6.5.2 Hunting and Feasting

At the King’s Seat fort, Dunkeld (MPK5444), a rectangular hearth 1.5m x 0.75m was found within the inner, summit enclosure. Much larger than the hearths found on the lower enclosures of the site, it was flanked by two pairs of postholes, suggestive of an A-frame superstructure for spit-roasting large animals. The hearth itself had evidence for multiple phases of use, with reworking to the structure and kerb and was packed with animal bone fragments. A notable concentration of iron blades or knives were also identified in the vicinity. Its size and location, at the centre of the complex, suggests high-status feasting, supported by evidence of exotic imports transported in the E-ware pottery and vessel glass fragments which were also recovered. Such feasting most likely carried significant social value, both within the community, and with neighbours and more distant peer groups (Strachan and MacIver forthcoming).

Hunting wild game, such as the boar depicted on a cross-slab from Gask, now at Moncrieffe House (MPK3162), is a frequently-depicted motif on Pictish cross-slabs. The mounted riders depicted on the large cross-slabs of Meigle (MPK5400) and the panel from Dull (MPK1016; NMS X.IB 58) are surrounded by hunting dogs, the latter shown wearing collars. The buried cattle remains from Bertha Park may be the remains of a large feast, possibly linked to the power centre at Rathinveramon. Similar, smaller domestic hearths are also known from the Pitcarmick-type byre-houses, which may have been used both for cooking and for small-scale craft use as at Lair (Strachan et al 2019, 44–5).

Illustration of a slab of stone, broken off at the top and with two leaf-shaped holes to define a cross. The cross itself has interlacing carved across it, and to its sides, carvings of boar and other wild animals fill the space between the cross and the stone edge.
Cross slab from Gask depicting boar and other wild animals ©️ HES