June 13, 2022
Among the most popular types of art found across Scotland are ring-and-cup marks, which are patterns of concentric circles and lines carved into rocks. Some of the art may be as old as 5,000 years. The meaning of these patterns is lost to time, if they ever had meaning at all.
A more recent art phenomenon found in Scotland are Pict stones. These are relief sculptures carved into stone slabs similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs that depict people and animals. A statistical analysis of 200 Pict stones from the sixth century concluded that they aren’t simply pretty pictures—they represent a written language. The study, carried out by Exeter University, analyzed how often certain symbols followed others and found a pattern that matched many known ancient languages.
Unfortunately, the study didn’t bring us any closer to understanding what the stones actually mean. The lead author of the research, Rob Lee, suggests they may be lists of the dead. The vocabulary used on the stones seems to be quite limited, and we may never know just what the Picts were recording.