Most Powerful Picts Kingdom to be Explored

Remnants of the most influential players in northern Britain will be explored for the first time. Named the Picti, or painted people by the Romans. They clashed regularly throughout the fourth century.

A new project by the University of Aberdeen will explore the archaeology of the most powerful kingdom of the Picts – the kingdom of Fortriu.

Up until a few years ago it was thought Fortriu was based in Perthshire. But recent work has placed the stronghold much further north, in the Moray Firth area. This would suggest the people of northern Scotland were powerful figures prior to the formation of the country we now call Scotland.

Over the next four years a programme of fieldwork will target the rich archaeological resource that the Picts and the Kingdom of Fortriu left behind.

As part of an exciting new collaboration, the results of the archaeological work will be displayed at the Tarbat Discovery Centre, which currently displays the results of one of the biggest ever Pictish site excavations – the Pictish monastery at Portmahomack which is thought to be one of the major early churches of the Kingdom of Fortriu.

"We are incredibly excited about our new links with the Tarbat Discovery Centre and our exciting new initiative on the archaeology of the Tarbat peninsula and wider environs”, said Dr Gordon Noble of the University of Aberdeen and director of the new project.

“Martin Carver's excavations at Portmahomack uncovered an incredibly rich record of a Pictish monastery in the 7th-9th centuries AD. Our work will put the monastery in its wider context, investigating for the first time the archaeology of the Pictish Kingdom of Fortriu, the most powerful Pictish kingdom that had its powerbase in the Moray Firth region.

“Our project combines fieldwork research investigating the emergence of the early kingdoms of Scotland with initiatives that will allow the Discovery Centre to continue to showcase research on the Picts and the heritage of the Tarbat peninsula to a wide audience.”

The project will examine the Pictish cross slabs at Shandwick, Hilton and Nigg and will attempt to understand the power structures that led to the formation of these early kingdoms.

Preliminary excavations of a hillfort at Easter Rarichie, led by project manager Oskar Sveinbjarnarson and Candy Hatherley, a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, have revealed a remarkable stone-walled structure that may be an important settlement dating to the Iron Age or Pictish period.

Tony Watson, the Chairman of Tarbat Discovery Centre said: “The importance of the carved stones is already well-known but they didn’t happen just in isolation but were part of a far bigger picture that started centuries before the monks and Christianity arrived in Portmahomack.

“These are really exciting times for the Centre and the wider area and this long-term research programme should bring many unknown and neglected sites to a wider audience.”

Results of the project, which has been supported by a major donation to the Universities’ Development Trust, will be displayed at the Tarbat Discovery Centre over the coming four years and on the forthcoming new website for the centre.

Members of the community are being encouraged to get involved in some of the research projects on the Tarbat peninsula and beyond.

Notes to Editors

The displays on the excavations of the monastery and the new project can be visited at Tarbat Discovery Centre, Portmahomack, near Tain from April to October.

For more information visit,call 01862871351 or email

To get involved in the project contact Oskar Sveinbjarnarson

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: 09 May 2013

Ref: 137Fortriu
Contact: Euan Wemyss


Search News

Browse by Month


  1. Jan
  2. Feb There are no items to show for February 2023
  3. Mar There are no items to show for March 2023
  4. Apr There are no items to show for April 2023
  5. May There are no items to show for May 2023
  6. Jun There are no items to show for June 2023
  7. Jul There are no items to show for July 2023
  8. Aug There are no items to show for August 2023
  9. Sep There are no items to show for September 2023
  10. Oct There are no items to show for October 2023
  11. Nov There are no items to show for November 2023
  12. Dec There are no items to show for December 2023