The Picts defied the might of the Roman rule of Britain, but mysteriously disppeared, leaving a rich inheritance of carved stones, place names and settlements - but with little written clue as to what happened to them.
Now one of Scotland’s earliest civilisations is set to inspire the create of a tabletop role playing game aimed at overturning depictions of “backwards hill warriors, covered in blue tattoos and running naked into tribal warfare.”
A new Dungeons & Dragons-style book based on historically accurate records of the Pictish peoples is in development under a collaboration between games designers and archaeologists.
Set in the aftermath of the Battle of Dunnichen, which ended the domination of Scotland by the Angles of Northumbria in 685, Carved in Stone, is designed to be suitable for both roleplaying games and as an education tool.
Although the book for the game has been fully designed, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched by the Edinburgh-based game design company Dungeons on a Dime, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and Glasgow University’s archaeology department to help bring it to publication by 2023.
No documents in the Pictish language exist but a number of inscriptions suggest they spoke a language closely related to Welsh and Gaelic.
The Picts intermarried with the Irish Scotti, jointly raided Roman Britain and had extensive contacts with Anglo-Saxon Northumbria.
While the first mention of the Picts was made by a Roman chronicler in 287, no written record of them exists from around 900 onwards, by which time the tribes of the Picts and the Gaels were unified under the Kingdom of Alba.
The crowdfunder states: “Carved in Stone is a project showcasing the rich and complicated landscape of 7th century Scotland.
"This book will act as a primer on the Pictish people, allowing you to truly play as Picts in ancient Scotland.
“There are a great many misconceptions about the past in the public consciousness.
"Depictions of Scotland's early history paint its peoples as backwards hill warriors, covered in blue tattoos and running naked into tribal warfare. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Contemporary archaeological research proves that Scotland has always been a multicultural, multilingual and socially diverse country, as it still is today.”
Dungeons on a Dime director Brian Tyrrell said: “History and archaeology are conversations between the past and present.
"For too long the same perspectives have dominated that conversation, interpreting evidence to reflect their own interests.
"A single book won’t undo decades of trauma, but we hope it can help inspire more people to examine their past critically and find that there was always a place for them in history where they previously thought there was none.”
Lizy Simonen, learning assistant at Glasgow Life, which runs the city’s libraries, said: “Roleplaying games are a mix of literature, storytelling, improvised theatre and visual arts.
“They bring people together to tell stories, problem solve and challenge each others’ imaginations.
"Research shows these games have exceptional benefits, aiding in the development of identity and unity across minority and majority groups, teaching vital social skills and engaging vulnerable people.
"This is an exciting part of Scotland’s story and we’re looking forward to helping tell it.”