St Ninian's Isle Treasure

The St Ninian's Isle Treasure found on St Ninian's Isle, Shetland, Scotland, is the best survival of Scottish silver metalwork from the Early Medieval period, some pieces gilded. There are pieces for secular use such as a series of different penannular brooches (some of them probably as unfinished half-ware) and different chapes from sword scabbards, pieces which might have been used for religious ceremonies and rituals like the bowls, spoons, and "thimbles" and all of those joined with some pieces of unsure meanings like the heavy ring chains or collars which are referred to as "power symbols of Pictish chieftains" by some scholars. The brooches show a variety of typical Pictish forms, with both animal-head and lobed geometrical forms of terminal. Two of the scabbard chapes and a sword pommel appear to be Anglo-Saxon pieces, probably made in Mercia in the late 8th century; one has an inscription with a prayer in Old English. One of the mounts has a triple spiral design. We know of exchanges of gifts between Anglo-Saxon and Pictish rulers, and generally "weapons are among the objects which travelled most widely in the early medieval period".

The treasure was discovered under a cross-marked slab in the floor of the early St. Ninian's church, on 4 July 1958 by a local schoolboy, Douglas Coutts. Coutts was helping visiting archaeologists led by Professor A. C. O'Dell of Aberdeen University at a dig on the isle. The silver bowls, jewellery and other pieces are believed to date from approx. 800 AD.

The treasure was donated to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) in 1965-6 and is now in the successor Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, whilst replicas are held by the Shetland Museum.

Professor Andrew Charles O'Dell, writing in December 1959 in Antiquity magazine, recounts that:



This page was last edited on 20 April 2018, at 04:35.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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