Pictish Ogham Inscriptions

Below is a complete list of all the known Pictish Ogham inscriptions.

They are taken from The Symbol Stones of Scotland, by Anthony Jackson (Orkney Press 1984). I do not agree with Jackson's conclusions, which are that the inscriptions are not writing at all but were used for counting says (i.e. the were calendars). Jackson claims that the Picts were Celts who spoke a language related to Welsh. There is no dispute that they spoke a P-Celtic language in addition to another, non Indo-European language. It is this other language that is written in the inscriptions.

All of the inscriptions are written in a known alphabet (Ogham), most are pronounceable and some have common elements (e.g. maqq/meqq, nehht/nahht, -ors). The only other sources of information on Pictish are the lists of kings and a very few inscriptions in the Roman alphabet: "resad fili spusscio", "drosten ipe uoret ett forcus" and "pidarnoin". Many of the Pictish names are not Indo-European, e.g. Usconbuts, Canutulachama, Spusscio. I would guess that, since the first N Pictish kings on one of the list were all called Brude followed by another name, that Brude is the Pictish for king.

Unfortunately there are too few inscriptions, no Rosetta Stone, no languages desended from Pictish and no known relatives (Basque has been mooted as a possibility). This means that, unless something turns up (like a long inscription accompanied by a translation into Latin), it is unlikely that the inscriptions will ever be deciphered. It is possible that there are some words borrowed into Gaelic or Scots, but I wouldn't count on it. After all, Ancient British hasn't exactly made it into English in a big way. The "Pit-" element in many Scottish place names has been related to the Welsh "peth" and Gaelic "cuid", and so may be Celtic.

There have been many fanciful attempts to translate the inscriptions based, for example, on the assumption that they are a form of Basque. My own attempt is less ambitious. It is generally believed that maqq/meqq means son and was borrowed from Gaelic. The inscriptions are often accompanied by symbols (animals or abstract designs) which are believed by Dr Ross Sampson to be (stand clear of the pun) pictograms. One of these accompanies similar inscriptions ("eddarrnonn" in Ogham and "pidarnoin" in Roman scripts: Ogham has no letter P).

Location

Inscription

Partial translation

Abernethy

qmi

Aboyne

nehhtvrobbaccennevv maqqotalluorrh

Nechtan ... son of Talorc

Altyre

ammaqqtallv lv bahhrrassudds

..son of Talorc ...

Auquhollie

vuunon itedovob b

Birsay 1

(m)onnorranrr

Birsay 2

bqi a b

Brandsbutt

irataddoarens

Bressay

crroscc:nahhtvvddadds:dattr:ann bennises:meqqddrroann

.. son of Drostan

Brodie A

von...ecco..

Brodie B

rginngchqodtosombs

Brodie C

eddarrnonn... tti... gng..

Pidarnoin ...

Buckquoy

(e)tmiqavsallc

Burrian

idbmirrhannurractkevvcerroccs

Cunningsburgh 1

iru

Cunningsburgh 2

..ehteconmors ...dov ...ddrs

Cunningsburgh 3

etteca... ..v:dattua ...rtt..

Dunadd

hcsd.t..v.nh.t l....vqrrhmdnhq

Golspie

allhhallorreddmaqqnuuvvhrre.rr

... son of ...

Gurness Broch

ineittemen mats

Inchyra A

ttlietrenoiddors ..uhtuoaged...

Inchyra B

inehhetestieq...inne

Keiss Bay

nehtetri

Latheron

duv nodnnatmaqqnahhto...

... son of Nechtan

Logie Elphonstone

caltchu

Lunnasting

ettecuhetts:ahehhttannn:hccvvevv:nehhtons

... Nechtan

Newton

iddarqnnnvorrenn iku(a) iosie

North Uist

m..quntenac..t

St Ninians

(...)besmeqqnanammovvez

... son of ...

Scoonie

eddarrnonn

Pidarnoin

Weeting 1

ulucuvute

Weeting 2

gedevem...dos

Whiteness

...vndar

Other Pictish Sites


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