Scots silver that was kept secret from the Vikings

Concealed underground for over a thousand years, this fascinating haul of elaborately decorated Scottish silverware came to light in the middle of the 20th century during an excavation on St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland.

Dated back to 700-800AD, the coveted collection, known as the St Ninian’s Treasure, is the only Scottish hoard of fine metalwork of the period to survive in its entirety.

The extraordinary find was made by a schoolboy named Douglas Coutts, who was helping with the excavation at the site of an old medieval chapel on the tied island in 1958. Beneath a flat stone marked with a cross, Coutts discovered a wooden box containing the valuable trove of fascinating Pictish treasure.

Made during the second half of the eighth century, it is not known who the treasure belonged to, but historians believe the 28 pieces of Celtic jewellery, church silver and other items, were heirlooms gathered by generations of an ancient, aristocratic family.

Beautifully decorated, the find included bowls, cutlery and ornamental pieces that may have been removed from swords or other weaponry – together with the partial jaw bone of a porpoise.

It is thought that the precious items were buried around AD 750–825 for safekeeping, to ensure that they were hidden from the Viking raiders that were beginning to invade Scotland.

The St Ninian’s Treasure can be seen at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

For more info visit www.nms.ac.uk.