A Pictish hoard from Aberdeenshire

Later this month, a new exhibition will be unveiled at the University of Aberdeen. Among the displays will be a number of items from one of Scotland’s most significant archaeological discoveries of recent times: a hoard of Roman and Pictish silver objects.

The hoard was found in March 2013 in a field at Ley Farm near Fordyce in Aberdeenshire. It was discovered by metal detectorist Alistair McPherson who was searching the area with a team of archaeologists from the National Museums of Scotland and Aberdeen University’s ‘Northern Picts’ project. Comprising more than 100 items – including coins, brooches and bracelets – the hoard is currently being examined by specialists at NMS. Many of the items are broken or folded, suggesting that the silver was earmarked for recycling into new objects or for distribution via trading networks. Moulds for metalworking have been found at the important Pictish settlement of Rhynie, about 20 miles to the south, and may give an indication of how the silver from the hoard would have been used if it had been melted down rather than buried.

Gaulcross Pictish hoard

The discovery was made near the site of two stone circles formerly known as North Gaulcross and South Gaulcross. Little trace of these monuments survives today but the northern circle yielded a hoard of Pictish silver nearly 200 years ago. This treasure, often described as the ‘Gaulcross Hoard’, was unearthed in the 1830s during agricultural improvement work. Unfortunately, only three objects – a pin, a chain and a bracelet – were preserved for future generations by being presented to the museum at Banff. The rest were lost or destroyed.

Gaulcross Pictish hoard

Silver chain and pin from the 19th century Gaulcross Hoard (illustration in John Stuart’s Sculptured Stones of Scotland)

A selection of items from the new Gaulcross hoard will be displayed in the King’s Museum at Aberdeen University as part of the exhibition Crafting Kingdoms: the Rise of the Northern Picts which runs from 20 January to 31 May 2015.

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Notes & links

Webpage for the exhibition Crafting Kingdoms: the Rise of the Northern Picts

The older hoard discovered in the nineteenth century was described by RBK Stevenson & J Emery, `The Gaulcross hoard of Pictish silver’ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 97 (1966), 206-11. [full text available online, as are many other old articles from PSAS]

Site record for Gaulcross at the RCAHMS Canmore database.

Three reports on the new Gaulcross hoard from the University of Aberdeen, the Megalithic Portal and BBC News.

Hoards are quite a hot topic on this blog at the moment. Last autumn I wrote about the discovery of a hoard of Viking treasure in South West Scotland.

Rhynie also got mentioned here last year, in a couple of blogposts, one of which looked at a famous Pictish monument known as the Craw Stane.

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5 comments on “A Pictish hoard from Aberdeenshire

  1. Jo Woolf says:

    The workmanship in that chain is just superb – such a shame that the rest of that hoard was lost. I guess we must be grateful for what has survived. I look forward to hearing more about the new exhibition – sounds exciting!

  2. ritaroberts says:

    I would love to see this exhibition but there is no way I can get there, so can you tell me if it will be online at all.?

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