picts

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zauberdachs
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picts

Post by zauberdachs »

I'm interested in learning a thing or two about the Picts but wouldn't class myself as an even moderately well read. However having read the relatively new, published 2002, Osprey book on Pictish warriors I cannot help but notice a few obvious clangers.

I was under the impression that since the early 80's the idea for matrilineal succession had been fairly well rubbished. Also that the idea of woad being a tattooing agent has been dismissed as realistically unworkable as it is an anticoagulant among other things.

It makes me wonder how much of the rest of the content was dubious? I for one was not aware there was so much writing from Roman authorities, that the Romans had allies in the form of the (possibly Pictish) Island dwellers who sided with them against the Caledonians etc.

Can anyone "in the know" offer an opinion on how good this book is?

Does anyone know why Osprey does not use credited academics but unknown individuals of possibly lessor historical ability?
Do not be loath, diligent reader, to winnow my chaff, and lay up the wheat in the storehouse of your memory. For truth regards not who is the speaker, nor in what manner it is spoken, but that the thing be true - Nennius, 8th century

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Post by guthrie »

You should read the Historic Scotland books, I have most of the relevant ones so could lend them. Then the Scottish history section of the central library has some relevant books.

As for Osprey, I have no idea. Some of their illustrators arent very good. The problem with the Picts is that we dont have that much information, and making out the reality is tricky. Did you see the news a week ago saying that they now think that Kenneth MacAlpin was more of a Pict than a Scot?

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Re: picts

Post by Alan_F »

zauberdachs wrote:I was under the impression that since the early 80's the idea for matrilineal succession had been fairly well rubbished. Also that the idea of woad being a tattooing agent has been dismissed as realistically unworkable as it is an anticoagulant among other things.
It was also, as I recall, cancerous to some extent.
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Lindsay
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Post by Lindsay »

I have a friend who is studying the picts and he has a very low opinion of the Osprey book. In fact that last sentence may be understatement of the year!
Historians did it in the past.

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Post by guthrie »

I have a more up to date book called "The picts and the Scots at War", by Nick Aitchison. I havn't read all of it, but it does seem more up to date than the Opsrey book.

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zauberdachs
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Post by zauberdachs »

there seems to be an exceptional amount of tat published about the Picts, more so than usual i think....
Do not be loath, diligent reader, to winnow my chaff, and lay up the wheat in the storehouse of your memory. For truth regards not who is the speaker, nor in what manner it is spoken, but that the thing be true - Nennius, 8th century

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Post by guthrie »

Yes, its because there is not a great deal of decisive evidence, and so people like to project what they think onto the Picts, rather than what evidence we have, and since the evidence is often not very clear, "This seems possible..." becomes "Of course they did it this way".

Try reading up on the "Celts".
I think other parts of the world will have their local examples of this problem as well.

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zauberdachs
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Post by zauberdachs »

it's amazing though isn't it how with more evidence, such as the recent finds up near inverness, the discussion becomes more clouded rather than clearer as all the differing views try and to fit the new evidence into their theories.

I like reading on the Celts but often it only makes good historical fiction. A bit like Bloodline of the grail and "fingerprints of the gods" sort of thing.

Bloody historians ;)
Do not be loath, diligent reader, to winnow my chaff, and lay up the wheat in the storehouse of your memory. For truth regards not who is the speaker, nor in what manner it is spoken, but that the thing be true - Nennius, 8th century

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Post by m300572 »

Bloody historians
Actually in the case of the Picts its more like 'Bloody Archaeologists'. There is more archaeology than history for the Picts - assuming that a lot of what is interpreted as Pictish actually is.

If you can get access to the University library there should be a fair bit published on 'The Problem of the Picts' (starting with a book of the same title from about 30 years ago).

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Post by Colin MacDonald »

The written history of the Picts is (last time I checked) pretty much all propaganda from the peoples who spent a thousand years knocking various shades of sh- effluent out of them, half of it written by people who had never seen one in the puckered goosebumped flesh. The fact that we still use a Roman derogatory slang term for them pretty much sums that up.

I try to stay away from the whole subject, as it's very hard to find a commentator who doesn't bring a slew of preconceptions to the debate.

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Post by Gary »

All below is my own opinion.

Paul Wager = Idiot. Sorry, but to write such a lot of nonsense as the Opsrey book deserves that. Why they did not ask some one who is writing about the Picts, James Fraser for example, who wrote the book on the battle of Dunnichen woudl have beena much better choice.

Paul wagner is not quailified to write a book about teh Picts, that much is clear. Its by far the worst Opsrey book, and there are some terrible ones!

He bases far to much of his ideas on much later Irish sources, and on 'Celtic' ideals of how things are done, which were out of date 20 years ago on the continent. Halsalls book 'Warfare and society in the Barbarian west' shows the continmental evidence for the time period of the Picts.

Specific problems in the Osprey book are Paul Wagners thoughts about women warriors which are based on a serious misreading of Adomnans 'law of the harmless'. His ideas about numbers are in the same leauge as Nick Aitchison's and Leslie Alcock. Alcocks 'Kings, warriors craftsmen and Priests' is a very good compendium of the archaeolgical evidence however. Nick Aitchison's book is just as out of date. He's also from the Glasgow school, which think the Dal Riata were the Uber people orginised for War, using the Minigud Senchasa Fher nAlban far beyoned how it should be used. I personaly think its a tribute list of imposition on the various kingdoms of the Dal Riata by the conquering Picts in the mid eight century. The continetal evidence shows much smaller armies than has been though, in the 50-200max, not the thousands thought previously. Old habits seem to have die hard in Britain.

ther problesm with the Osprey book are the terrible plates, which are not pretty, let alone looking anything like the evidence we have. A case in point is the 'scale' armour' depicted. It seems to be based on the Roman find from Carpow. If they had seen the actual example, they would not have event attempted to illiustrate it in this way. It snot hard to find, as it was on public display until quite recently in the NMS.

Anyway, I've been studying the Picts for a while now, and to be honest there is no one useful book on the subject of Pictish. The nearest ios probably Sean Davies 'Welsh military institutions'. The Picts were Britions, so it makes sense they would have more in common with the British/Welsh systems, rather than the Irish systems. Even with the Irish systems, to much is made of the Mythology, and not enough of the actualy history. We dont learn about acctual WW2 history from Commando comics, and we dont not learn about early medieval warfare from mythology!

"The written history of the Picts is (last time I checked) pretty much all propaganda from the peoples who spent a thousand years knocking various shades of sh- effluent out of them, half of it written by people who had never seen one in the puckered goosebumped flesh. The fact that we still use a Roman derogatory slang term for them pretty much sums that up."

Well, it can be debated what the term Picti means. We do have the names of two Pictish inhabited kingdoms, Fortriu in the north, based around Burghead, and Atholl. The problem is not that what is writen about the Picts is all propoganda, its that too much is made of outdated ideas about 'ethno-centerism' and Pan-celticness. The sources tell us quite a large amount about the Picts, we just need to read a bit more carefully. [/i]

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