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.
The current phase of the partnership, which is now entering its tenth year, sees the research focus move on from the first millennium AD to the 9th to 12th centuries, to examine the archaeological evidence which underpins the formation of the nation state of Scotland. This new phase, entitled Creating Scotland, 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.
The partnership also sees the introduction of the Glenmorangie Commission and a tour of the Scotland’s Early Silver exhibition to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Banff in Aberdeenshire and Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway.
As part of the Creating Scotland project, National Museums Scotland and Glenmorangie have commissioned a major new piece of contemporary silverwork for display in the National Museum of Scotland.
Leading artists and designers working in the medium of silver were invited to submit proposals and following close consideration of the applications by the judging panel, the Glenmorangie Commission was awarded to Simone ten Hompel.
German-born Simone is a silversmith of international repute, and has been working with metal for over 40 years. Over the next year, she will work closely with curators here at National Museums Scotland, researching the early medieval collections. This will result in a new contemporary work of art in silver, inspired by the collection and themes that are being researched within the Creating Scotland project.
In 2020 the finished silverwork will go on public display, as part of the permanent collection, within the National Museum of Scotland.
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.
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.
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.
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.