Picts, ancient inhabitants of central and N Scotland, of uncertain origin. First mentioned (A.D. 297) by the Roman writer Eumenius as northern invaders of Roman Britain, they were probably descendants of late Bronze Age and early Iron Age invaders of Britain. Their language is thought to have been a superimposition of Celtic on a pre-Celtic and non-Indo-European language, but there is no undisputed interpretation of it or their culture. By the early 7th cent. there was a unified Pictish kingdom north of a line from the Clyde to the Forth rivers. It apparently had a matrilinear system of succession and had probably adopted Celtic Christianity. To the south of the Picts, Scottish invaders from Ireland had established the kingdom of Dalriada in the 5th cent. Between 843 and 850 Kenneth I, king of Dalriada, established himself also as king of the Picts, although how and why is not clear. The kingdom of Alba thus formed became the kingdom of Scotland.
See W. C. Dickinson, Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603 (rev. ed. 1965); I. Henderson, Picts (1967); A. B. Scott, The Pictish Nation (1977).
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