Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure
30 July to 23 October 2022, Aberdeen Art Gallery
The Galloway Hoard, one of the most important UK archaeological finds of the century will go on display from 30 July at Aberdeen Art Gallery, with yet more fascinating discoveries unveiled.
The exhibition in Aberdeen will feature images of three newly revealed gold filigree objects from the Hoard, which were bound together with rare silk braids. These were wrapped in a textile bundle too fragile to display and which is currently being investigated in Edinburgh as part of ongoing research into the Hoard.
New insights into the rich variety of textiles in the Galloway Hoard, material which rarely survives being buried in the ground, will also be unveiled. Researchers from the University of Glasgow have identified up to 12 different textiles in the Hoard. These recent research findings are the subject of a new interactive display created for the Aberdeen leg of the tour.
The gold filigree objects are often referred to as “aestels,” instruments which were previously thought to hold a piece of bone or wood and be used as a pointer to follow text when reading. This is the first time that a group of these gold objects have been found together and the associated textiles provide new clues to what they were used for. The presence of braided silk within the sockets on the gold objects shows that they were all connected and this new evidence casts doubt on the previous categorisation. Further research will be carried out on their true purpose and usage.
The exhibition, Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure, offers the first chance to see details hidden for over a thousand years, revealed by expert conservation, painstaking cleaning and cutting-edge research. The exhibition is touring thanks to support from the Scottish Government.
The Galloway Hoard is the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland. Buried around AD900, the Hoard brings together a stunning variety of objects and materials in one discovery.
Dr Chris Breward, Director of National Museums Scotland said:
“The Galloway Hoard has repeatedly drawn international attention, on its discovery and its acquisition by National Museums Scotland as well as through the fascinating discoveries made since through our programme of research. The exhibition is a fabulous opportunity to see the Hoard far more clearly than before and to gain an insight into the amazingly detailed work that we have done and are continuing to do in order that we can understand it more fully.”
Culture Secretary Angus Robertson said:
“The Galloway Hoard is one of the most important collections of artefacts ever discovered in Scotland. National Museums Scotland’s exhibition tour of the Hoard is providing a unique opportunity for audiences in Scotland and visitors to view its many treasures.
“There were record numbers viewing the exhibition in Kirkcudbright and this wonderful opportunity now moves to Aberdeen. I am particularly pleased that the Scottish Government was able to provide £150,000 towards its acquisition, with a further £150,000 towards the conservation work and tour.”
Councillor Martin Greig, Aberdeen City Council culture spokesperson, said:
“This exhibition gives local people a welcome opportunity to appreciate this fascinating treasure. The display allows us to enjoy the intricate craftsmanship and to consider the historical significance of these intriguing items. They belong to everyone so I hope that as many people as possible will visit this important example of our shared heritage. It is especially fortunate that the Book of Deer can also be seen locally just now. Together, these artefacts raise many questions about Scotland’s culture and identity right at the start of the Middle Ages. It’s important to have objects such as these on display in Aberdeen because inspecting and interpreting these kind of artefacts helps us to understand how modern Scotland came to be.”
The exhibition shows how the Hoard was buried in four distinct parcels. The top layer was a parcel of silver bullion and a rare Anglo-Saxon cross, separated from a lower layer of three parts: firstly another parcel of silver bullion wrapped in leather and twice as big as the one above; secondly a cluster of four elaborately decorated silver ‘ribbon’ arm-rings bound together and concealing in their midst a small wooden box containing three items of gold; and thirdly a lidded, silver gilt vessel wrapped in layers of textile and packed full of carefully wrapped objects that appear to be have been curated like relics or heirlooms. They include beads, pendants, brooches, bracelets and other curios, often strung or wrapped with silk.
Discovering and decoding the secrets of The Galloway Hoard is a multi-layered process. Conservation of the metal objects has revealed decorations, inscriptions and other details that were not previously visible. Research into many aspects of the Hoard continues and will take many years. Some items are too fragile to be displayed, particularly those with rare textile survivals. The exhibition will use AV and 3D reconstructions to enable visitors to understand these objects and the work that is being done with them.
Research meanwhile continues into the Galloway Hoard. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has awarded support for a £1m, three-year research project, Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard, led by National Museums Scotland in partnership with the University of Glasgow which commenced in June.
The exhibition in Kirkcudbright was updated in December with a digital display detailing new research into a rock crystal jar, part of the Hoard which remained in Edinburgh for study and conservation. Removal of the fragile textile wrappings revealed an inscription bearing the name ‘Hyguald,’ thought to be a Northumbrian bishop. The revelation led to national and international news coverage for the Hoard and for the exhibition in Kirkcudbright, where it attracted record-breaking visitor numbers of over 40,000.
The Galloway Hoard was discovered in 2014. It was acquired by National Museums Scotland in 2017 with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund and the Scottish Government as well as a major public fundraising campaign. Since then, it has been undergoing extensive conservation and research at the National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh.
The Galloway Hoard will eventually go on long-term display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh with a significant and representative portion of it also displayed long-term at Kirkcudbright Galleries.
The exhibition is accompanied by a book detailing the most up-to-date research findings and will be supported by a range of digital and learning activities and resources.
Notes to editors
1.About National Museums Scotland
National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in the UK and Europe and it looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.
- Twitter: @NtlMuseumsScot
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/NationalMuseumsScotland
- Instagram: @NationalMuseumsScotland
2. Bheireadh Oifis nam Meadhanan eadar-theangachadh Gàidhlig den bhrath-naidheachd seachad do bhuidhinn mheadhanan bharantaichte. Cuiribh fios do dh'Oifis nam Meadhanan airson bruidhinn air cinn-latha freagarrach.
3. About the National Heritage Memorial Fund
The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was set up in 1980 to save the most outstanding parts of our national heritage, in memory of those who have given their lives for the UK www.nhmf.org.uk @NationalHeritageMemorialFund