Archaeological sources include settlements, art, and surviving everyday objects. In the east were the Picts, whose kingdoms eventually stretched from the river Forth to Shetland. Finally, there were the English or "Angles", Germanic invaders who had overrun much of southern Britain and held the Kingdom of Bernicia later the northern part of Northumbria , in the south-east, and who brought with them Old English. The confederation of Pictish tribes that developed north of the Firth of Forth may have stretched up as far as Orkney. The first identifiable king of the Picts, who seems to have exerted a superior and wide-ranging authority, was Bridei mac Maelchon r.
His power was based in the kingdom of Fidach, and his base was at the fort of Craig Phadrig , near modern Inverness. Christian missionaries from Iona appear to have begun the conversion of the Picts to Christianity from In the 7th century, the Picts acquired Bridei map Beli — as a king, perhaps imposed by the kingdom of Alt Clut, where his father Beli I and then his brother Eugein I ruled.
It probably ruled from the fortress of Dunadd, now near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute. In the late 6th and early 7th centuries, it encompassed roughly what is now Argyll and Bute and Lochaber in Scotland, and also County Antrim in Ireland. Its original meaning is uncertain, but it later refers to Gaelic -speakers, whether from Ireland or elsewhere.
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In , a mission from Ireland under St. Columba founded the monastery of Iona off the west coast of Scotland, and probably began the conversion of the region to Christianity. Serious defeats in Ireland and Scotland in the time of Domnall Brecc d. There is disagreement over the fate of the kingdom from the late 8th century onwards. Alt Clut named after the Brythonic name for Dumbarton Rock , the Medieval capital of the Strathclyde region may have had its origins with the Damnonii people of Ptolemy 's Geographia.
Two kings are known from near contemporary sources in this early period. The first is Coroticus or Ceretic Ceredig , known as the recipient of a letter from Saint Patrick , and stated by a 7th-century biographer to have been king of the Height of the Clyde, Dumbarton Rock, placing him in the second half of the 5th century. From Patrick's letter it is clear that Ceretic was a Christian, and it is likely that the ruling class of the area were also Christians, at least in name. After , information on the Britons of Alt Clut becomes more common in the sources.
They lost the region of Kyle in the south-west of modern Scotland to Northumbria, and the last attack may have forced the king Dumnagual III to submit to his neighbours. Fraser points to the fact there is no contemporary evidence that the heartland of Alt Clut was in Clydesdale and the Kingdom of Strathclyde may have arisen after Alt Clut's decline.
This included the kingdoms of Bryneich , which may have had its capital at modern Bamburgh in Northumberland, and Gododdin , centred on Din Eidyn perhaps what is now Edinburgh and stretching across modern Lothian. Some " Angles " may have been employed as mercenaries along Hadrian's Wall during the late Roman period. Others are thought to have migrated north by sea from Deira Old English: Derenrice or Dere in the early 6th century. The first Anglo-Saxon king in the historical record is Ida , who is said to have obtained the throne around The battle, which ended disastrously for the Britons, was memorialised in the poem Y Gododdin.
After his defeat and death at the hands of the Welsh and Mercians at the Battle of Hatfield Chase on 12 October , Northumbria again was divided into two kingdoms under pagan kings. It became the seat of the Bishop of Lindisfarne , which stretched across Northumbria. The balance between rival kingdoms was transformed in when ferocious Viking raids began on monasteries like Iona and Lindisfarne, creating fear and confusion across the kingdoms of North Britain. Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles eventually fell to the Norsemen. Known in Gaelic as " Alba ", in Latin as " Scotia ", and in English as "Scotland", his kingdom was the nucleus from which the Scottish kingdom would expand as the Viking influence waned, just as in the south the Kingdom of Wessex expanded to become the Kingdom of England.
Modern Scotland is half the size England and Wales in area, but with its many inlets, islands and inland lochs , it has roughly the same amount of coastline at 4, miles. Only a fifth of Scotland is less than 60 metres above sea level.
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Its east Atlantic position means that it has very heavy rainfall: This encouraged the spread of blanket peat bog , the acidity of which, combined with high level of wind and salt spray, made most of the islands treeless. The existence of hills, mountains, quicksands and marshes made internal communication and conquest extremely difficult and may have contributed to the fragmented nature of political power.
Roman influence beyond Hadrian's Wall does not appear to have had a major impact on settlement patterns, with Iron Age hill forts and promontory forts continuing to be occupied through the early Medieval period.
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Place-name evidence, particularly the use of the prefix "pit", meaning land or a field, suggests that the heaviest areas of Pictish settlement were in modern Fife , Perthshire , Angus , Aberdeen and around the Moray Firth , although later Gaelic migration may have erased some Pictish names from the record. There was also extensive Viking settlement in Bernicia, the Northern part of Northumbria, which stretched into the modern Borders and Lowlands. This period saw dramatic changes in the geography of language. The Pictish language remains enigmatic, since the Picts had no written script of their own and all that survives are place names and some isolated inscriptions in Irish ogham script.
Lacking the urban centres created under the Romans in the rest of Britain, the economy of Scotland in the early Middle Ages was overwhelmingly agricultural. Without significant transport links and wider markets, most farms had to produce a self-sufficient diet of meat, dairy products and cereals, supplemented by hunter-gathering. Limited archaeological evidence indicates that throughout Northern Britain farming was based around a single homestead or a small cluster of three or four homes, each probably containing a nuclear family, with relationships likely to be common among neighbouring houses and settlements, reflecting the partition of land through inheritance.
Imported goods found in archaeological sites of the period include ceramics and glass, while many sites indicate iron and precious metal working. There are almost no written sources from which to re-construct the demography of early Medieval Scotland. This would have meant that there were a relatively small proportion of available workers to the number of mouths to feed.
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