Hoard stars in sil­ver show

Ex­hi­bi­tion: Al­most 100 pre­cious metal pieces from Aberdeen­shire on dis­play

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - NEWS -

A new mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion is show­ing how sil­ver be­came one of the most pre­cious met­als in Scot­land, and how peo­ple liv­ing in the north-east and High­lands helped it achieve this sta­tus.

Scot­land’s Early Sil­ver, which opens to­day at the Na­tional Mu­seum in Ed­in­burgh, in­cludes the first pub­lic dis­play of pre­cious items from Aberdeen­shire, which date back to the fifth cen­tury AD.

The Gaulcross hoard – a col­lec­tion of al­most 100 frag­ments of brooches, bracelets and coins ready to be melted down for re­cy­cling, known as “hack­sil­ver” – was un­cov­ered by Aberdeen Univer­sity ar­chae­ol­o­gists in 2013.

Three pieces of sil­ver were found at the site near Fordyce dur­ing the Vic­to­rian era, as work­ers blasted rocks with dy­na­mite to clear the land for farm­ing.

But it was not un­til the area was re­vis­ited many years later that the full hoard was dis­cov­ered, the most northerly find of its kind in Europe.

The ex­hi­bi­tion has also brought to­gether the nine sur­viv­ing so-called “mas­sive” sil­ver chains for the first time.

They were made between the years 400 and 600 AD by lo­cal tribes, re-us­ing and re­cy­cling Ro­man met­als for their own use.

The heav­i­est of the chains weighs in at three kilo­grams and was dis­cov­ered near In­ver­ness in 1809.

Alice Black­well, a Glen­morangie Re­search Fel­low at Na­tional Mu­se­ums Scot­land and co-cu­ra­tor of the ex­hi­bi­tion, said: “Th­ese chains were the heav­i­est jewellery Scot­land had seen and, in terms of re­galia, were al­most twice as heavy as the royal Crown of Scot­land.

“You wore them like a choker so you car­ried the weight on your shoul­ders – they were prac­ti­cal, but they would not have been com­fort­able.”

Ms Black­well added: “Peo­ple have heard of the Ro­mans and the Vik­ings but the pe­riod in between is not so well known, so I think they will re­ally find it in­ter­est­ing.

“We want to make them won­der ‘why sil­ver and not gold?’.

“We think of gold as the most im­por­tant metal, but that’s be­cause value is cul­tural.

“Scot­land was re­ally un­usual in valu­ing sil­ver in this way as, in most other parts of Europe, it was gold.”

Scot­land’s Early Sil­ver is on dis­play un­til Sun­day, Fe­bru­ary 25 2018, at the Na­tional Mu­seum of Scot­land.

PRE­CIOUS: Alice Black­well takes a closer look at a Pic­tish neck chain at the Scot­land’s Early Sil­ver ex­hi­bi­tion

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