the Irish had such a close relationship that some of the Picts settled in Ireland, then they most likely traded and interacted with each other often. And if Pictish families could settle in Ireland, why would Irish families not do the same in Scotland/Pictland, albeit in small numbers? Perhaps this "special relationship" between the Irish and the Picts is what gave birth to a distinct Pictish language, a tongue with a Brythonic superstrate and an Irish substrate influential enough to render it maybe not incomprehensible to Brythons, but nonetheless distinct from Brythonic. The Romans probably weren't familiar enough with Brythonic in the first place to recognize the similarities in Pictish, merely hearing the Irish vocabulary and dismissing it as a totally unrelated language.

    The relationship between the Irish and the Picts likely would have intensified after the Roman occupation of Britain. The Picts would have been cut off from interaction and trade with their kinsmen further south, leaving themselves and the Gaels as the only unconquered Insular Celts. This would have further developed the Pictish language, and might have laid the groundwork for the Gaelic/Pictish merge after Irish/Pictish relations took a more militaristic turn.

    This relies on a lot of assumptions, and doesn't explain the apparently nonsensical Pictish inscriptions. I would also think that Irish and Pictish material culture would be more similar than they are, if the Gaels and the Picts were as close as I'm suggesting they might have been. I'm unaware of any Irish knotwork in pre-Dál Riata Scotland, or of any Pictish Beasts in Ireland. The Picts were most likely centered in Northeast Scotland, far from the Irish Sea. And of course, this is unsupported by the Annals as far as I'm aware. Nonetheless, I feel that this would explain many things about the Picts, and might help us in learning more about the language. What do you folks think?

    Also, on a somewhat related note, this line of thinking makes me wonder if there exists a Pictish/Brythonic substrate in Ulster Irish. Would anyone here, by any chance, happen to know this?
    Last edited by Keegah; 26-06-13 at 14:02. Reason: Forgot how far away the Pictish heartland was from the Irish Sea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keegah View Post
    I don't think that there was ever any debate as to whether the Picts were Gaels. They were not. If they were, why would Columba have needed an interpreter for his mission to Scotland? The question was whether the Picts were Celtic at all.
    They were celts, they spoke a p celtic langauge. The term was just used for people who wer emore or less beyond the Roman boundary.

    http://www.buildinghistory.org/dista...ighlands.shtml

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    Wow. Bro, you didn't read what I posted at all.

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    Sorry, my bad. I stopped reading at that point as I thought you were arguing that point isntead of referencing it, and I've read enough Picts are non Indo European Scythian snow flake threads to last me a life time.

    Back to the rest of the post, I think Cruithin was a term for a Briton in general and not just for Picts.
    In the iron age there must have been a lot of interaction with Britain in general, most likely with the Roman invasion and later Germanic expansions there must have been some movements to Ireland from Britain.The Brigantes of Leinster are thought to be the same as those of North
    England, also you had whatever group that brought La Tene culture to the North
    of Ireland. A recent paper on M222 suggests that it may have oriignated in a
    group called the Dumnonii of South West Engalnd and entered Ireland via
    Scotland.The langauge issue is interesting as you had some large families like
    McGuinness and McCartan who are supposed to be from a Cruithin background and
    it's hard to think it had no impact.

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    No problem, I figured that's what happened. I can be the same way. There's this guy called Dublin that likes to insist that Irish is actually a Slavic language. I confess that I've learned to either stop reading his posts or to just skim over them. Anyway, I think that the Irish must have used Cruithne specifically for the Picts because we know from Roman sources that Pictish and Brythonic were at least somewhat distinct at the time of the Roman occupation. The Irish would have no doubt been aware of the distinction, whatever that distinction was, since the Brythons and Picts were their next door neighbors. It doesn't seem to me like they'd use the same term for the two peoples if they spoke different languages, even if those two languages were closely related. For much of history, even today, divisions between ethnic groups have been based on the languages they spoke.

    Then again, maybe the Irish remembered that there was a time when the Pictish language had not developed enough to be distinguishable from Brythonic. I don't actually know what the Irish called the Brythons. Maybe they called them Cruithne too, I don't know. I don't suppose you do, do you?

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    I pm'd someone on a previous forum about the distinction between Pict and Cruithin, and for such a straight forward question the answer was long winded and all i
    could figure out was Cruithin meant Briton which included Pict. We also have to
    remember Pict was a name given to various groups which they didn't use
    themselves so maybe back in the day a Cruithin was anyone from across the
    water.

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    The Picts where an isolated Celtic tribe living in Scotland; there is no doubt they where in fact Celtic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keegah View Post
    I don't think that there was ever any debate as to whether the Picts were Gaels. They were not. If they were, why would Columba have needed an interpreter for his mission to Scotland? The question was whether the Picts were Celtic at all. More specifically, the question was why popular culture seems to labor under the belief that the Picts were not Celts, when most evidence seems to indicate that they were.

    I'm glad that this topic was revived, though. I've been thinking lately about the Pictish language and why the Romans claimed it to be totally distinct from the British language, despite its almost certainly Brythonic nature. I'm wondering if perhaps Pictish had a similar relationship to Irish as English does to French. English is an essentially West Germanic language, and that accounts for the language's core lexicon and grammar. However, French has a huge influence on English, accounting for a very large amount of its vocabulary. What if Pictish, whilst being an essentially Brythonic, P-Celtic language, had a substantial Irish substrate? This would explain many things. The supposed lack of Pictish and Brythonic mutual intelligibility would make sense, as would the occurrence of "maqq" and "meqq" - mentioned earlier by Taranis - on Pictish inscriptions.

    This Irish substrate can be explained if we make a few assumptions about the nature of the Gaels' and the Picts' relationship. Now, I freely admit that what I'm about to say is pure conjecture, but it makes sense to me. I am no expert on this subject. If anyone sees any holes in my argument, by all means, please point them out. I believe that the Irish and the Picts may have had much closer relations than previously thought. We know that the Gaels and the Picts were aware of each other long before the founding of the Dál Riata. There existed a subset of the Irish population called the "Cruithne", centered in Ulster. This most likely derived from the same word as P-Celtic "Priteni" or "Britanni". "Cruithne" is also the word that the Irish used to refer to the Picts. Now, the Annalists don't really describe the Cruithne as being any different from the other Irish clans and groups as far as I know. However, simply by virtue of their name and the fact that the Annalists also refer to the Picts as "Cruithne", I believe that the Cruithne were likely Picts that crossed the Irish Sea and settled in Ulster. This supposed settlement would have likely occurred when Pictish and Brythonic was still mutually intelligible, or even before there existed a distinction between Pict and Brython. Hence the Irish would have still referred to them as Brythons, or "Cruithne" in their own tongue. This distinction would have survived long after the Pictish settlers adopted the Irish language, and perhaps the memory of the Cruithne's origin accounts for why the Annalists referred to their Pictish contemporaries as Cruithne. Again, conjecture. It makes sense to me however.

    Now, if the Picts and the Irish had such a close relationship that some of the Picts settled in Ireland, then they most likely traded and interacted with each other often. And if Pictish families could settle in Ireland, why would Irish families not do the same in Scotland/Pictland, albeit in small numbers? Perhaps this "special relationship" between the Irish and the Picts is what gave birth to a distinct Pictish language, a tongue with a Brythonic superstrate and an Irish substrate influential enough to render it maybe not incomprehensible to Brythons, but nonetheless distinct from Brythonic. The Romans probably weren't familiar enough with Brythonic in the first place to recognize the similarities in Pictish, merely hearing the Irish vocabulary and dismissing it as a totally unrelated language.

    The relationship between the Irish and the Picts likely would have intensified after the Roman occupation of Britain. The Picts would have been cut off from interaction and trade with their kinsmen further south, leaving themselves and the Gaels as the only unconquered Insular Celts. This would have further developed the Pictish language, and might have laid the groundwork for the Gaelic/Pictish merge after Irish/Pictish relations took a more militaristic turn.

    This relies on a lot of assumptions, and doesn't explain the apparently nonsensical Pictish inscriptions. I would also think that Irish and Pictish material culture would be more similar than they are, if the Gaels and the Picts were as close as I'm suggesting they might have been. I'm unaware of any Irish knotwork in pre-Dál Riata Scotland, or of any Pictish Beasts in Ireland. The Picts were most likely centered in Northeast Scotland, far from the Irish Sea. And of course, this is unsupported by the Annals as far as I'm aware. Nonetheless, I feel that this would explain many things about the Picts, and might help us in learning more about the language. What do you folks think?

    Also, on a somewhat related note, this line of thinking makes me wonder if there exists a Pictish/Brythonic substrate in Ulster Irish. Would anyone here, by any chance, happen to know this?
    Most good scholarship has concluded that the Picts were not Celtic. Celtic peoples probably migrated in to the British Isles first from the south west of Europe after the Picts were well settled.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cambrius (The Red) View Post
    Most good scholarship has concluded that the Picts were not Celtic. Celtic peoples probably migrated in to the British Isles first from the south west of Europe after the Picts were well settled.
    Really, based on what?
    http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index...e-of-the-picts

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cambrius (The Red) View Post
    Most good scholarship has concluded that the Picts were not Celtic. Celtic peoples probably migrated in to the British Isles first from the south west of Europe after the Picts were well settled.
    From what I've read most good scholarship has concluded the exact opposite. Why do you think that the Picts were not Celts?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post

    "Caledonii" - you can compare the name with Breton "kalet", Welsh "caled" and Old Irish "calad", which all mean 'hard'. It's also found in the Gaulish tribal name "Caleti". The '-on-' is an augmentative form also typically Celtic (think of tribal names like "Senones" and "Lingones", etc.).


    "Vacomagi" - the first element is also found in the Gaulish "Bellovaci", as well as possibly the Celtiberian "Arevaci" and "Vaccaei". The second element is probably the same as Old Irish "mag" and Gaulish "magus" ('plain', 'field').

    About "Taezali" what should be added that other versions give the name as "Tazali" or even as "Taexali" - it's unclear what the original form was. What should be added (to quote Forsyth 1997, the link which I provided above):

    "If we are wavering in accepting the Celticity of these problematic tribal names, it is surely of the greatest significance that the river Deva ran through the territory of the Taezali. If Celtic-speakers were sufficiently established in the region to have named the major river, this should give us pause before dismissing a Celtic explanation for the local tribal name. Likewise with the river Tama and the place-name Bannatia in the territory of the Vacomagi."
    for Caledoni I have some doubt: I find it hard they could have had a -D for -T (CALETI fits very well with 'kaled') at this precise time; but it seems celtic yes. I cannot say more -
    for the remnant I agree : Picts placenames seem almost all of them of P-brittonic celtic formation as you and others said -
    gaelic 'Cruithni' seems close to 'Pretani' - someones discuss yet the doublet BRITANNIA/BRITTONIA: a form BRITTIA would have existed according to some scholars - BRITANNIA could be a mix of PRETANIA and BRITTONIA or BRITTIA (this last supposedly south of current Scotland) - maybe a name transmitted through more than a tribe or dialect before reaching roman ears??? just an hypothesis very fragile
    curiously BRIZH/BRITH (spottled, mixed of colours) could come from BRITT, maybe a form of BRIKT too (welsh has BRYCH too for the same, << BRIKK?) - the "Picts" were tatooed...
    I agree Romans were precise, but they made mistakes too, as others, concerning foreign names!
    good night

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keegah View Post
    From what I've read most good scholarship has concluded the exact opposite. Why do you think that the Picts were not Celts?
    The only serious suggestions were the Picts land would have had two languages, a celtic one and a pre-celtic one, I-E or not I-E, this last languages being the autochtones one not completely assimilated...

    concerning geographical origin, at pre-Iron age (Urnfield culture?) some celtic tribe from East Galia or present day Switzerland left some remnants in Fifeshire (SE Pict land) - physically they showed some 'alpine' connexions, not too surprising at this time if the origin region is right - I 'll try to find the details.

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