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Deskford carnyx

Dr Fraser Hunter

Dr Fraser Hunter
Principal Curator of Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology
Responsible for: The Prehistory section, Iron Age and Roman collections.
Research interests: Iron Age and Roman material culture; decorative metalwork and Celtic art; jet and related materials; interactions between Rome and the indigenous population.

Fraser Hunter is Principal Curator of Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology.

Fraser Hunter is principal curator of Iron Age and Roman collections. His undergraduate degree and PhD are both from Bradford University, and he has worked at the National Museum since 1991.

His research work focuses around three key topics:

  • understanding Iron Age decorative metalwork (“Celtic art”) in its European context
  • understanding the impact of the Roman world on the peoples of Scotland in its Empire-wide context
  • making the most of Iron Age material culture.

A key strand has been excavation work, both his own and using the results of others through the department’s post-excavation service. A vital element has been following up Treasure Trove discoveries in the field to provide a context for “stray finds”, as at Birnie (Moray) following a scatter of Roman coins, and at Blair Drummond, the findspot of an Iron Age gold torc hoard.

Celtic art: Fraser’s main focus in this area has been the Deskford carnyx, an Iron Age animal-headed trumpet which is one of the key pieces of Celtic art in NMS collections. He also studies the production, use and deposition of Celtic art in Scotland, and is developing an exhibition on “the Celts” in collaboration with colleagues at NMS and the British Museum. A key focus at the moment is understanding the Blair Drummond hoard of gold torcs, discovered in 2009.

Impact of Rome. Fraser has led a series of excavations to understand the impact of Rome on the local population, notably on the major hillfort of Traprain Law (with colleagues from Bradford University and CFA Archaeology) and on the Iron Age settlements of Birnie and Clarkly Hill (Moray). The work in Moray has revealed two of the area’s power centres, with contacts to Rome seen in a wide range of material, including silver coin hoards.

He also develops new approaches to existing finds, in order to get more information from them. Currently, he is managing the re-examination of the hoard of late Roman silver from Traprain Law by an international team of experts. He is also collaborating on a catalogue of Roman finds from non-Roman sites in Scotland as part of an international research project.

Iron Age material culture. Fraser researches a wide range of Iron Age and Roman finds with  a focus on the use of jet and related materials, an understudied area. Post-excavation work on new discoveries serves to push forward best practice and create a better understanding of their interpretation. This leads to reconsideration of many aspects of later prehistoric material culture, and ensures finds in National Museums Scotland's collections are constantly re-examined in the light of new data.

Hunter, F. & Painter, K. (eds). 2013. Late Roman silver: the Traprain Treasure in context. Edinburgh

Hunter, F. & Keppie, L. (eds). 2012. A Roman frontier post and its people: Newstead 1911-2011. Edinburgh

Carter, S., Hunter, F. & Smith, A. 2010. ‘A 5th century BC Iron Age chariot burial from Newbridge, Edinbugh’, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 76: 31-74

Hunter, F. 2008. ‘Celtic art in Roman Britain’ in D. Garrow, C. Gosden & J. D. Hill (ed) Rethinking Celtic art, 129-45. Oxford

Hunter, F. 2007. Beyond the edge of the Empire: Caledonians, Picts and Romans. Rosemarkie

Hunter, F. 2007. ‘Silver for the Barbarians: interpreting denarii hoards in north Britain and beyond’, in R. Hingley & S. Willis (ed) Roman finds: context and theory, 214-24. Oxford

Hunter, F. 2006. ‘Art in later Iron Age society’ in C. Haselgrove (ed) Celtes et Gauloises, l’archéologie face à l’histoire 4: les mutations de la fin de l’âge du Fer, 93-115. Bibracte

Hunter, F. 2001. ‘The Carnyx in Iron Age Europe’ Antiquaries Journal 81: 77-108

Hunter, F. 2001. ‘Roman and native in Scotland: new approaches’ Journal of Roman Archaeology 14: 289-309

Hunter, F. 1997. ‘Iron Age hoarding in Scotland and northern England’, in A. Gwilt & C. Haselgrove (ed), Reconstructing Iron Age Societies, 108-33. Oxford

For further publications see the National Museums Scotland Research Repository.

Deskford carnyx

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