Research Project to Unwrap Secrets of the Galloway Hoard

Published: 21 December 2020

National Museums Scotland has been awarded a grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to conduct a £1million research project into the Galloway Hoard, one of the most important UK archaeological finds of the century.

National Museums Scotland has been awarded a grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to conduct a £1million research project into the Galloway Hoard, one of the most important UK archaeological finds of the century.

The three-year research project, entitled ‘Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard” will be carried out in partnership with the University of Glasgow.

The Galloway Hoard brings together the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland. Buried around the end of the 9th century, the Hoard brings together a stunning variety of objects and materials in one discovery.

The Hoard will go on display from February at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in a new exhibition, Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure. The exhibition will offer the first chance to see details hidden for over a thousand years, revealed by expert conservation and painstaking cleaning work.

The exhibition is the story so far: the research project will enable far more detailed analysis and understanding of the Hoard, including precise dating of the material and, it is hoped, identification of the places of origin, which are thought to range from Ireland to the Byzantine empire and perhaps beyond.

The project will include 3D digital modelling, radiocarbon dating, the engagement of three post-doctoral research assistants, and research symposiums supporting a range of public outputs including the exhibition and tour, publications, online resources and a programme for schools. The AHRC award was for the sum of £791,293.

Dr Martin Goldberg, Principal Curator, Medieval Archaeology & History at National Museums Scotland, and lead investigator on the project said,

“Most hoards are usually interpreted as buried wealth, with the focus on events surrounding the moment of burial. The Galloway Hoard challenges this view and presents a rare opportunity to ask in much more detail about: how, and why, people assembled and collected hoards during the Viking Age.

"We’ve already discovered a great deal through the conservation work, and people will be able to see that in the forthcoming exhibition. However, this research project will enable us to go much further using scientific techniques and international collaboration.”

Dr Susanna Harris Lecturer in Archaeology the University of Glasgow, and co-investigator on the project said,

“The Galloway hoard is the richest, most varied and well-preserved collection of precious and exotic objects surviving from Viking-age Britain and Ireland. Beyond the silver, familiar from most Viking-age hoards, and the much rarer gold, is an unprecedented array of other materials such as bronze, glass, and rock crystal, entangled with the outstandingly rare preservation of organic materials (wood, leather, wool, linen, and silk).

"Many objects are wrapped in textiles, including Scotland’s earliest examples of silk, which could have travelled thousands of miles to reach Scotland. These types of wrappings rarely ever survive and are archaeological treasures in their own right. The unusual survival of organic material like textiles will allow us to apply a range of scientific techniques that usually aren’t possible for the precious metals that tend to dominate treasure hoards.

"Once we have identified and recorded the textiles wrapping objects, they can be chemically tested for dye to help us reconstruct lost colours which have faded over the centuries since burial, or they can be radiocarbon dated to help us reconstruct the long lives of these objects before they were buried. Certain types of scientific analysis are better suited to particular materials, but with this exceptional range of material we can apply various techniques and learn more about the whole Hoard. Unwrapping the Hoard, literally and figuratively, is a unique and wonderful opportunity.” 

Further Information

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

The exhibition, which is supported by Baillie Gifford Investment Managers, will open at the National Museum of Scotland on 19 February 2021, and will tour thereafter to Kirkcudbright Galleries (summer 2021 to spring 2022) and Aberdeen Art Gallery thanks to funding from the Scottish Government.

Following the tour and the research project, 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 will be accompanied by a new book detailing the most up to date research findings.

About National Museums Scotland

National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in the UK and Europe and it looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.

Bheireadh Oifis nam Meadhanan eadar-theangachadh Gàidhlig den bhrath-naidheachd seachad do bhuidhinn mheadhanan bharantaichte. Cuiribh fios do dh'Oifis nam Meadhanan airson bruidhinn air cinn-latha freagarrach.

About the National Heritage Memorial Fund

The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was set up in 1980 to save the most outstanding parts of our national heritage, in memory of those who have given their lives for the UK  

About the Arts and Humanities Research Council

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, funds internationally outstanding independent researchers across the whole range of the arts and humanities: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages and literature, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more.

The quality and range of research supported by AHRC works for the good of UK society and culture and contributes both to UK economic success and to the culture and welfare of societies across the globe.  

About The University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow has been changing the world since 1451. It is a world top 100 university (THE, QS) with one of the largest research bases in the UK. It was recently named Times Higher Education (THE) University of the Year.

The University is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK Universities with annual research income of more than £179m.

The University’s #TeamUofG community is truly international with over 8000 staff and 28,0000 students from more than 140 countries.

A 2019 Time Out survey placed Glasgow in the top 10 cities in the world. Ranked between Berlin and Paris, Glasgow was voted number one for both friendliness and affordability.




First published: 21 December 2020