National Museums Scotland awarded a grant by AHRC to conduct a £1million research project into the Galloway Hoard


National Museums Scotland has been awarded a grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to conduct a £1million research project into the Galloway Hoard, one of the most important UK archaeological finds of the century.

The three-year research project, entitled ‘Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard” will be carried out in partnership with the University of Glasgow.

The Galloway Hoard brings together the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland. Buried around the end of the 9th century, the Hoard brings together a stunning variety of objects and materials in one discovery.

The Hoard will go on display from February at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in a new exhibition, Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure. The exhibition will offer the first chance to see details hidden for over a thousand years, revealed by expert conservation and painstaking cleaning work.

The exhibition is the story so far: the research project will enable far more detailed analysis and understanding of the Hoard, including precise dating of the material and, it is hoped, identification of the places of origin, which are thought to range from Ireland to the Byzantine empire and perhaps beyond.

The project will include 3D digital modelling, radiocarbon dating, the engagement of three post-doctoral research assistants, and research symposiums supporting a range of public outputs including the exhibition and tour, publications, online resources and a programme for schools. The AHRC award was for the sum of £791,293.

Dr Martin Goldberg, Principal Curator, Medieval Archaeology & History at National Museums Scotland, and lead investigator on the project said,

“Most hoards are usually interpreted as buried wealth, with the focus on events surrounding the moment of burial. The Galloway Hoard challenges this view and presents a rare opportunity to ask in much more detail about: how, and why, people assembled and collected hoards during the Viking Age.

“We’ve already discovered a great deal through the conservation work, and people will be able to see that in the forthcoming exhibition. However, this research project will enable us to go much further using scientific techniques and international collaboration.”

Dr Susanna Harris Lecturer in Archaeology the University of Glasgow, and co-investigator on the project said,

“The Galloway hoard is the richest, most varied and well-preserved collection of precious and exotic objects surviving from Viking-age Britain and Ireland. Beyond the silver, familiar from most Viking-age hoards, and the much rarer gold, is an unprecedented array of other materials such as bronze, glass, and rock crystal, entangled with the outstandingly rare preservation of organic materials (wood, leather, wool, linen, and silk).

“Many objects are wrapped in textiles, including Scotland’s earliest examples of silk, which could have travelled thousands of miles to reach Scotland. These types of wrappings rarely ever survive and are archaeological treasures in their own right. The unusual survival of organic material like textiles will allow us to apply a range of scientific techniques that usually aren’t possible for the precious metals that tend to dominate treasure hoards.

“Once we have identified and recorded the textiles wrapping objects, they can be chemically tested for dye to help us reconstruct lost colours which have faded over the centuries since burial, or they can be radiocarbon dated to help us reconstruct the long lives of these objects before they were buried. Certain types of scientific analysis are better suited to particular materials, but with this exceptional range of material we can apply various techniques and learn more about the whole Hoard. Unwrapping the Hoard, literally and figuratively, is a unique and wonderful opportunity.”


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