Art History



Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work

Qualifying paper


Michelle Nordtorp-Madson

Second Advisor

Victoria Young

Third Advisor

Eric Kjellgren


The Picts of Medieval Scotland left behind little written documentation of their
past; however, the sculpted stone monuments remaining within the Pictish realm supply some evidence concerning the culture. To investigate the monuments scholars have used multiple methods of inquiry including formal analysis to discuss styles, language associations to discover iconographic meaning, and stylistic trends or radiocarbon dating to establish dates of origin. Yet, the lack of abundant evidence concerning the Picts still requires alternative methods for examining the stones. The sculptures have been studied as individual stones or as groups of monuments that were originally found at one location, but there have been few comparisons among stones found at multiple locations. This project created a collection of ten stones found at eight locations in eastern Scotland by using the common iconography of the duck-snouted quadruped. The monuments were then investigated using the memory themes of biography, materiality, and landscape. Using biography as a theme aids in understanding the context and layers of time in which the stones were used. The second theme, materiality, focuses on the physical states of the monuments, allowing clues concerning the uses of the stones to surface. While the third theme, landscape, broadens the context in which the monuments were discovered. Examining each theme within the group of stones revealed common patterns that may not
surface through the investigation of a single monument. Several reoccurring
characteristics related to the monuments such as associations with local stories and
histories; common mnemonic devices; and associations with religious sites indicated
cultural similarities existed among the various Pictish communities connected to the
monuments. The investigation also indicated the meanings associated with the
monuments adapt with time and are in a state of flux. In addition, evidence suggested loss of collective memory may have occurred due to limited context.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.