The exhibition in Aberdeen features photographs of three newly revealed gold filigree objects from the Hoard, which were bound together with rare silk braids.

These were wrapped in a textile bundle too fragile to display and which is currently being investigated in Edinburgh as part of ongoing research into the Galloway Hoard.

New insights into the wide variety of textiles in the Galloway Hoard, material that rarely survives being buried in the ground, are also featured in the exhibition.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow have identified up to 12 different textiles in the Hoard. According to a press release from the National Museums Scotlands, these recent research findings are the subject of a new interactive display created for the Aberdeen leg of the tour.

"The opening (of the exhibition) went very well. (We have) more of an interim update, perhaps – the first glimpse of some conserved gold objects whose true purpose will be the subject of further research, also some new information on textiles.

"(A total of) 12 different textiles have now been identified, but (there is) more to do on dating and a host of other things," Bruce Blacklaw, Communications Manager at the National Museums Scotland, told The Viking Herald.

Special aestels

The gold filigree objects are often referred to as "aestels," instruments previously thought to hold a piece of bone or wood and be used as a pointer to follow text when reading.

Experts point out that this is the first time that a group of these gold objects has been found together, and the associated textiles provide new clues to what they were used for.

The presence of braided silk within the sockets on the gold objects shows that they were all connected, and this new evidence casts doubt on the previous categorization. Further research will now be carried out on their true purpose.  

The exhibition offers the first chance to see details hidden for over a thousand years, revealed by expert conservation, cleaning, and cutting-edge research. The exhibition is touring thanks to support from the Scottish Government.

The Galloway Hoard is the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland. Buried around 900 CE, the Hoard brings together a stunning variety of objects and materials in one discovery.

"A fabulous opportunity"

"The Galloway Hoard has repeatedly drawn international attention, on its discovery and acquisition by National Museums Scotland as well as through the fascinating discoveries made since through our research program.

"The exhibition is a fabulous opportunity to see the Hoard far more clearly than before and to gain an insight into the amazingly detailed work that we have done and are continuing to do so that we can understand it more fully," Chris Breward, Director of National Museums Scotland, said.

"The Galloway Hoard is one of the most important collections of artifacts ever discovered in Scotland.

"National Museums Scotland's exhibition tour of the Hoard provides a unique opportunity for audiences in Scotland and visitors to view its many treasures.

"There were record numbers viewing the exhibition in Kirkcudbright, and this wonderful opportunity now moves to Aberdeen. I am particularly pleased that the Scottish Government was able to provide GBP 150,000 towards its acquisition, with a further GBP 150,000 towards the conservation work and tour," Culture Secretary Angus Robertson stated.

Martin Goldberg and a relic bead pendant with traces of rare textiles from the Galloway Hoard. Photo: Aberdeen City Council

Historical significance

"This exhibition gives local people a welcome opportunity to appreciate this fascinating treasure. The display allows us to enjoy the intricate craftsmanship and consider the historical significance of these intriguing items.

"They belong to everyone, so I hope that as many people as possible will visit this important example of our shared heritage. It is exceptionally fortunate that the Book of Deer can also be seen locally just now. 

Together, these artifacts raise many questions about Scotland's culture and identity right at the start of the Middle Ages.

"It's important to have objects such as these on display in Aberdeen because inspecting and interpreting this kind of artifacts helps us to understand how modern Scotland came to be," Councillor Martin Greig, Aberdeen City Council culture spokesperson, accentuated.

Four distinct parcels

The exhibition shows how the Hoard was buried in four distinct parcels.

The top layer was a parcel of silver bullion and a rare Anglo-Saxon cross, separated from a lower layer of three parts: firstly, another parcel of silver bullion wrapped in leather and twice as big as the one above; secondly, a cluster of four elaborately decorated silver "ribbon" arm-rings bound together and concealing in their midst a small wooden box containing three items of gold; and thirdly a lidded, silver gilt vessel wrapped in layers of textile and packed full of carefully wrapped objects that appear to be have been curated like relics or heirlooms.

They include beads, pendants, brooches, bracelets, and other trinkets, often strung or wrapped with silk. 

Discovering and decoding the secrets of The Galloway Hoard is a multi-layered process. Conservation of the metal objects has revealed decorations, inscriptions, and other details that were not previously visible. Research into many aspects of the Hoard continues and will take many years.

Some items are too fragile to be displayed, particularly those with rare textile survivals. The exhibition uses AV and 3D reconstructions to enable visitors to understand these objects and the work that is being done with them.  

Ongoing research

Research meanwhile continues into the Galloway Hoard. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has awarded support for a GBP 1 million, three-year research project, Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard, led by National Museums Scotland in partnership with the University of Glasgow which commenced in June.

The Galloway Hoard was discovered in 2014. National Museums Scotland acquired it in 2017 with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, and the Scottish Government, as well as a major public fundraising campaign. Since then, it has been undergoing extensive conservation and research at Edinburgh's National Museums Collection Centre.  

The Galloway Hoard will eventually go on long-term display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, with a significant and representative portion of it also displayed long-term at Kirkcudbright Galleries.  

The exhibition is accompanied by a book detailing the most up-to-date research findings. It will be supported by various digital and learning activities and resources.  

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