Between prehistory and history: the archaeological detection of social change among the Picts

Gordon Noble, Meggen Gondek, Ewan Campbell, Murray Cook

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The development of small-scale kingdoms in the post-Roman world of north-western Europe is a key stage in the subsequent emergence of medieval states. Recent excavations at Rhynie in north-eastern Scotland have thrown important light on the emergence of one such kingdom, that of the Picts. Enclosures, sculptured ‘symbol stones’ and long-distance luxury imports identify Rhynie as a place of growing importance during the fifth to sixth centuries AD. Parallels can be drawn with similar processes in southern Scandinavia, where leadership combined roles of ritual and political authority. The excavations at Rhynie and the synthesis of dated Pictish enclosures illustrate the contribution that archaeology can make to the understanding of state formation processes in early medieval Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1136-1150
Number of pages15
Issue number338
Early online date21 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013



  • Scotland
  • Rhynie
  • early medieval
  • kingdoms
  • hillforts
  • Picts
  • sacral kingship

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