Pictish Symbol Stones: their place in the landscape
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Morton, Ian M.
The Picts of early medieval Scotland remain among the darkest of the Dark Age peoples. Very little is known about their society or culture. Even the language they spoke is unknown. They left no written records. Other than a handful of archaeological sites that have not yet been fully explored, all that remains in the landscape is a collection of over 200 standing stones. The stones are identified as Pictish because they bear carved symbols from a set of around 30 designs. The designs include geometric patterns and figures of birds and animals. In the 1980s, research into the relationship between the position of the stones and the landscape in which they sit was undertaken in Aberdeenshire. The study, carried out with map and pencil, attempted to characterise the attributes of the location of each stone. A geographical information system (GIS) led investigation reassessed this research and additionally applied the methods to a more southerly study area. The results of the earlier research were found to stand up to this scrutiny by technology, and largely held true for the second study. An observation from another non-GIS study that the stones in Aberdeenshire are positioned near parish boundaries was confirmed and also found to be the case for the second area. Since parishes are known to reflect older land divisions, this provides evidence that the stones served as territorial markers.