Tenth century silk found in Scotland

In 2014 the Galloway Hoard was discovered by a metal detectorist. One of the highlights of this hoard was this vessel, which had been wrapped in textiles. Many of the items inside it had also been wrapped in protective textiles, including silk samite, which may have come from a weaving workshop in Byzantium, North Africa or Southern Spain.

The silver-gilt Carolingian container with the remains of the textile wrappings clearly visible

Scientists have now been given a grant of £1 million to enable them to further examine the history of this hoard of Viking wealth. National Museums Scotland (NMS) will carry out the three-year project, which is entitled “Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard”, in partnership with the University of Glasgow.

Dr Susanna Harris, Lecturer in Archaeology the University of Glasgow (who has also worked on the textiles from Must Farm), 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.”  University of Glasgow website.

A fabulous gold pin in the shape of a bird

An excellent overview of the hoard can be found on the website of National Museums Scotland. This includes several videos of the objects – highly recommended for jewellery lovers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.