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

Glenmorangie

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.

Early Medieval Scotland

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.  

The Medieval kingdom of Scotland

The new phase of the partnership, which is now entering its tenth year, will see the research focus move on from the first millennium AD to examine the archaeological evidence from the 9th to 12th centuries which underpins the formation of the nation state of Scotland. This will enable researchers to explore objects and evidence of the period, bringing new knowledge and research techniques to bear on a critical period in Scottish history. 

The work will address important questions about how the kingdom of Scotland was created and its connections with the Anglo-Saxon world, Ireland and Scandinavia. The results of the research will be published in a new book and widely disseminated elsewhere.

Dr Martin Goldberg, archaeology curator at National Museums Scotland and Hamish Torrie, Corporate Social Responsibility Director at The Glenmorangie Company, , with one of the National Museum’s most treasured objects, the Monymusk Reliquary

Above: Dr Martin Goldberg, archaeology curator at National Museums Scotland and Hamish Torrie, Corporate Social Responsibility Director at The Glenmorangie Company, , with one of the National Museum’s most treasured objects, the Monymusk Reliquary, which will be part of the next phase of a major research project in partnership with The Glenmorangie Company. Photo © Neil Hanna.

The partnership will also see the introduction of the Glenmorangie Commission, in which contemporary craftspeople working in silver will be invited to submit designs taking inspiration from the collections from the period 9th to 12th century AD. The winning design will be commissioned for Scotland’s national collections and the final piece will go on display in the National Museum of Scotland’s Art and Design galleries.

A further strand of the partnership sees the Scotland’s Early Silver exhibition displayed at the National Museum of Scotland tour to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Banff in Aberdeenshire and Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway.

Scotland’s Early Silver

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 Glenmorangie Project, archaeologists at National Museums Scotland have undertaken 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.

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.

The project included an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, Scotland's Early Silver, which reveals for the first time how silver, not gold, became the most important precious metal in Scotland over the course of the first millennium AD.

The project also supported a series of films exploring the role of silver in the Late Roman and Early Medieval periods.

Creative Spirit

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.  

Jennifer Gray and Johnny Ross with the completed drinking 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 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 Pictish throne in the Glenmorangie distillery

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

Header image: Dr Martin Goldberg, archaeology curator at National Museums Scotland, with one of the National Museum’s most treasured objects, the Monymusk Reliquary, which will be part of the next phase of a major research project in partnership with The Glenmorangie Company. Photo © Neil Hanna.

More

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Discover more about Early Medieval Scotland

Go behind the scenes of the project with curator Alice Blackwell.
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Silver, Status and Society – the transition from Late Roman to Early Medieval Europe: an Arts and Humanities Research Council network

National Museums Scotland is establishing an international network of scholars to explore the role of silver in the emergence of the early medieval kingdoms of Europe. This network has been made possible thanks to an award from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.
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