The Monumental Cemeteries of Northern Pictland

Juliette Mitchell, Gordon Noble

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The emergence of formal cemeteries is one of the most significant transformations in the landscapes of 1st millennium AD Scotland. In eastern and northern Scotland, in the lands of the Picts, square and circular burial monuments were constructed to commemorate a small proportion of society, perhaps a newly emerging elite in the post-Roman centuries. This paper presents the results from a project that consolidated and reviewed the evidence for monumental cemeteries of the northern Picts from Aberdeenshire to Inverness-shire, transcribing the aerial evidence of many sites for the first time. In addition, the landscape location of the cemeteries are assessed, along with their relation to Pictish symbol stones, fortified sites and settlement landscapes of the 1st millennium AD. Two particular elements of the burial architecture of the northern Pictish burial traditions are highlighted – barrow enlargement and the linking of barrows through sharing of barrow/cairn ditches. Both of these practices are argued to be implicated in the creation of genealogies of the living and the dead during an important transitional period in northern Europe when hereditary aristocracies became more prominent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-40
Number of pages40
JournalMedieval Archaeology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2017


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