Pottery from Africa found in a burnt-out fortress in Galloway hints at a 'lost' Dark Ages kingdom that may even have been born of an alliance between Britons and Picts.
Remarkably, a Pictish carved stone at the fort's entrance shows two entwined symbols which could have been evidence of an alliance between Britons and Picts, possibly through a ‘royal’ marriage.
A shard of sixth century pottery from Africa also found at the site shows it could only have been home to someone of ‘the very highest status’, like a King.
The Picts were a savage tribe who lived north of the Firth of Forth - very few Pictish stones have ever been found outside their traditional territory.
A newly found spearhead dates from around that time, while sixth century pottery from Africa shows it could only have been home to someone of ¿the very highest status¿, like a King
of all things freedom’s most fine.
Never submit to live, my son,
in the bonds of slavery entwined.’William Wallace - His Uncle’s proverb,
from Bower’s Scotichronicon c.1440’s
For the English chroniclers he was an outlaw, a murderer, the perpetrator of atrocities and a traitor. How did an obscure Scot obtain such notoriety?
Who was William Wallace?
Wallace was the younger son of a Scottish knight and minor landowner. His name, Wallace or le Waleis, means the Welshman, and he was probably descended from Richard Wallace who had followed the Stewart family to Scotland in the 12th century.
In 1296 Scotland had been conquered. Beneath the surface there were deep resentments. Many of the Scots nobles were imprisoned, they were punitively taxed and expected to serve King Edward I in his military campaigns against France. The flames of revolt spread across Scotland. In May 1297 Wallace slew William Heselrig, the English Sheriff of Lanark. Soon his rising gained momentum, as men ‘oppressed by the burden of servitude under the intolerable rule of English domination’ joined him ‘like a swarm of bees’.
'Commander of the Army of the Kingdom of Scotland’ - the outlaw Wallace was now knighted and made Guardian of Scotland in Balliol’s name at the forest kirk, at either Selkirk or Carluke.
Militarily he took the war into the north of England, raiding around Newcastle and wreaking havoc across the north. Contemporary English chroniclers accused him of atrocities, some no doubt warranted, however, in Wallace’s eyes the war, since its beginning, had been marked by brutality and butchery.
WHO WERE THE PICTS? THE TRIBE WHO HELD OUT IN THE NORTH
Mr Toolis said the vital find was the African pottery, however.
‘It is very rare in British, let alone Scottish Dark Age sites - the early Christian monasteries at Whithorn and Iona being the only other Scottish sites we can think of.
‘It not only indicates that Trusty's Hill was inhabited at the same time as when one would expect the Pictish Carvings to have been made but it means that very high status people in post-Roman Scotland lived here.
‘We might be discovering the evidence to show that Trusty's Hill was a stronghold of the Dark Age Kings of Galloway.
Trusty's Hill was excavated in 1960, when vitrified stone - subjected to intense heat and effectively melted - was first identified.
The fort had clearly been burnt down, possibly at the hands of a Northumbrian enemy.
Mr Toolis said: ‘The fort was captured and destroyed. It would have burned in spectacular fashion, and the flames would have been seen miles away for days.