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 A Royal Centre of Rheged?

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ferval
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PostSubject: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Wed 05 Sep 2012, 19:56

Trusty's Hill Fort near Gatehouse of Fleet in Galloway has been recognised as an Iron Age, partly vitrified, hill fort for a long time and excavated on a number of occasions. One notable feature is the Pictish group carved into the rock outcrop by the entrance, something entirely unexpected so far from Pictland.

http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/details/342360/

This summer the fort has been excavated again by GUARD and the Galloway Picts Project and they have, they believe, verified the carvings as genuine and retrieved some artefacts suggesting that this was a high status residence. Crucibles and equipment for the manufacture of jewellery as well as imported E ware were found. The combination of high status goods and Pictish carvings in a non Pictish setting has only been found before in two Early Historic capitals : Dunadd and Din Eydin and the excavators are therefore suggesting that, taken along with the plan of the site, this was a royal centre of Rheged. They further opine that Trusty's along with Mote of Mark, are evidence that Galloway was central to Rheged.

Archaeomagnetic dating has not worked but there are new radio carbon dates which have not yet been released.

There are brief details here http://www.guard-archaeology.co.uk/gallowayNews.html
and the excavation diary here http://gallowaypicts.com/wordpress/author/ronan/
Site record http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/63641/details/trusty+s+hill+anwoth/


I'm sure AR, if no one else, will have thoughts on this hypothesis.
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alantomes
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Wed 05 Sep 2012, 20:20

I love that area of Scotland. Some years ago we were at Isle of Whithorn, and they were excavating the ancient Abbey(?). I found it extremely interesting, as they were scarpping around the skeletons.
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alantomes
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Wed 05 Sep 2012, 20:23

Please excuse my spelling error it should read 'scraping'!
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Thu 06 Sep 2012, 04:22

The Picts being one of the many areas of history that I know very little about, I found this excavation intriguing ferval. But I do wonder if there wouldn't be more pottery etc finds if this place was a royal centre?

PS Alan, my impression is that archaeologists probably do a lot of scarpping and scrapping (over theories) around the skeletons, in addition to the scraping of course!
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Arwe Rheged
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Thu 06 Sep 2012, 09:27

Good stuff, Ferval.

I think we have to be careful about the Rheged link. What the evidence of this dig suggests is that there was a powerful kingdom in Galloway at this time in history. It doesn't allow us to link the site with Rheged, although as someone who is rather...erm...partial to Rheged, I'd love it if it was true.

What little we do know of the Old North allows us to be fairly certain that until about 600, it was largely in the hands of a series of petty kingdoms, most of whose dynasties traced their authority back to Coel Hen (literally, "Old Cole"). Some argue that Coel Hen might be a memory of the last Roman Dux, but there is no evidence to take that theory further, as far as I am aware.

Rheged was one of these kingdoms and, for a generation or two at least, was arguably the pre-eminent one.

The problem is that no-one really knows where Rheged was. The general, modern consensus is that it straddled the Solway and so included modern day Cumbria, Dumfriesshire and Galloway. If that is true, I'd argue that Rheged was a fairly temporary confederation of tributary statelets. Trusty's Hill Fort could well be the seat of one of these statelets.

Etymologists have, on occasion, stretched Rheged to Stranraer, but this is based on a somewhat dubious analysis of the name of Dunragit, a small hillfort in that area which was reused in the sub Roman period. A similarly weak argument has been made for the derivation of Rochdale in Lancashire.

Otherwise, we are pretty much left with Canu Taliesin. The book contains about nine or ten "praise poems" for Urien Rheged, which are considered to be the oldest in the corpus and which may well be contemporary with any historical Urien.

These poems contain a few hints about where Rheged was, although they must be treated with caution, given the fact that history and myth were virtually indistinguishable in most contemporary texts.

Urien as a name derives from Urbgenis - "city born". Of course, it might just be a name, but if he was city born, this seems to put him in Carlisle rather than Galloway. There is good evidence that Carlisle (which was based around two Roman forts very close to one another) survived well into the sub-Roman period.

Taliesin also mentions his hall at Lyvennet - a name of a small river near Appleby in Westmorland. Of course, other places may have carried a similar name and not survived, but that area has a cluster of ancient archaeological sites and is well placed for the old Roman road and fort network.

Taliesin refers to Urien's son, Owain, as being a prince of "the glittering West". Catterick gets two mentions in the poems - and in one Urien is referred to as "the lord of Catterick across the wide plains".

Urien's foes are usually identified as the Bernicians - one is nicknamed Fflamdwyn (the firebearer or fire raiser). This tallies with the Nennius account. Taliesin mentions a few battles, including Gwen Ystrad and Argoed Llwyfein (sic). Attempts have been made to link this with the obscurely named Winster in south Cumbria, but it looks to me like a reference to the Solway Firth, which might also be what is meant by an entirely separate reference to the "sea of Rheged". The other battle - Argoed Llwyfein (Leven Wood) could be anywhere, given the scattering of Leven place names in both Cumbria and South west Scotland.

There is also a foggy Arthurian folk tradition of a chap called the Giant of Tarn Wadling who lived at Castle Hewen (probably derived from Owain). Tarn Wadling is well known - it is a now drained pool at the base of a hill (on which was a hill fort) at High Hesket on the (Roman) A6 betwen Penrith and Carlisle. The local farm is still called Ewen Close.

So, the tradition is of a western king with a name suggesting an urban upbringing who can exercise dominance over Catterick and who fights people from the Bamburgh area. All of this would seem to place him in the Carlisle area rather than Galloway, although I accept nothing is certain!

Interestingly, according to tradition, Oswy of Northumbria later married Riemmelth of Rheged, suggesting that there was still something worth having even at that late stage.

I'm off for a lie down now.

Regards,

AR


Last edited by Arwe Rheged on Thu 06 Sep 2012, 17:11; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Thu 06 Sep 2012, 09:46

Yes, ferv, most interesting reading - and now AR's rich expansion on possibilities. The use of current place names to help untangle the past is fascinating. I guess one has to be very careful not to try for a gold in jumping to conclusions.
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Arwe Rheged
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Thu 06 Sep 2012, 12:24

Quite right, Priscilla. It seems to me that the main beartraps with etymological evidence are as follows:-

1. Not every ancient placename has survived to this day. So, if we are looking for the site of Argoed Llwyfein, we potentially make a mistake if we assume that it must be somewhere which is still called Leven today.

2. Not every modern placename which looks old really is old. One obvious example is Newcastleton in the Borders, which until about 200 years ago, was called Copshawholme (it still is, by some of the locals!). So, if we are looking for the site of Argoed Llwyfein, we potentially make a mistake if we assume that somewhere which is called Leven today was called that back in the late 6th century.

3. In the absence of any regularised spelling systems, one has to be slightly cautious about accepting highly detailed linguistic arguments which state that a certain letter or dipthong mutates in a certain way and so x must derive from y. Such arguments are fantastically interesting and learned, but arguably only work if we can be sure that the original spelling is correct. The Border papers from the 16th century contain wild spelling which often only starts to make sense if you try and read the text in a local accent.

4. Names in foreign languages can often be mangled to make them sound like words in one's own language. French "visage" becoming "fizzog" is a recent example, but see also Old Man of Coniston (allt maen) or Applecross (apor crosan).

Regards,

AR
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Thu 06 Sep 2012, 15:02

Thanks AR, I knew you'd have interesting and knowledgeable information to add, especially as I know damn all about the etymology of place names and little more about the documentary sources.



If I can find out any more about the post excavation results I'll let you know.
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Arwe Rheged
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Thu 13 Dec 2012, 09:22

On a possibly related note, recent excavations at Maryport on the West Cumbrian coast have unearthed an early Christian site (5th - 6th C) which would be contemporary with any floruit of a historical Urien Rheged (assuming such a person existed in anything like the terms we now remember him) and which the dig team are already equating to the important early Christian sites at Whithorn and Hoddom.

My argument is that the term "Rheged" is wrongly used to conjure up the notion of a single kingdom. If such a name existed at the time - and if the corpus of praise poetry to Urien Rheged is as old as Ifor Williams, John Koch and others have argued, then the name did exist - I see it as effectively being a descriptive term of an overkingship linked to one family and perhaps even to one man.

Regards,

AR
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Thu 13 Dec 2012, 09:57

That would make total sense AR if, as I have heard before, Rheged is related to the Irish word Ríghead (kingship). Not the name of a place or a person in other words but the term for a political system.
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Arwe Rheged
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PostSubject: Re: A Royal Centre of Rheged?   Thu 13 Dec 2012, 17:32

The more I look at it, the more that's how it looks to me. The word had presumably fallen out of use by the twelfth century, as middle Welsh works of that period seem to assume that Rheged was a territorial name. There was clearly a memory of the the Old North in the minds of those later Welsh poets, but to them, Rheged was a land of dog-heads and fantastical creatures which seemed to exit on the cusp of what we might now call Faerie.

A similar process was clearly underway by the ninth century at the latest with people who probably existed but who were then mythologised (such as Ambrosius) and those who probably only ever existed in myth and legend but who were given the veneer of historicity (such as Hengest and Arthur).

Regards,

AR
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