'... and they won land among the Picts by friendly treaty or the sword'

How a re-examination of early historical sources and an analysis of early medieval settlement in north Co. Antrim confirms the validity of traditional accounts of Dal Riatic migration to Scotland from Ulster

Cormac McSparron (Author)

Brian Williams (Author)

sources, population movement, Dal Riata
Argyll; Scotland; UK; Antrim; Ulster; Northern Ireland; UK
early medieval


Much recent scholarship has been critical of the concept of a Dál Riatic migration to, or colonisation of, Argyll. Scepticism of the accuracy of the early medieval accounts of this population movement, arguing that these are late amendments to early sources, coupled with an apparent lack of archaeological evidence for such a migration have led to its rejection. It is argued here, however, that this rejection has been based on too narrow a reading of historical sources and that there are several early accounts which, while differing in detail, agree on one point of substance, that the origin of Scottish Dál Riata lies in Ireland. Also the use of archaeological evidence to suggest no migration to Argyll by the Dál Riata is flawed, misunderstanding the nature of early migrations and how they might be archaeologically identified, and it is proposed that there is actually quite a lot of evidence for migration to Argyll by the Dál Riata, in the form of settlement and artefactual evidence, but that it is to be found in Ireland through the mechanism of counterstream migration, rather than in Scotland.


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How to Cite
McSparron, C., & Williams, B. (2012). ’. and they won land among the Picts by friendly treaty or the sword’. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 141, 145-158. Retrieved from http://journals.socantscot.org/index.php/psas/article/view/9772