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Skaill Hoard Exhibition on Loan

Published: 23 July 2013

Skaill Hoard Treasure (image copyright National Museums Scotland) Skaill Hoard Treasure (image copyright National Museums Scotland)ZoomShetland Museum and Archives will unveil an exciting new loan exhibition this week, courtesy of their partnership working with National Museums Scotland, and with sponsorship from Shetland Jewellery.

In March 1858 an Orcadian boy was ou tcatching rabbits at Skaill, Sandwick, when he uncovered something down a rabbit hole. The metal rings and other items were reported to the authorities ,and it was claimed by Crown as an antiquity of national importance. David Linklater had discovered one of the finest hoards of Viking silver ever found in Britain.

The hoard comprised fifteen pounds of bullion, consisting of 115 items, mostly jewellery. One of the twenty-one coins is a dirham, minted in Bagdad (in present-day Iraq) in A.D.945-946. It indicates the hoard was buried in the later 10th century, in the heyday of Earldom of Orkney that ruled the Northern Isles, and the heady days of pagan power struggles. The Skaill cache was carefully concealed in box set-up of stone slabs, but the rich owner/s never recovered the booty, and it lay forgotten for 900 years.

Twisted strand bracelet (image copyright National Museums Scotland) Twisted strand bracelet (image copyright National Museums Scotland)ZoomThe Skaill brooches were possibly produced in the Isle of Man, maybe by the same silversmith, and there are bracelets constructed of strands twisted together. Whatever form it was in, silver was used as money: bangles of a fairly standard weight could be used as payment; bits of broken-up brooches and cut pieces of silver were used in the same way. Silversmiths melted down items into ingots, and these were also a resource for metalworking. Two of the ingots are notched, where someone has tested the metal quality (silver was commonly alloyed to make it less pure).

Part of this collection will be on display at Shetland Museum and Archives from Friday 26th July, though to UpHelly Aa in January 2014.

Jilly Burns, Head of National and International Partnerships at National Museums Scotland said: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with our colleagues in Shetland on the loan and display of these unique treasures. It is hugely important to us to make the National Collections available as widely as possible across the country though programmes, loans, events and exhibitions, and we hope that the Skaill Hoard will prove as fascinating and popular with visitors as our other recent loans to Shetland Museum and Archives."

Coin (image copyright National Museums Scotland) Coin (image copyright National Museums Scotland)ZoomThe loan is timed to mark the opening of the17th Viking Congress on Sunday 4th August. This international academic event is a gathering of scholars of Viking culture, and this is first time it has been back to Shetland since the first Congress was held at Lerwick in 1950. In a departure from the normal schedule, this year's event includes a public lecture day where free tickets are available through Shetland Box Office.