Penultimate lecture for Pictish Arts

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The penultimate lecture in the 2013/2014 season of the Pictish Arts Society will be given at Pictavia by Dr Martin Goldberg on Friday, April 18.

The theme of Dr Goldberg’s talk will be ‘Carving Pictish symbols: conventions and competence’.

The art-historical study of Pictish symbols has been a source of much debate.

In his contribution to the seminal ‘The Problem of the Picts’ (1955) RBK Stevenson advocated a theory of ‘the declining symbol’, providing an art-historical sequence, or relative chronology, for the most common symbol of the crescent and v-rod.

However, the underlying principle of degeneration from an artistically prioritised ideal example is based on subjective judgement about artistic elaboration.

In contrast, Martin’s work focuses on a series of conventions in basic form that can be objectively recorded across the full corpus of symbol-stones and Christian cross-slabs which use Pictish symbols.

These conventions provide the framework for a new typology for the carving of Pictish symbols.

Observing the adaptation of those conventions from symbol-stone to cross-slab suggests that changes in competence and confidence in carving skill resulted in changes in the form of the symbols.

Martin is senior curator of the Early Historic and Viking Age archaeological collections at National Museums Scotland.

He recently (2012) co-authored a book called ‘Early Medieval Scotland: individuals, communities and ideas’, which advocated using Scotland’s wealth of archaeological evidence to provide new understandings of that earliest historical period.

Doors open at Pictavia at 7 for a 7.30 p.m .start. Refreshments will be available before and after the talk.

The talk is free to members and £2.50 to non-members.