Pictish Writing Discovered?

Some researchers now think that decorative carvings on Pictish memorial stones in Scotland may actually represent a form of writing.

The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland.

“We know that the Picts had a spoken language to complement the writing of the symbols, as Bede (a monk and historian who died in 735) writes that there are four languages in Britain in this time: British, Pictish, Scottish and English,” lead author Rob Lee told Discovery News.

“We know that the three other languages were — and are — complex spoken languages, so there is every indication that Pictish was also a complex spoken language,” added Lee, a professor in the School of Biosciences at the University of Exeter.

I have known some people who claimed to be practising Pictish Witchcraft. If the carving is indeed writing and is deciphered, then they will have to go back and revise their greatnth-grandmother’s Book of Shadows.

One thought on “Pictish Writing Discovered?

  1. Rombald

    I don’t think there’s any dispute that Pictish, which died about around 1000 years ago, was a language. The debate is what type of language.

    The consensus now seems to be that it was a Celtic language. It was sufficiently far from Gaelic for Gaels to need interpreters. However, it could have been closer to the p-Celtic languages (modern Welsh, etc.), and one of those languages, Cumbric, was definitely spoken in SW Scotland (the Picts were in the NE), until about 600 years ago.

    However, two fascinating alternatives that are still sometimes debated are that it was pre-Indo-European (cf. Basque) and that it was Germanic. Some Scots nationalists like the latter alternative, claiming Pictish as the ancestor of Scots, although I don’t think many scholars take this all that seriously.

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