Talk:Pictish stone

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For pic of Drosten Stone see

The site is currently undergoing a rebuild. --Air 10:28, 21 Oct 2004 (UTC)

if you know if and where this stone can be seen, please add it to the list. thank you! -- mo 14:03, Oct 21, 2004 (UTC)
already on the list mo (St Vigeans, Arbroath), just pointing to a reference link. When they're finished revamping their site I'll add it to External Links.


Shouldn't the title of this page be Pictish stone. When in doubt wikipedia policy prefers the singular. Hadrianheugh (talk) 03:12, 16 February 2008 (UTC)

I think stones is prolly the better title, if for no other reason it is about Pictish stones rather than the abstraction "the Pictish stone". Regards, Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 03:27, 16 February 2008 (UTC)
I disagree. The article Carrot is really about carrots (not just an individual carrot) per your logic. Cheers. Hadrianheugh (talk) 04:47, 16 February 2008 (UTC)
You're not really being fair to my logic. Pictish stones, unlike carrots, don't have the same dna. :p Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 04:51, 16 February 2008 (UTC)
Fair enough. But less comically check out the pages: Dolmen, Henge, Menhir, Orthostat, Stone circle, Stone ship, Headstone, Tomb, Chamber tomb, Standing stone, Cromlech etc. which do not share the same DNA and are ancient stone structures. Cheers. Hadrianheugh (talk) 15:51, 16 February 2008 (UTC)
I do think Pictish stones are so specific and have problems of classification that make them different from those. Pictish stone for me formalizes and abstracts it to an unacceptable degree ... for me at least. Let's see what others say ... Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 16:05, 16 February 2008 (UTC)
Put me on the fence - I can see both sides of this argument... :-) Le Deluge (talk) 11:48, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

Locations and infoboxes[edit]

Poking around the RCAHMS site it has lots of useful info including grid references, rock types, sizes etc. I've tidied up Clach an Tiompain with an infobox, coords etc, people like might to do the same with some of the others using that as a template. Le Deluge (talk) 11:48, 16 April 2009 (UTC)


We can by all means report the claims that the symbols qualify as "writing". But we certainly cannot take this as a fact that is taken for granted by anyone other than the people proposing it. These will need to qualify what exactly they mean by "writing". If it turns out that the claim is simply that the symbols have semantic content, they should more properly be considered a form of proto-writing. If the claim that this is positively about writing, i.e. records containing linguistic information, as opposed to mere proto-writing, I would be rather interested what exactly that claim is based on. So far, the claim seems to be based simply on statistics (entropy), which is good enough to prove that the symbols are "not random", but the jump from "not random" to "written language" would need some elaboration. --dab (𒁳) 09:38, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't think there's anything controversial, or indeed novel, about the suggestion that the stones were intended to impart some sort of information. A writing system though? The Picts obviously didn't have a lot to say. Catfish Jim and the soapdish (talk) 11:08, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
I notice that Lees team used complete language systems for their test data, eg: Chinese, Egyptian hierogpyphs, etc., they haven't considered whether it is a language subsystem or even signage. They score the probability by looking at predictable non-random events, take for example the English language, if you have a series of Roman characters with the letter 'Q' in them, you could predict that the letter 'u' would follow , which would indicate a high probability that it was a written language. I would like to know how they would score road signs, using their system, as road signs do have an element of predictability about them, and are certainly not random. Wilfridselsey (talk) 10:06, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Someone has now added published critiques. The one from Computational Linguistics looks like it entirely demolishes the earlier claims. Angus McLellan (Talk) 22:10, 17 September 2010 (UTC)
Thanks Angus, copy of one critique here [1] Wilfridselsey (talk) 09:09, 18 September 2010 (UTC)
I am surely no scholar, but having a look at (brandsbutt stone at inverurie) does suggest no writing or even proto-writing to me, even though this brandsbutt stone is supposed to be some ogham 'Rosetta' stone. Although I'm not sure exactly where any composite image starts classifying as proto-writing, all I see is a reflection of the moon in the river Don south of Inverurie (typically west of Kemnay). For this you need to consider a snake to signify a river and the Z sign to be a compass with the arrow pointing north. The V sign through the moon would be the arrow representing its reflection. I'd say this convays a time and place, like a map rather than a message. It would still be a transfer of information but not (proto-)writing, I think. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:38, 24 June 2012 (UTC)


I've taken the liberty of removing the reference to Heather Connie Martin's Lost Language of the Stars. I've never read the book, and there may well be merit to her argument, but it would be difficult to argue that it in any way represents a mainstream academic view. Catfish Jim and the soapdish (talk) 11:19, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

  • By your own words, you took quite a liberty, and there may have been merit. Suggest next time you do the research before you react. -- (talk) 01:27, 10 December 2010 (UTC)
It was the right move. It is clearly not a scholarly work.--SabreBD (talk) 07:37, 10 December 2010 (UTC)

There's a semantic difference between "taking the liberty" to do something and "taking a liberty", but I'll let that pass.

The deletion of sourced material from articles is something I do not do lightly, and of course in this case I did some research before removing it. My contention is that Lost Language of the Stars is probably not a reliable source as defined by Wikipedia guidelines.

Anyone can publish a book. Anyone can pay for a block of ISBN numbers and pay for a few hundred copies of a book to be published. Publication does not automatically confer authority, you need additional 'provenance' for that.

Compare these two works:

  • Martin, Heather Connie, Lost Language of the Stars, Saint André de Valborgne, France: Virevolte, ISBN 978-2-9530732-0-1 

Katherine Forsyth hardly needs introduction to people interested in this subject. She's published a body of high-impact papers on Pictish and early Medieval sculpture and is recognised as one of the leading figures in this field. She's a reader in history at the University of Glasgow who specialises in Celtic, Pictish and Medieval history.[2] That in itself would be enough to confirm her work as a reliable source, but if she was unknown, other clues would tell us that it was a quality scholarly piece. The publisher, for example, is known for publishing work in this area, the most significant being the current printing of J. Romilly Allen and J. Anderson's Early Christian Monuments of Scotland. Moreover, Forsyth's work has been cited by virtually everyone who has discussed the Pictish symbols since it was published. There's no bones about it, hers is a reliable source.

What about Heather Connie Martin? Is she an academic specialising in this field? Does she, for example have a tenured position teaching early medieval history in a University? Has she published a body of work in the subject?

According to a website that she contributes to:

A new book published December 2007 gives a radical new insight into the origins of the symbols of the Picts
The Picts are probably best known for the remarkable carved stones which they left for us dotted throughout the north-east of what is now Scotland. The earliest of these stones are sculpted with a system of enigmatic symbols, some rich with elaborate knotwork, others elegantly plain.
THE LOST LANGUAGE OF THE STARS offers a completely new theory about the origins of these Pictish symbols to add to our understanding of Scottish culture and identity.
Heather Connie Martin was born in Dundee in 1962. During the 1980's she studied design at Dundee and Glasgow. Early and abiding influences in her work are: a love of colour, fascination with the remains of the past, the patterns of the stars, the language of rocks. She lived for twenty years in Glasgow, selling books in the time-honoured tradition from a street barrow. She now works from her attic studio under the chestnut beams and rough slate tiles of an old house in the southern Cevennes in France. Moving from the gritty urban spaces of Glasgow to the peace of the mountains; walking the hard schist paths over the ridges; experiencing the divisions of the seasons in a place of hot mediterranean summers, dramatic thunderstorms and icy white winters. Drawing on her years of study of Pictish and Celtic culture; she creates paintings and woven panels full of symbolic imagery in rich earth colours. [3]

She's clearly an enthusiastic amateur rather than a professional academic.

The ISBN also suggests the publisher is a very small operation, the title identifier being a single digit number.[4]

Her book is more recent than Forsyth's paper, so it has had less time to make an impression on academia, but it does not appear that anyone is citing it. It wasn't mentioned, for example, in Fraser's review of symbol interpretation in The Pictish Symbol Stones of Scotland.

None of this has any impact on the merit of her work, only on its notability and suitability for inclusion in an encyclopedia article. Catfish Jim & the soapdish 11:21, 10 December 2010 (UTC)

Good call, thanks. It doesn't belong here. Dougweller (talk) 14:36, 10 December 2010 (UTC)

Sueno's stone tallest in British Isles[edit]

It may well be the tallest in the British Isles (or Britain and Ireland, if you prefer), but the best reference I could find was that it's the tallest early medieval sculpture in Scotland, so I've toned down the claim a little. Catfish Jim & the soapdish 09:45, 25 November 2010 (UTC)

Good job on this, and other recent improvements. I think the more moderate claim is more appropriate unless anyone can find a source for the original.--SabreBD (talk) 09:51, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
I have a soft spot in my heart for this article, I don't know why. Thanks for the edits. Gwen Gale (talk) 09:58, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
And thanks from me. Can we remove the sources tag? I don't see why it needs more now, and there's no discussion here. Dougweller (talk) 10:25, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
Done. Gwen Gale (talk) 10:40, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
It has been done. But I am not convinced that the article has enough sources. Particularly, the Purpose and Meaning section has some major claims and no citations for two paragraphs. Can anyone help support those statements?--SabreBD (talk) 11:37, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I looked into some of the inline citations and although they could be shuffled about some, most of the text seems supported by them. The shreds of text I found which I couldn't easily verfiy in the cited sources, I was able to quickly verify through a web search, though those sources, while ok, were not great, so I didn't bother to put them into the article. Gwen Gale (talk) 12:45, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
I've added a couple more references... I think Jackson (1984) would cover the unreferenced analysis of the occurrence of symbols in pairs, but I'll have to check tonight. Catfish Jim & the soapdish 13:44, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
I think its pretty much there now, so thanks to everyone for their efforts. I am doing a summary of this article for elsewhere, so if I find more relevant and useful references I will feed them back into here. Thanks to all for your efforts. Its really the sort of response you pray for from a tag and so very rarely get.--SabreBD (talk) 14:23, 25 November 2010 (UTC)

Pictish Mithraism[edit]

We're not sure what to make of this, and could use some eyes on it. Anna Frodesiak (talk) 10:48, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

I've taken the bull by the horns, thus Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Pictish Mithraism. Dougweller (talk) 13:47, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

Picish Beast Sketch[edit]


Hello out there. I´m looking for the origin of the sketch of the so called Pictish Beast, shown on the right. This scan shows a page from an unknown book, declaring the sketch from out of Romilly Allen´s Early Christian Monuments. Though the book is from early 19th century, I couldn´t find it on the web. Is there somebody who owns it and can check in the book? I also don´t know which of the about sixty beasts it shows. Most likely seems to be the one from Strathmartin 1, but the tail looks different. Regards. --Kallewirsch (talk) 07:11, 19 February 2012 (UTC)

That looks like the one. Johnbod (talk) 11:14, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the information. --Kallewirsch (talk) 10:54, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
Having looked at all the stones with the Pictish Beast on it, the Strathmartine stone is the only one that resembles it closely.
The illustration itself is from Robert Stevenson's chapter on Pictish Art in Wainwright's "The Problem of the Picts" (page 98). Catfish Jim and the soapdish 21:53, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

Similarity to Runestones[edit]

Does this deserve a mention ? I've raised it on the Runestone page as well. They're similar in many ways. I think given Scotland's geographical proximity to the Scandinavian and Nordic countries it certainly deserves a small piece. Should also note that some Pictish Stone incsriptions have been translated using Old Norse, written in Ogham script. They were names and dates likely commemorating fallen warriors and kings, just like Norse runestones. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:32, 18 August 2012 (UTC)