The people living in the north of Scotland from the 4th to 9th century AD are commonly referred to as the Picts, speaking a Celtic language. Evidence of these people is known from place names, artefacts, structures and burials.
The ‘wags’ or aisled buildings are unique houses found almost exclusively in southern Caithness, and argued to date to the first millennium AD. They are long buildings with stone pillars to support the roofs. Few have been excavated and none in modern times. The cave-like appearance of these structures may have led to these structures being named by Gaelic speakers ‘uaimh’ – cave or grotto. Despite the lack of excavated examples it has been suggested that wags may date to the post-broch period. They may have been used as storage facilities or as living quarters. Many structures around brochs may also date to this period.
As in other periods the religious and burial practices of people living in the first millennium AD leave substantial remains. These can either be actual graves or sculptured stones, decorated with obscure designs, erected across Caithness. Although many are associated with the Picts, there are suggestions that some owe their origins to the presence in the county of Irish priests, papar travelling to the county during the spread of Christianity. Few visible traces of their monastic buildings remain, although there are tantalising possibilities.