Piecing together the puzzle: understanding the Late Roman hacksilver from the Traprain Hoard

Excavation work at Traprain Law, an Iron Age hillfort in East Lothian, some 30km east of Edinburgh, was interrupted by the turmoil of the First World War. Two weeks after work began again on 12 May 1919, George Pringle loosened the soil with the tip of his pick and pulled out a Roman silver vessel. This was the first artefact to be found from what would prove to be the largest hoard yet known of Late Roman hacksilver – silver which has been chopped, cut, and crushed. More than a century later, an equally massive 784-page study has been published that tells us what the hoard represents in terms of the art and lifestyles of people from both sides of Hadrian’s Wall, as Chris Catling reports.