Dr Martin Goldberg: Golden chance to save Viking hoard of buried treasure for the nation

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The Galloway Hoard is an archaeological find of national significance and international importance. It is the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in ­Britain or Ireland.

National Museums Scotland is now campaigning to raise funds to secure the hoard for the nation, and we are asking for your help.

Actor MacKenzie Crook ' who starred in the  BBC comedy Detectorists ' and Dr Martin Goldberg examine the Galloway Hoard, which is on display at the National Museum of Scotland. Picture by Stewart Attwood.

Actor MacKenzie Crook ' who starred in the BBC comedy Detectorists ' and Dr Martin Goldberg examine the Galloway Hoard, which is on display at the National Museum of Scotland. Picture by Stewart Attwood.

The Galloway Hoard is an unparalleled treasure of more than 100 gold, silver and other items, buried at the beginning of the 10th century. ­Several items are likely to be older, accumulated over some time, while others travelled great distances.

Amongst the outstanding range of precious metal and jewelled items are a unique gold bird-shaped pin, a Christian cross decorated with four evangelist symbols and a decorated silver-gilt cup of Continental or ­Byzantine origin filled to the brim with beads, pendants, brooches, a range of Anglo-Saxon metalwork and even more exotic items.

The Galloway Hoard is unique in bringing together this remarkable variety of objects in one discovery, hinting at hitherto unknown connections across Europe and beyond.

There are also objects and organic materials which very rarely ­survive in archaeological deposits – everyday treasures such as fragile textiles, leather and wooden fragments.

Dr Martin Goldberg, senior curator

Dr Martin Goldberg, senior curator

These present many challenges for conservation, but they also provide important opportunities to research many lost aspects of the Viking age. This work will involve ­scientific analysis, careful and painstaking physical conservation and comparative study with contemporary objects and ­collections across Europe.

Although we are only just beginning to form ideas about what the hoard might represent, and it will require detailed archaeological detective work to establish a more complete picture, there are already intriguing potential ­meanings emerging about the people who buried it, their ­connections across Britain and Ireland and wider internationally.

The hoard was buried at a fascinating, pivotal point in history as the kingdoms we now know as Scotland, England and Ireland were forming.

By the start of the 10th century, Alfred the Great had succeeded in pushing back the Danes and his descendants had begun to lay the foundations of medieval England.

Meanwhile, in the north, Alba – the foundation of medieval Scotland – was forming under similar ­pressures. With its central location within the British Isles, Galloway sat at the heart of these political developments and had close connections to Ireland, where the bulk of the silver in the hoard is from.

The hoard will help us understand the lives of the hundreds of people who would have made and worn these amazing objects – and revisit our preconceptions about this complex and interesting period. Once that work is done, we will then be able to display the hoard, both here and around the country.

Nothing like the Galloway Hoard has ever been found in Scotland before. It is a national treasure, but only if we are able to secure it for the nation. A selection of items is currently on temporary ­display at the National Museum of Scotland, on loan from the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (QLTR).

We are grateful for the thousands of pledges and donations we have received from trusts and individuals, and especially the Art Fund for their generous donation of £400,000.

However, we still have some way to go to meet our target of £1.98 million. With just two months left to raise the funds we are appealing to the public to help us secure this treasure. I hope that as many people as possible will come and see the hoard, be inspired, and make a contribution to securing this unique fragment of our nation’s history. The Galloway Hoard is on display until 29 October. The deadline to raise the £1.98m is 12 November. To find out how to ­support the campaign, visit www.nms.ac.uk/hoard

Donations can be made by visiting www.nms.ac.uk/hoard, calling 0131 247 4294, or by sending donations to Galloway Hoard Appeal, National Museums Scotland, FREEPOST EH2842, Edinburgh, EH1 0AR.

You can also donate by texting Hoard to 70660 (UK mobiles only). Texts cost £5 plus the standard network charge. National Museums Scotland receives 100 per cent of the donation. Please obtain bill payer’s permission.

There are also Galloway Hoard donation boxes in the National Museum of Scotland.

Dr Martin Goldberg is senior curator at National Museums of Scotland.