New Video Illustrates How ‘Oldest Known Pictish Fort’ Could Have Looked

by johnsmith

In 2015, a team of archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen investigated an eroded sea stack near the site of the ruined Dunnottar Castle in Scotland and uncovered evidence of a 3rd or 4th century Pictish fort. The new video, funded by Historic Environment Scotland, shows how the fortifications may have looked if the sea stack was still connected to the mainland.

The site came to prominence in 1832, a group of youths from Stonehaven scaled Dunnicaer, a rocky outcrop which measures at most 66 x 39 feet (20 x 12 m) with sheer drops on all sides, and found a number of decorated and carved Pictish symbol stones, some of which they had thrown into the sea and had to be recovered.

Pictish symbol stones are a unique tradition of carving that may have denoted high status names.

The radiocarbon dates for the settlement suggest that these stones may be amongst the earliest in the carving tradition.

“We always knew that Dunnicaer was a site of major significance but carrying out an archaeological survey was hampered by the inaccessibility of the site,” said University of Aberdeen’s Professor Gordon Noble.

The archaeologists required help from experienced mountaineers to scale Dunnicaer.

An artist’s impression of the Pictish fort at Dunnicaer, Scotland. Image credit: University of Aberdeen.

An artist’s impression of the Pictish fort at Dunnicaer, Scotland. Image credit: University of Aberdeen.

They discovered partial remains of houses on the cliff edge, which shows that much of the settlement had fallen into the sea.

They found turf and timber structures and preserved floor layers and hearths.

Some of the hearths were built on top of one another which also suggests space is likely to have always been restricted on the site.

The inhabitants had connections to the Roman world with pottery and glass found at the site.

It appears the site was abandoned in the late 4th or early 5th century.

The settlement may have shifted to Dunnottar, which was an elite centre of Pictish society by the 7th century.

“The new video helps to fully visualize how the fort may have looked in the 4th century which we think helps to further bring to life the lives of the Picts, who are so poorly understood because of the lack of historical records,” Professor Noble said.

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