Article, drawings and photos from our member Marco Petermann
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The Picts are first mentioned in AD 291 by roman sources and in AD 841 the Scottish kingdom of Dal Riatta is said to have conquered Pictland, which was situated in modern eastern Scotland. Previously the Picts had already lost the Shetlands, the Orkneys and northern Scotland to the Vikings. With their southern neighbours, weather Romans, Britons or Angles they were constantly at war.
But how is it possible to reconstruct the appearance of the Picts with those gaps in archaeological documentation? Here the picture stones, which are spread over all of eastern and northern Scotland and often depict warriors, come in handy. With their help it is possible to get information on clothing, arms and warfare.
Trousers are never to be seen for sure. Apart from the pictorial evidence, the statement of Bede, who calls them redshanks, leads to the conclusion that the Picts did normally not wear trousers.
If capes were pulled over the head and then closed under the chin, or if they had an attached hood, is not clearly distinguishable. As a find from the Orkneys shows, hoods were definitely worn. In contrast to its high medieval counterparts, this hood does not have a long tip. The fringe and the cords are made in the technique of tablet weaving. The same technique is used to produce braids. No braids did survive to the present day but the weaving tablets did. And even on the picture stones braids and cords can occasionally be distinguished. As the Falkirk Tartan shows, simple tartans were known as well. This piece of fabric was used to seal a vessel filled with coins and was radio carbon dated (a rather inaccurate method) to A.D. 235. This makes the Falkirk Tartan the oldest surviving piece of Scottish fabric with a checked pattern. It seems that pictish clothing could be colourful and richly decorated.
Hair seems to have been worn long. Beards with pointed goatees were common.
Most shields are relatively small and circular. For horsemen this is always true and with infantry this seems to be true in the most cases. But there are a few exceptions of rectangular shields on older stones. This coincides with roman depictions. So, if your army does not need to be recognised as early Picts, you should equip your miniatures with roundshilds. This has the advantage of being able to use them as Scots, Welsh and Irish as well.
Our only source for information on order of battle and formations is the Aberlemno Churchyard Crosslab. It probably depicts the battle of Dunnichen in A.D. 685. During this battle the Picts defeated an army from Northumbria and killed the anglian King Ecgfrith. I do not agree with the assumption that the stone should be read like a comic strip. It rather seems to be a single scene.
On the flanks of the shieldwall there is cavalry. The upper horseman is armed with a sword and the lower one seems to be throwing a javelin.
All bare legged Dark Age figures can be used to resemble Picts, so all Irish, Scots, Welsh and of course Picts come in useful. The main component of the army should consist of figures armed with a thrusting spear and a medium shield. The nobles, which may fight on foot or on horseback, can be recognised by their long tunics and swords. Some wear mail coats and/or helmets (Blacktreedesigns is the only company offering armoured Picts. Gripping Beast offers some Irish with mail or helmet, also some of their hiberno-norse can be used.). Skirmishers with either bow or javelin complete a pictish army.
from the Author: Gripping Beast now offers a new range of pictish
G. Henderson and I. Henderson, The Art of the Picts, London (2004)
N. Aitchson, The Picts and the Scots at War (2003)
J.E. Fraser, The Battle of Dunnichen 685 (2002)
F. Wainright, The Problem of the Picts (1955)