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Pict a Little, Copt a Little

The London Times tells of ancient Scotland’s links to Christian Egypt — and the archeological evidence.

The origins of Scotland are enveloped in the mists of antiquity. The earliest written accounts are to be found in the works of the Roman historian Tacitus, whose father-in-law invaded southern Scotland with the 9th Roman Legion in 81 AD.

At that time Scotland was inhabited by tribes of Celtic origin, notably the Picts, about whom very little is known but who left behind many distinctive stone carvings.

Around the 6th century, the Picts converted to Christianity and some of their carvings show links with the Middle Eastern Coptic church. This image (left), of two hands receiving a loaf of bread from a raven, depicts StAnthony and StPaul the Hermit in the desert. It is found on a monastery wall in Egypt and a Pictish stone at St Vigeans, Dundee.

Originally referred to as Alba or Alban, the name Scotland is said to derive from the Scots, a warlike Celtic race from Northern Ireland who invaded southwestern Scotland in the 3rd and 4th centuries and established the kingdom of Dalriada. The first king to unite Scotland was Kenneth MacAlpin, who seized power in 843 AD and ruled all the country north of the Forth.