The Glenmorangie Research Project on Early Medieval Scotland began in 2008 and since then has been generating exciting new research on this important period of Scotland’s past.


The project was born when The Glenmorangie Company was inspired by the stunning Hilton of Cadboll stone, on display in the Museum’s Early People gallery. The stone was found near the Glenmorangie distillery in Tain, Easter Ross and has been used as inspiration for the company’s brand logo.

When was the Early Medieval period?

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’. Yet, it is not very well known; to many people it needs situating in time in relation to more familiar periods – the Romans coming just before, and the Vikings appearing just after.

The project is undertaking a massive amount of new research on the archaeology of this period. Beautiful, elaborate and sophisticated objects, sculptured stones, and manuscripts were produced in Scotland during this time.

Norries Law plaques

Above: Silver plaques found at Norrie's Law in Fife.

Silver hoard discovery

The next three-year phase of the Glenmorangie Research Project begins in 2014. As part of the project, archaeologists at National Museums Scotland are embarking on a programme of research into a hoard containing Late Roman and Early Medieval silver, which has been unearthed from a field in Aberdeenshire. This exciting find contains over 100 pieces of hacked-up silver, coins and jewellery, and is the most northern Late Roman hacksilver hoard to be found in Europe.

The Glenmorangie Research Project will enable further investigation into the importance of silver, from the very earliest appearance in Scotland during Roman times, to its use in decorating later high status silver objects. This new find is a significant addition to the story of early Scottish silver. The breadth of National Museums Scotland’s collections, with the support of The Glenmorangie Company, puts National Museums in a unique position to explore how silver, as a new and exotic material, quickly became the most prestigious material for displaying power in Early Medieval Scotland.

Alice Blackwell, The Glenmorangie Research Fellow and Hamish Torrie, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at The Glenmorangie Company  examine a crescent shaped brooch fragment from the Roman Silver Hoard found in Aberdeenshire. Photo by Phil Wilkinson.

Above: Alice Blackwell, The Glenmorangie Research Fellow and Hamish Torrie, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at The Glenmorangie Company, examine the hoard. Photo by Phil Wilkinson.

Creative Spirit

From October 2013 to February 2014, the work of the Glenmorangie Research Project was revealed in an innovative exhibition at National Museum of Scotland called Creative Spirit: Revealing Early Medieval Scotland.

An important aspect of the research saw our museum archaeologists collaborate with contemporary craftspeople and artists to create new versions of objects from the Early Medieval Period, some of which have only survived as fragments or in imagery.

Jennifer Gray and Johnny Ross with the completed horns

Above: Makers Jennifer Gray and Johnny Ross in the Creative Spirit exhibition, with the drinking horns they recreated using traditional methods and digital technology.

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 these objects. 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 Pictish throne in the Glenmorangie distillery

Above: Recreation of a Pictish throne in the Glenmorangie distillery.

We are delighted that Creative Spirit has been nominated for a Global Fine Art Award 2014. This award programme recognises and rewards the best fine art exhibitions and installations of the past year. Creative Spirit has been nominated in the Ancient Art category, and also for the Youniversal award, decided by public vote. 

Publishing the past

Early medieval scotland

The findings of the Glenmorangie Research Project are revealed in an illustrated book which uses objects to explore the lives of individuals and communities during this period, 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 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.