Vikings used Britain's earliest silk to preserve their hoards, as experts say material is treasure in its own right
Vikings used early silk to care for such riches - Geoff Pugh
Vikings used Britain's earliest silk to protect their wealth, scientists have found, as they say the wrappings are "treasures of their own".
Scientists have been awarded a £ 1 million grant to uncover the story of a hoard of Viking wealth found in Dumfries and Galloway.
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National Museums Scotland (NMS), in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, will conduct the three-year project "Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard" to examine the objects in detail.
The 10th century treasury, found by a metal detector in a field in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014 and acquired by NMS in 2017, will feature in an exhibition next year.
The research will include accurate dating of the items, and hopefully identification of their places of origin, which are believed to range from Ireland to the Byzantine Empire and perhaps beyond.
Unpacking the wealth was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the scientists, fascinated by the materials used.
Susanna Harris, professor of archeology at the University of Glasgow and a fellow researcher on the project, said the Galloway collection, in addition to the silver familiar with most of the Viking Age hoards and the much rarer gold, also has an "unprecedented array" of others contains materials such as bronze, glass and rock crystal.
There is also the "extremely rare preservation of organic materials" such as wood, leather, wool, linen and silk, she said.
"Many items are wrapped in textiles, including Scotland's earliest examples of silk, which could have traveled thousands of miles to reach Scotland," said Ms. Harris.
"These types of casings rarely survive and are archaeological treasures in themselves.
"The unusual survival of organic material like textiles will allow us to apply a range of scientific techniques that are normally not possible for precious metals, which tend to dominate treasuries."
The textiles can be chemically tested for dyes to reconstruct lost colors that have faded over the centuries since burial, or they can be radiocarbon dated to reconstruct the history of the objects before they were buried.
The Galloway Hoard: Viking-Age Treasure exhibition opens at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on February 19, and then goes on to the Kirkcudbright Galleries and Aberdeen Art Gallery.
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