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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pictish Carvings, Trusty's Hill, Gatehouse of Fleet

Pictish carvings, Trusty's Hill, Gatehosue of Fleet

These are the carvings that the Galloway Picts Project hopes to make less mysterious by finding dating evidence from the hill-fort. A piece of African Red Slipware, manufactured at/ near Carthage in north Africa circa 550 AD has already been found. As other finds are analysed, this will provide further dating evidence.

The site is a hill-fort on a rocky outcrop above the Fleet Bay. It was originally surrounded by stone walls with timber posts in them. At some point the timber was set on fire, causing vitrification of the walls which then collapsed. Charcoal from a post hole has been found which will be dated. This will give a date for when the site was destroyed.

A few miles to the east is the Mote of Mark near the mouth of the river Urr. This was also built on a rocky outcrop and surrounded by stone walls with timber which were burnt causing vitrification. Before then, and around the same time as Trusty's Hill was occupied, jewelry making was carried out at the Mote of Mark. A piece of bone with some Anglian runes was found at the Mote of Mark plus an Anglian style clay spindle whorl. These finds  suggest that the Mote of Mark may have been attacked/ destroyed by Angles from Northumbria in the seventh century. Could Trusty's Hill have met a similar fate?

If these sites had been burnt in the course of local (British/ Brittonic speaking) feuding, they could have been rebuilt and re-occupied. But if they were  destroyed as part of a Northumbrian take-over of Galloway, this would explain why they were not re-built. We know that the Northumbrians did move into Galloway since they took over the British (with earlier Gaulish links) monastic site at Whithorn in Wigtownshire and occupied  a similar religious site at Hoddom in Annadale/ Dumfriesshire - and erected the imposing Ruthwell Cross.

The evidence (finds) so far recovered from Trusty's Hill point to it being a place where 'high status' people lived - e.g. the Red African Slipware find. The existence of the Pictish carvings suggest something more than just a wealthy chieftain and his family - some one more like a 'king' or ruler of a larger territory. Unfortunately the history of Galloway in this post Roman/ pre-Northumbrian period is confused by the possibility that Galloway was part of Rheged.  It may be more useful to think of the history of Galloway in this period as the development of the structure of Novantae (the Roman name for the people of Galloway) society.

But if the Novantae developed their society into a post-Roman kingdom, as a distinct political entity this may have implications for the post-Northumbrian period. Was the coherence of Fergus of Galloway's kingdom - which as a political and social  unit survived until the end of the Douglas lordship of Galloway in 1455- based on Novantae foundations? Pure speculation - but the Galloway Picts project may yet provide some supporting evidence for such speculations.    


Blogger Call me, "Dave." said...

Thanks Alistair, we tried to see the carvings and were hassled by a huge bull. Good links...a stone was found near Garlieston, so I hear depicting a deer, which is interesting.

2:09 am  

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