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Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard

This 3-year project aims to challenge our understanding of the process of hoarding through an interdisciplinary study of one of the best-preserved hoards found in Britain.

Last updated: 13 June 2023

About the project

Buried around AD 900, and discovered in 2014 near Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway, the Galloway hoard is the richest, most varied and well-preserved collection of precious and exotic objects hoarded together in Viking-age Britain and Ireland.

Unusually, the Galloway Hoard contains both organic and inorganic artefacts, and evidence of accumulation with separate bundles and caches. In addition to containing silver and gold, the Galloway hoard is unique due to the preservation of textiles and leather that wrap the objects, creating the opportunity to investigate the process of gathering and preparing a hoard like never before.

Project details

Project title

Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard

Project active

2021 - 2024

Research theme

Scotland's Material Heritage

Dr Martin Goldberg - Principal Investigator
Senior Curator Early Medieval Medieval and Viking Collections, National Museums Scotland
Martin's interests include ancient religion, Christianity, Celtic art, early medieval material culture, sculpture, Pictish symbols, silver, hoards and hoarding practices. He co-authored Early Medieval Scotland: Individuals, Communities and Ideas (2012) and Scotland’s Earliest Silver (2017) based on research from National Museums Scotland’s award-winning partnership with The Glenmorangie Company. He has co-curated the 2013 Vikings exhibition (in partnership with the Swedish History museum) and Celts: art and identity (in partnership with the British Museum) contributing several essays for the accompanying (2015) book.

Dr Susanna Harris - Co-investigator
Lecturer in Archaeology at the School of Humanities, University of Glasgow
Susanna's research focuses on the analysis of archaeological material culture. She specialises in textiles, leather and basketry using scientific, theoretical and experimental approaches. Harris has co-edited two books: Wrapping and Unwrapping Material Culture: Archaeological and Anthropological Approaches and Why Leather? The material and cultural dimensions of leather. She teaches on the Material Culture and Artefact Studies MSc and modules including cloth and clothing at Honours and Postgraduate level.

Dr Alexandra Makin
Post-doctoral Research Associate, National Museums Scotland
Alexandra is a professional embroiderer and textile archaeologist specialising in the early medieval period. She is interested in processes of making and the place and meaning of embroidery and textiles within early medieval material culture. Her research is interdisciplinary involving scientific, theoretical, experimental, historical and art historical approaches. She has published a monograph, The Lost Art of the Anglo-Saxon World: the sacred and secular power of embroidery. She is co-editing a volume exploring collaborative working methods between researchers, conservators, curators and makers of Viking Age textiles and their decoration. Alexandra is interested in outreach, running the online blog Early Medieval (mostly) Textiles, workshops, giving talks and undertaking consultancy.

Dr Mary Davis
Galloway Hoard Researcher, National Museums Scotland
Mary is an archaeological conservator and materials analyst, specialising in the study of inorganic artefacts. She is interested in the integration of technical and elemental analysis of objects to aid the interpretation of material culture in its wider context. She is drawn by how object biographies can feed into an understanding of technological choices within past societies, particularly through the examination of hoards and hoarding practices. She has published in conservation, archaeology and archaeological science journals and books.

Dr Adrián Maldonado
Galloway Hoard Researcher, National Museums Scotland
Adrían is cataloguing and writing up the hacksilver and bullion objects from the Galloway Hoard, and investigating the Viking-age context of hoarding. He is an archaeologist specialising in early medieval material culture, mortuary archaeology, and the archaeology of Christianity. He has published widely on early medieval burial in Scotland, and has recently been part of projects reinterpreting early medieval excavations at the monasteries of Iona and Whithorn. His most recent project was a new look at the National Museum’s collections relating to the Viking Age as part of the Glenmorangie Research Project, resulting in the book Crucible of Nations: Scotland from Viking Age to Medieval Kingdom (2021).

The British Museum, London for the identification of wood and textiles fibres using high-powered microscopy.

Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC, Glasgow) for radiocarbon dating program and Bayesian analysis.

Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, Brussels, (IRPA / KIK), for the analysis of textile dyes using High Performance Liquid Chromotography (HPLC).

University of Glasgow Polyomics for the identification of leather species using proteomics.

X-ray computed tomography system at the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow

Davis, M. & S. Harris. 2023. Textiles in a Viking Age hoard: Identifying ephemeral traces of textiles in metal corrosion products. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 103796.

Goldberg, Martin 2022. 'The Galloway Hoard', in Tom Horne, Elizabeth Pierce, and Rachel Barrowman (eds), The Viking Age in Scotland: Studies in Scottish Scandinavian Archaeology, pp 262-275. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Goldberg, Martin, and Davis, Mary (2021). The Galloway Hoard: Viking-Age treasure. Edinburgh: National Museums Scotland.

Graham-Campbell, James (2020). 'The Galloway Hoard: Viking/Anglo-Saxon Interaction in South-West Scotland', in A. Pedersen & S. M. Sindbæk (eds), Viking Encounters. Proceedings of the Eighteenth Viking Congress, Denmark, August 6-12, 2017, 449–464. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag.

For more multimedia outputs on the Galloway Hoard, including videos, podcasts, magazine articles and blogs, see the Galloway Hoard Collection by the National Museums Scotland Repository.

While the bulk of the hoard contains silver items recognised as forms of bullion, the presence of objects of glass, mineral, rock crystal and curated earthen balls do not fit traditional concepts of Viking-age wealth. A preliminary radiocarbon date (AD 670-780) of one of the textiles covering the lidded silver-gilt vessel is at least a century earlier than the silver bullion in the hoard (c.AD 900).

The composition and cumulative potency of bringing the Galloway hoard together provides an exciting opportunity to re-examine why, and how, people amassed, curated and buried objects. Through focusing on the process of assembling and collecting, this Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard project will provide numerous gateways into the wider Viking-age world. To do this we combine methods from digital imaging, artefact analysis, archaeological science and social theory.

Research Update videos

When the Galloway Hoard went on display in 2021-2022, the Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard Project team developed 'Research Updates' to add something new and exclusive to each stop of the tour.

For the Kirkcudbright Gallery exhibition (9 October 2021 to 10 July 2022), we revealed for the first time the rock crystal and gold jar and its mysterious inscription. For the Aberdeen Art Gallery exhibition (30 July to 23 October 2022) we focused on the textile research, and revealed the gold socketed mounts from the silken cord bundle. Now that the 2021-2022 National Tour has ended, the short videos we created for those exhibitions are available here.

Please note that the Research Update videos may not appear for mobile users. If this is the case for you, please use a laptop or desktop computer to view them.

Research Update 1

Dr Martin Goldberg (National Museums Scotland), Prof Leslie Webster (former curator, British Museum), and Dr Alex Woolf (University of St Andrews) discuss the Galloway Hoard's rock crystal jar.

Research Update 2

Dr Adrián Maldonado (National Museums Scotland), Dr Susanna Harris (University of Glasgow), and Dr Alexandra Makin (University of Glasgow) discuss the rare surviving textiles from the Galloway Hoard.

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This research is carried out in partnership between National Museums Scotland's and the University of Glasgow with £1 million in funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council

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