"Picts: Scourge of Rome, Rulers of the North" by Gordon Noble and Nicholas Evans is an impressive book that brings together between its covers pretty much all that is currently known about its elusive and enigmatic subject. It should be considered essential reading for anyone with an interest in the early history of what is now Scotland: or anyone who has ever stumbled across a Pictish carved stone in the landscape or in a museum and wondered about the society that produced it.
The publisher's description gives a good sense of the book: "The Picts have fascinated for centuries. They emerged c. AD 300 to defy the might of the Roman empire only to disappear at the end of the first millennium AD, yet they left major legacies. They laid the foundations for the medieval Scottish kingdom and their captivating carved stones are some of the most eye-catching yet enigmatic monuments in Europe. Until recently the Picts have been difficult to trace due to limited archaeological investigation and documentary sources, but innovative new research has produced critical new insights into the culture of a highly sophisticated society which defied the might of the Roman Empire and forged a powerful realm dominating much of northern Britain. This is the first dedicated book on the Picts that covers in detail both their archaeology and their history. It examines their kingdoms, culture, beliefs and everyday lives from their origins to their end, not only incorporating current thinking on the subject, but also offering innovative perspectives that transform our understanding of the early history of Scotland."
This large format book is divided into a series of sections. We start with an introduction and overview before moving on to look at everyday life in Pictland. Other sections look at the upper echelons of Pictish society; at their religions; at ways of death and burials; at Pictish symbol stones; and at perhaps the greatest enigma of all surrounding the Picts, how they passed quite suddenly out of history.
"Picts" is well written and very readable, and the text is accompanied by helpful maps, photographs and drawings, many making good use of the large size of the book. The end result is a book that deserves to be widely read and one that will be a useful and oft-referred to addition to many bookshelves.