A Tarbat Discovery Centre local history resource

The Archaeology of Fortriu

The most cited and perhaps most powerful Pictish kingdom appears to have been the Kingdom of Fortriu. Fortriu was originally thought to be based in Perthshire in central Scotland, but recent work by leading Pictish historian Alex Woolf (2006) has turned the knowledge of the political organisation of the Picts on its head with the identification of Fortriu, with the Moray Firth area, suggesting that the early peoples of northern Scotland were major players in the emergence of the first kingdoms in the first millennium AD.

'The Archaeology of Fortriu' project at the University of Aberdeen was launched in October 2012 as a four years a programme of fieldwork that will target the rich archaeological resource that the Picts and the Kingdom of Fortriu left behind, as well as developing a fuller understanding of the long-term evolution of the Tarbat peninsula itself. The project involves a partnership with the Tarbat Discovery Centre. As you will see from the website and visiting the centre, the centre displays the finds of the largest research excavation ever conducted on an ancient Pictish site 'the Pictish monastery at Portmahomack.' The site at Portmahmomack appears to have been one of the major early churches of the Kingdom of Fortriu. The church represents one of Britain's earliest dated Christian sites and was a vibrant centre before its destruction in the period 780 -830 AD. In later times the church of St Colman's became the parish church for the area. The 'Archaeology of Fortriu' project will continue to research the wider peninsula aiming to set the development of the monastery in a wider context. On the peninsula itself our work will target the setting of some of the iconic Pictish stones found on the peninsula through geophysical survey and we will try to more fully understand the emergence of the monastery itself through examining the development of earlier power centres on the peninsula. To date our work has surveyed and excavated a number of hillforts on Tarbat and the survey of the location of a number of Pictish stones has just commenced. This section of the website will be updated over the coming years with results, news and images of our work. We are also working with the centre to continue to develop and make accessible the rich heritage resources the centre provides on the Picts and local history.

See The Northern Picts Project for further details.

The project has been supported by a major donation to the University of Aberdeen Development Trust (http://www.abdn.ac.uk/giving/about/).

The project also works with the Universities' North Theme project 'Pathways to Power: Rise of the Early Medieval Kingdoms of the North'


Tarbat Discovery Programme:

The Tarbat Discovery Programme is the largest research excavation ever conducted on an ancient Pictish site. Excavations took place between 1995-2006 and uncovered the remains of a remarkable Pictish monastery. Dating from the 6th to 9th century AD, Portmahomack is one of the earliest Christian sites to be revealed in Britain and the first in the land of the Picts. The monastery was destroyed sometime in the late 8th or early 9th century AD by the Vikings. It was then lost to history before being uncovered by Professor Martin Carver of York University and his team. Unique stone sculpture was uncovered in the excavations that marked out the boundaries of the monastic estate - examples of which can be seen in the Tarbat Discovery Centre and in the wider Tarbat area.

The full story of the Tarbat Discovery Programme is on display at the centre.