The Picts

The Picts

The Picts

The Picts

Synopsis

The Picts is a survey of the historical and cultural developments in northern Britain between AD 300 and AD 900. Discarding the popular view of the Picts as savages, they are revealed to have been politically successful and culturally adaptive members of the medieval European world.

  • Re-interprets our definition of Pict and provides a vivid depiction of their political and military organization
  • Offers an up-to-date overview of Pictish life within the environment of northern Britain
  • Explains how art such as the symbol stones are historical records as well as evidence of creative inspiration.
  • Draws on a range of transnational and comparative scholarship to place the Picts in their European context

Excerpt

The best known pictures of the Picts come from a book about North America. Among the members of an expedition to Virginia in 1585 was Thomas Harriot who had been commissioned to gather data about the new land. His A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia was a report of his findings, which his patron, Sir Walter Raleigh, hoped would entice people to invest. Accompanying the expedition was the artist John White, who later became the governor of the lost Roanoke River colony. His watercolors of the people and countryside of this new world became famous and were included in printed editions of Harriot’s narrative. Among the images of colorful birds, a Potomack (sic) fishing expedition, and a Powhatan chieftain are pictures of a Pictish warrior, his wife, and daughter. All three are covered in designs and wearing metal bands around their necks and midriffs with no other clothing. the man holds a sword, small shield, and a severed head while the women have swords and spears. White had never seen a Pict, of course (he had never seen a Powhatan chief either), but based his pictures of the early inhabitants of Britain on “an old history” and his own imagination. the illustrations were included “to showe how that the inhabitants of Great Bretannie have bin in times past as sauvage as those of Virginia,” in other words that the Native Americans differed little from the inhabitants of Britain at the beginning of the Middle Ages. As the cult of the “noble savage” began to develop, some European

Thomas Hariot, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. Thomas Hariot. the 1590 Theodor de Bry Latin Edition (Charlottesville, 2007).

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