The Pictish Carvings

Only two other Pictish carved stones are known outside Pictland and both are associated with royal strongholds of the sixth and seventh centuries AD. One of these, Din Eidyn, now Edinburgh Castle Rock, was the capital of the Gododdin, the Britons of south-east Scotland. The other royal site is Dunadd, the royal stronghold of the early Scots kingdom of Dalriada, in modern-day Argyll and Bute.

The Pictish symbols at Trusty’s Hill are inscribed into an outcrop of natural rock on the approach to its summit. While no-one yet knows exactly what the meaning of Pictish symbols are, specialists consider that they relate to individual and cultural identity. While the double disc and z-rod symbol is quite a common symbol in other Pictish carvings, the monstrous sea-beast and sword are unique to Trusty’s Hill. Specialist analysis of the carvings at Trusty’s Hill concludes that the symbols here are genuine and were very likely made by a local Briton familiar with Pictish art but confident enough to create their own symbols.

The Pictish carvings at Trusty’s Hill are located at one side of the entrance to the summit of the hill. On the other side of this entranceway is a rock-cut basin. Remembering the sixteenth century coins that the Minister of Anwoth mentions, this feature was still apparently used as a votive well in the late medieval period. Wells and watery places were much used for ritual purposes during the Iron Age in Britain and radiocarbon dates indicate that it was similarly used here at Trusty’s Hill during the sixth century AD.

The Pictish Carving at Dunadd is particularly relevant to that at Trusty’s Hill because like at Trusty’s Hill, but unlike Din Eidyn, it is carved into a natural rock outcrop and therefore in its original position. The Pictish boar symbol at Dunadd is carved into the inauguration stone of the kings of Dalriada. Like Trusty’s Hill it is opposite a rock-cut basin and at the entranceway to the summit. The layout of Dunadd, with an upper citadel and lower precincts, is also similar to Trusty’s Hill. Because of this similar archaeological context, it is likely that the Pictish symbols and votive well at the entranceway to Trusty’s Hill played some part in royal inauguration rites too.

Altogether, the archaeological evidence now recovered from Trusty’s Hill - the fine metalworking and high status metalwork, the imported pottery from the continent, the fortifications and the Pictish inscribed stone and votive well - mark this site as a royal site, as these same archaeological attributes are characteristic of other royal sites in Dark Age Scotland.

But if Trusty’s Hill was of royal predominance over this region of Scotland during the sixth century AD, what was the name of the kingdom its kings ruled?

Next: Rheged, The Lost Kingdom