Secrets of Scotland’s origins to be unearthed

The exhibition of early Scottish silver will tour Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna
The exhibition of early Scottish silver will tour Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Experts from the Capital are embarking on a major new project that could unlock secrets of the origins of modern-day Scotland.

They will spend three years trying to uncover new evidence on the “building blocks” of what would become the medieval kingdom of Scotland.

The National Museum of Scotland, which is spearheading the project, says it will involve the fresh examination of archaeological evidence dating from the ninth to 12th century, “which underpins the formation of the nation state of Scotland”.

The latest research techniques will be deployed to re-examine centuries-old objects from the museum’s collection centre on Edinburgh’s waterfront.

Major new discoveries may be made at archaeological sites around the country where historic objects dating from the period have previously been unearthed. It is hoped the new project will help fill in significant gaps in knowledge about the formation of Alba, the forerunner of the kingdom of Scotland.

It may also cast fresh light on “the intellectual, political and economic connections across what would become Scotland and with the rest of the world”.

Museum principal curator Dr Martin Goldberg said the era being explored had previously been studied more from historical evidence than archaeological.

He added: “This is a critical period of Scotland’s story, providing the building blocks for what was to become the fully formed medieval kingdom of the Scots, which in turn forms the basis of much of the modern Scotland that we now recognise.

“The project offers an exciting opportunity to deliver new insights into iconic objects and place them within the bigger story of the coalescing medieval kingdom, insights that will be of great value and interest to the academic community and the general public. The period we’ll be looking at starts with the ninth century and the Viking raids in the west side of what would become Scotland. At that time, there was a real mosaic of different peoples competing. There was then a coalescing of a Gaelic kingdom in the east side of the country, which became the foundation of the medieval kingdom of Scotland.

“By the time of the 12th century, things had changed dramatically. There was a king, David I, who was minting coins. They were beginning to use things like charters for land holdings.

“There were monastic movements coming in setting up large abbeys and it was starting to look much more like a European kingdom. Between 800 and 1200, Scotland didn’t really exist. But by the time you get to 1200 it has become this political thing we can follow through historical records.”