The project is a pioneering partnership between The Glenmorangie Company and National Museums Scotland that was inspired by the Hilton of Cadboll stone. This stunning piece of early medieval sculpture was found close to the Glenmorangie distillery in Tain, Easter Ross, and is on display at The National Museum of Scotland in the Early People gallery. The carvings on the stone also provided the inspiration for the Glenmorangie brand logo.
Thanks to The Glenmorangie Company’s support, National Museums Scotland has been able to undertake ground-breaking research on this fascinating period of Scotland’s early history. Beautiful, elaborate and sophisticated objects, sculptured stones, and manuscripts were produced in Scotland during this time, and through the project we are able to uncover their stories and share them with everyone.
The Early Medieval or Early Historic period (around AD 300 – 900) is a very important part of Scotland’s past, coming immediately before the birth of the earliest political entity known as ‘Scotland’, and yet it is not a well-known period of Scotland’s history. Since 2008, The Glenmorangie Project has successfully uncovered hidden mysteries from this period and enhanced current archaeological knowledge.
Precious metals underpinned the emergence of early medieval kingdoms across Europe by providing the raw material used to make prestige objects. While some places favoured gold, in Scotland silver was the most important precious metal for over six hundred years. Silver arrived during Roman times and this new and exotic material quickly became the most prestigious material for displaying power. It remained important across the period, being made into large silver chains, brooches, and religious objects.
As part of the project, archaeologists at National Museums Scotland are undertaking a programme of research into Late Roman and Early Medieval silver. This includes hoards such as the Late Roman treasure from Traprain Law, and two hoards containing hacked-up silver, coins and jewellery from both the Late Roman and Early Medieval periods found in Fife and Aberdeenshire. The breadth of National Museums Scotland’s collections, with the support of The Glenmorangie Company, puts National Museums in a unique position to reveal the role of silver in the development of the first kingdoms of Scotland.
The project includes the production of three films about Scotland's Early Silver. In this first film, Dr Fraser Hunter introduces the Traprain Law Treasure.
In the second film in the series, Alice Blackwell explores the Norrie's Law hoard.
In the third film in the series, Alice Blackwell explores the St Ninian's Isle Treasure.
To celebrate and better understand some of the beautiful objects created during this period, the Glenmorangie Project has also supported a creative collaboration between our museum archaeologists and contemporary craftspeople and artists.
The collaboration produced beautiful recreations of early medieval objects, some of which have only survived as fragments or in imagery. The objects were on display at National Museum of Scotland from October 2013 to February 2014 in an exhibition called Creative Spirit: Revealing Early Medieval Scotland.
Recreating these objects using a mix of traditional methods and cutting-edge technology allowed us to deepen our understanding of their construction and purpose, and also gave us a unique insight into the people and society that made and used them. The exhibition displayed these historical recreations alongside the original objects.
You can find out more about the objects and how they were recreated here.
The Glenmorangie Research Project has produced a richly illustrated book which uses objects to explore the lives of individuals and communities in Early Medieval Scotland, as well as their ideas and ideologies.
The book presents a re-evaluation of this key period of Scotland's past, a time that saw the creation of some of the most treasured and enigmatic objects from within the National Museum of Scotland's collections.
Early Medieval Scotland: Individuals, Communities and Ideas by David Clarke, Alice Blackwell and Martin Goldberg is published by National Museums Scotland and a new paperback edition can be purchased from the online shop.
Header image: Alice Blackwell, The Glenmorangie Research Fellow examines a crescent shaped object from the early medieval silver hoard recently found in Aberdeenshire.