09/05/2019
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Europe's largest ever hoard of Roman hacksilver to go on display in Haddington this month

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A new exhibition featuring stunning pieces of Traprain treasure, found on Traprain Law a century ago, will be on display at the John Gray Centre in Haddington, East Lothian, from 11 May 2019.

The Traprain Treasure is the largest hoard of late Roman ‘hacksilver’ found anywhere in Europe. It consists of fragments from over 250 silver objects, that had been cut into set weights of bullion and sent north from the Roman world, probably as a diplomatic gift. They were found buried in a pit within a hill fort during an archaeological excavation.

What is the Traprain Treasure?

The Traprain hoard was buried more than 1,500 years ago, around AD 450. When first found, it was thought that barbarians had stolen the ‘loot’ from retreating Romans. However, following extensive research by Dr Hunter into other hacksilver hoards across Europe, it was more likely cut up within the Roman world at times of economic crisis, when precious metal was valued as bullion rather than as fancy vessels.

It was then sent north as diplomatic gifts (or payment for military assistance) to the powerful leaders on Traprain Law, as a way of buying their support and keeping the Roman frontier secure. This silver was intended for the melting pot – Roman silver bullion was melted down and made into the first ever items of Scottish silver jewellery, with examples of this from the Traprain Law settlement itself.

Treasures from the hoard

The Treasures from the Hoard exhibition takes over the first gallery of the museum, involving a total revamp of the gallery and features real and replica objects. A programme of talks and events are planned to mark the centenary, both in East Lothian and at the National Museum of Scotland. 

The exhibition is curated by Dr Claire Pannell of East Lothian Council Museums Service, with assistance from Dr Fraser Hunter of National Museums Scotland. It is supported by loans from National Museums Scotland and private lenders, with financial support from Museums Galleries Scotland.

Dazzling treasure

East Lothian Provost, John McMillan, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have some of the pieces from this collection available for the exhibition during the centenary year of the amazing discovery. I am sure both local residents and visitors alike will be fascinated by the story of the discovery and also the history of the hoard.”

Dr Hunter, whose research into the hoard will be published in a new book, The late Roman silver treasure from Traprain Law, due out this summer, said: “The Traprain Treasure is the most significant silver find from beyond the Roman frontier right across Europe. A century  after its discovery, it’s exciting that it can still reveal new insights. It’s a key part of this fascinating period in our history, and I’m sure it’ll dazzle those who see it. We are delighted to be supporting its display in East Lothian, which is a fitting way to mark the centenary of its discovery”

Treasures from the Hoard runs from 11 May until 27 October. Check the JGC website for opening times.

QUICK LINK: Gemology map of Scotland's treasures

(images copyright Neil Hanna)

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