The apparent disappearance of the Picts was a mystery that baffled later medieval scholars, almost turning a group of real people into fairytale creatures.
But new scientific research – which identifies six main genetic clusters in Scotland, one of which roughly fits the borders of ancient Pictland – seems to suggest they never really went away, but simply adopted the cultural practices of the neighbouring Scots, as historians have long suspected.
The science of genetics has led to some extraordinary discoveries in a number of fields from medicine to history and is likely to continue to do so.
However, in these days of far-right, ‘identitarian’ politics based on half-baked racist ideas, it feels important to note the research demonstrates the power of cultural forces to shape our identity.
Just as the children of the ‘Picts’ became ‘Scots’, the same can be said for anyone, regardless of their genetic make-up.
For, as a wonderful saying puts it, “we’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns” – wherever in the world we happen to come from.