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Pictish symbols carved on a standing stone, Aberlemno, Scotland. Source: Stuart /Adobe Stock

Scottish Prof Links Mysterious Pictish Symbols and Distant Gobekli Tepe Signs


The Picts were an ancient race of people who from at least the 1st century AD dominated the northern territories of what is known today as Scotland. In the works of Roman propaganda they are savages. But refreshingly, new findings over the last two years have informed us that they had a written language at least 1,700 years ago and they were a highly-developed culture. But now, it’s time for something completely different!

Most famous for their geometric and stylized animal symbols which they carved into standing stones and tattooed onto their bodies, the original meanings of Picts’ symbols remains a mystery - but every year it seems a different scientist adds a little more to our understanding of what was undoubtedly a rich and thriving Pictish culture.

Ancient carved Pictish stone. (victor Lord Denovan /Adobe Stock)

Ancient carved Pictish stone. (victor Lord Denovan /Adobe Stock)

The Picts and Their Symbols

In 1999, William Arthur Cummins published ‘ The Picts and their Symbols’ providing a list of symbols ordered by how frequently they appear, upon which scholar Anthony Jackson presented the first serious interpretation of Pictish symbols, concluding they were “family crests” in his 1984 book ‘ The Symbol Stones of Scotland.’

Pictish symbols. (Aberdeenshire Council)

Pictish symbols. (Aberdeenshire Council)

But brace yourself, for an Edinburgh University press release about the latest work of the controversial author Dr. Martin Sweatman of their School of Engineering says they are “zodiacal and astronomical symbols” and draws parallels to the symbols of the 12,000-year-old site Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey!

Dr. Sweatman is a frequent target of the skeptical community because he endorses Graham Hancock’s theories, and in his last book, ‘ Prehistory Decoded’, he said that around 13,000 years ago a lost civilization was wiped out and that the ancestors of the people who built Gobekli Tepe in present day southern Turkey had witnessed this catastrophe and erected the structure to commemorate the terrible event.

Whether you agree with such theories or not, Edinburgh University certainly does, so let’s have a look at what Dr. Sweatman suggests so that we don’t throw out any potential babies with the bathwater.

A Radical New World of Pictish Astronomy

According to scholar William Arthur Cummins, the most repetitive Pictish symbol is the Crescent and V-rod which, according to Dr. Sweatman, clearly represents “something related to the moon,” but he doesn’t reveal what exactly.

The next most common Pictish symbol is the Double disk and Z-rod which the engineer thinks “probably represents the summer and/or winter solstice,” and he thinks the third most often carved symbol - the Pictish elephant - “likely represents the summer solstice constellation, which is Gemini”. He goes so far as to compare this Pictish symbol with the one from Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe - where the ibex is believed “by some” to represent Gemini.

Pictish beastie (left) and ibex symbol (representing Gemini) from Pillar 43 at Göbekli Tepe (right). (Dr. Martin Sweatman)

Pictish beastie (left) and ibex symbol (representing Gemini) from Pillar 43 at Göbekli Tepe (right). (Dr. Martin Sweatman)

There is no doubting these two symbols are incredibly similar, which the professor believes represents the “Aquatic Goat” Capricornus, but many will say it’s a leap of creative faith to say they represent the same thing. The Pictish Horseshoe symbol is related to the ‘handbag/sunset’ symbols carved at the top of Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe and to the professor this “clearly represents an equinox or solstice.”

After comparing the Disk and rectangle symbol, the fish, the eagle, and the Serpent and z-rod Pictish carvings to those at Gobekli Tepe, erected circa 10,000 BC, Sweatman refers to the serpent representing a “meteor” - keying directly into Hancock’s ideas.

Carvings on an ancient Pictish Stone. (sbuwert /Adobe Stock)

Carvings on an ancient Pictish Stone. (sbuwert /Adobe Stock)

Now, while the news as reported on the University of Edinburgh website is entitled, “Dr Martin Sweatman decodes ancient Pictish Symbols” and the post claims, “The School’s Dr Martin Sweatman has decoded a system of Pictish symbols and revealed its link with other symbol systems used by ancient civilisations across the world,” it seems the theory needs a bit more research before the claims of decipherment can be made but you can check out Dr Sweatman’s findings so far here.

Top Image: Pictish symbols carved on a standing stone, Aberlemno, Scotland. Source: Stuart /Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie



The pictorial ascpect of the ancient use of depicted sign language is quite subjective. The gesture signs used in the system to create a message are much less subjective and may even be helpful to the understanding of the overall pictorials. Ancient depicted sign language greatly predates the Picts who were only one of the many cultures that used sign language. See: Depicted Sign Language: An Ancient System of Communication at



I came to this website with it’s sales pitch about being on the cutting edge of articles pertaining to our ancient origins.  Instead I’ve found the vast majority of articles, such as this one, have a condescending and mocking bias to the information being presented. If I want to read or listen to someone be ridiculed for having a theory or asking a question that is considered “non-conforming” to the mainstream archeological or religious veiws, I’ll go back to academia or church. I will be “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” as far as this website is concerned.

Nice article, but please note I do not buy into the idea of an ‘advanced civilisation’ as imagined by Hancock, at least not yet. But clearly, ancient people were ‘more advanced’ than conventionally thought. Also, you should know that legends indicate the Picts had a Scythian origin, which is not far from Gobekli Tepe. Although recent scholarship has cast doubt on this, it appears it might be correct. It’s something I’m investigating Thanks for the write-up!

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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