Galloway Hoard yields exciting discovery

A rare rock crystal jar found wrapped in textiles as part of the Galloway Hoard has been conserved, yielding another exciting discovery.

Monday, 20th December 2021, 1:42 pm
The rock crystal jar found as part of the Galloway Hoard. Pic Neil Hanna
The rock crystal jar found as part of the Galloway Hoard. Pic Neil Hanna

A Latin inscription written in gold reveals the jar was made for a bishop named Hyguald.

Most of the Galloway Hoard is currently on display at Kirkcudbright Galleries, however, some material which was wrapped in extremely fragile, rarely surviving textiles, is undergoing careful conservation and meticulous research.

When first removed as a bundle the jar could be only partially glimpsed through its textile wrapping.

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3D X-ray imaging produced in partnership with the British Museum allowed the object to be investigated within its wrapping without damaging it. This revealed that the base had an inscription.

The jar, which is around 5cm high and resembles an ornate perfume bottle, is thought to have had an ecclesiastical function.

It has now been carefully separated from its wrapping and the Latin inscription on the base, spelled out in gold letters, translates as ‘Bishop Hyguald had me made’.

It is the clearest evidence that some of the material in the hoard may have come from a church in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, which included Dumfries and Galloway, and stretched as far north as Edinburgh and as far south as Sheffield.

Professor Alex Woolf, senior lecturer at the University of St Andrews, said: “We don't know of a Bishop Hyguald, specifically, but our lists of Northumbrian bishops are incomplete after 810.

"It is accordingly – and frustratingly – difficult to be more precise but it may well be that what we’re looking at is an otherwise undocumented mid-9th century bishop of either Whithorn or Hexham.”

Dr Leslie Webster, former Keeper of Britain, Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum, added: “It’s a showcasing piece from a very high-status workshop, such as one that you might expect a bishop to have in one of his monasteries.

"I’ve seen a lot of Anglo-Saxon finds over the years, some of them amazing – but this absolutely knocks them all into a cocked hat!”

The exhibition, Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure runs at Kirkcudbright Galleries until July 10.