Discover the story of Scotland’s early silver and how this precious metal helped to shape the first kingdoms of Scotland.

Today gold is more valuable than silver, but in the first millennium AD silver was the most powerful material in Scotland. Scotland’s earliest silver arrived with the Roman army and had a lasting impact on local society, quickly becoming associated with prestige and power.

In the centuries that followed, Roman silver objects were hacked and melted down to make iconic early medieval treasures like the massive silver chains. By AD700 the silver had been recycled many times and was used to make powerful objects such as the famous Hunterston Brooch.

The Glenmorangie Research Project, Scotland’s Early Silver, exploring the use of silver in Late Roman and Early Medieval Scotland (AD 300-900).

St Ninian's Isle Treasure

This fascinating hoard of treasure was discovered during excavations on St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland, in 1958. It consists of 28 silver and silver-gilt objects, all decorated, made during the second half of the eighth century. Most of the objects are considered to be Pictish, which means they would have been made and used in the eastern and northern areas of Scotland.

Norrie's Law Hoard

One of the largest Pictish hoards ever to be found, estimates suggest that the Norrie’s Law hoard originally contained almost 12kg of silver. Most of the hoard was lost soon after its discovery, and less than a kilogram survives today.

Traprain Law Treasure

In 1919, archaeologists excavating the Law discovered a stunning hoard of buried treasure made up of over 250 fragments of objects which have been cut up either for exchange as bullion or for melting down and recycling into new objects. Coins in the hoard date from the early 5th century AD, the dying days of Roman Britain when the province of Britannia was under attack from all sides.

Massive silver chains

These massive silver chains are a symbol of power and the reality if the sheer amount of silver is striking: the links make a special kind of heavy clink as they shift, and holding a chain for any length of time is hard work.  Handling a massive silver chain brings two questions to the fore. Why wear a three-kilo chain around your neck? And when that chain is made from solid silver why bury it in the ground?

Scotland's Early Silver: A Live Preview

Live from Scotland’s Early Silver exhibition, our curators Alice Blackwell and Fraser Hunter talk about the story of Scotland’s early silver and how this precious metal helped to shape the first kingdoms of Scotland. 

Scotland's Early Silver: A Live Guided Tour

Live from our new Scotland’s Early Silver exhibition, Alice Blackwell, Glenmorangie Research Fellow and co-curator of Scotland's Early Silver guides us through the exhibition.

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