Scotland’s treasures: Ancient discoveries everyone can marvel at
A MEDIEVAL silver ring and a Roman talisman shaped like an eagle emerging from a flower with a berry in its mouth, symbolising fertility, are among discoveries made in Scotland in the past year.
In total, 152 artefacts were claimed by the Crown and gifted to museums, while 87 were returned to finders. Rewards worth a combined £36,535 have been claimed, with individual pay-outs ranging from £15 to £6,000, the seventh annual Treasure Trove Report revealed.
The silver ring, found at Ballinbreich in Fife, dates from about 1350 to 1400. Known as a fede ring because of the clasped hands on the bezel, and used as a wedding ring or token of affection, it is engraved with the inscription IHESUN in Lombardic script. This is a contraction of Ihesus-Nazarenus Rex ioderum – Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews – and was commonly thought to protect the wearer against violent death.
Stuart Campbell, head of the treasure trove unit and an expert in medieval archeology, said the ring was important as it showed the European concept of “courtly love” had reached Scotland.
“This is a very European idea from the French court and shows European cultural influences were appearing in Scotland about the culturally appropriate way for the relationships to be conducted,” he said.
The talisman, shaped like an eagle, was found in Selkirk, in the Borders, and is the first Roman relic of its kind to have been found north of the Border.
Catherine Dyer, the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, who is responsible for claiming unowned objects for the Crown under treasure trove law, said: “Some outstanding and very significant finds have been reported, preserved and displayed in museum collections around Scotland.
“Thanks should be given to the hundreds of members of the public who have played an important part by reporting their finds and in doing so have assisted in preserving the history of Scotland for all to enjoy.”
Medieval (c.1200) silver seal matrix set with Roman intaglio, Doune, Stirling
Seal matrices were used to impress wax seals on documents. Like many, this bears the owner’s name Thomas de Lorie. His seal would have marked him as a cultured and learned individual.
Roman eagle-headed terminal, Selkirk, Borders
A copper alloy mount cast in the shape of the head of an eagle, the sacred bird of Juno. It is shown emerging from a flower with a berry in the beak, a symbol of good luck or fertility. Such mounts were used on the frames of Roman wagons.
Medieval figurine and associated finds, Dunkeld, Perthshire
A cast copper alloy figure of Christ from a processional or altar cross. The figure is crowned and clothed in a knee-length perizoma knotted centrally at the waist. The clothing and appearance would suggest mid-12th century. The distortion of the arms suggests it was wrenched from its cross.
Post-medieval trade weight set, Fortrose, Ross & Cromarty
A complete trade weight set of a type commonly used by merchants; this example was made in Nuremberg shortly after the Union of 1707 and is one of a number of imported sets found in Scotland. None appears to have been intended for Scottish use. They would not have been legal and are commonly found on the sites of markets or the fringes of burghs.
Roman mount in the shape of a lion. Castlecary, near Falkirk
Mounts of this sort adorned caskets or boxes, although similar decorative features can also be found on bronze vessels. The mount is plainly though expertly made and is a useful addition to the various finds made around the complex of Roman sites at Castlecary.
15th century gilt and copper alloy strap end, Crichton, Midlothian
A substantial cast strap end, heavily gilded and decorated with the face of Christ. The use of religious imagery on belt mounts and fittings was a particular trend in the 15th century, and this object belongs to a wider category of everyday personal objects used to express the religious devotion of the wearer. The popular culture of religious display became increasingly rare as the Reformation of the 16th century gathered force.
Medieval sliver gilt finger ring, Ballinbreich, Fife
A large silver finger ring, still bearing traces of gilding. Rings of this type are known as fede rings in reference to the clasped hands on the bezel and were commonly given as wedding rings or as a sign of affection. The ring is engraved around the hoop with the inscription IHESUN – a contraction of lhesusNazarenus Rex loderum (Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews). The ring is unusual in having a setting for a stone on the bezel.
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