Ornate Brooch excavated at Hunterston in Scotland from the Mid 8th Century CE on display at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh
It is thought to have been made at a Royal Site such as Dunadd, the Hillfort metioned in the Annals of Ulster and supposedly the capital of the Kingdom of the Dál Riata. The skill of the jeweller can be seen in the familiarity of the use of Anglo-Saxon, Irish and Irish-Scottish techniques in decorating the metalwork of silver and gold with amber and other precious metals.
It was most likely a gift from one ruler to another either as a sign of friendship or of peace perhaps. It is a sign of not only material culture being used to symbolise status and rank but also the importance of trained and skilled manufacturers in society.
It is thought that the legend of a Fur-Bearing Trout existing began when a Scottish settler in Canada wrote back to his home. In his letter, he explained that there were many species of “furried animals and fish”. His family, puzzled at the though, requested more information about this furry fish. According to the legend, the settler sent a specimen back to his family. In the Royal Scottish Museum, there hangs a mounted Fur-Bearing Trout that is said to have been caught in Lake Superior.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
Sir John Soane’s Museum, located in the heart of London at the architect’s former residence, is a beautifully preserved snapshot of 19th century British antiquarianism and collecting. Soane published what could be called an early guidebook to his house and collection in 1835, full of engravings of numerous treasure-filled rooms. The library of the Royal Scottish Academy holds a copy of one of these rare books (only 150 total were printed), made even more special by the fact that Soane himself signed and inscribed it.
It really is amazing to see how little has changed in the museum since the publication of the book- if the ghost of John Soane took to haunting the halls of the museum, I’m sure he would find his favorite artifacts right where he left them!
Last Friday at the British Museum - the museum stays open late and it was dark inside, with the exhibits strategically lit - everything there was glimpses through and past and from afar. Stolen treasures. So crowded and busy. And now, here we are home to Autumn proper - a chill in the air and geese circling in the blue skies.