The Pictish Man

Pictish Man

     Pictish Man by 16th century illustrator John White was initially intended to be used in a book about Native Americans.  When Herriott’s book, A Brief  True Report of  New Found Land  (1580) was published, England had not established a colony in the New World but the English people were very interested.  White completed several illustrations of the “barbarians” of ancient Britain, including the Pictish prints.  The Pict is shown standing naked with a spear and a small shield.  Numerous tattoos cover his body. 

     Pictish Man is an artist’s concept.  While Roman writers report that the Picts were tattooed and went naked into battle, they do not describe the nature or purpose of the tattoos. Although many claims are made about the Picts, their origins and language remain a mystery (and the subject of a post for another day).  The Pictish stones may give some hints but there is no certainty.  Perhaps, DNA studies might reveal the origins of the Picts who, like the Basques, are shrouded in history.  Another of White’s illustrations showed the Pictish Man holding a severed head which would not be that unusual since some Celts did collect the heads of their enemies.

Pictish Hunt Scene

I’m SO fascinated by the Picts that I’m putting aside my current works in progress to write a story about a Pictish princess (The Picts were reported to be matrilineal.) who simply demands that her story be told.  The working title is “Amazona” which is the Latin word for a female gladiator.  Brianna, my Pictish warrior princess, hooks up with a patrician Roman governor (one of the last Roman officials to leave Britain) to rescue her younger brother who was kidnapped in a raid and sent to Rome.  Marcus believes Brianna is a low-status female gladiator and the price of his assistance is her “personal services” as the couple with her war-band race across the English Channel and Spain to reach Rome before the ship carrying her brother arrives.  It’s set in the year 410 AD when Spain is the center of the struggle to be Emperor of the Roman Empire in the West and Alaric (king of the Goths) is preparing to sack Rome.

    Anyway, early Scotland and the Roman presence there is the theme of the posts at for a few days. Today, the Romans’ letters from the first century AD Fort Vindolanda are featured.  BTW, my Pict was edited to obscure his anatomy.  No fig leaf, but some artistic blurring.  Next week, the Apollo Belvedere—with or without fig leaf or blur?   Rita Bay


2 Responses

  1. You know, Rita, most of my curiosity and fascination with the Picts is probably due to so little information about them. And I need restraints supplied by facts since my imagination tends to run a little wild. lol

    They were known as warriors, and you didn’t get such a strong reputation without earning it in those times. Thank you for presenting these magnificent people! Can’t wait for more.

    • Thank you, Runere. I’ve researched them thoroughly and bought a lot of books but there are two very separate schools of thought on them. I believe the basic problems are that the Picts have not received the attention from archeologists that they deserve–(most researchers focus on the Romans) AND when the Vikings invaded, the Picts were so weakened from resistance to them that the Scots who were closely associated with them were able to gain sovreignty over them. I done more extensive posts over at but plan to do more later. Rita Bay

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