Conservation of the rock crystal jar discovered in 2014 as part of the large Viking Age Galloway Hoard has revealed the name of its owner. An ornate Latin inscription on its base says that ‘Bishop Hyguald had me made’, suggesting that the find – and perhaps some other material from the hoard, buried in Scotland c.AD 900 – came from a church in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, of which Galloway was a part.
Incomplete lists of Northumbrian bishops after 810 mean that it is difficult to know who this Bishop Hyguald is, as Alex Woolf from the University of St Andrews said, but ‘it may well be that what we’re looking at is an otherwise undocumented mid-9th-century bishop of either Whithorn or Hexham.’
Rock crystal – and its remarkable clarity – was highly prized. Martin Goldberg, curator at National Museums Scotland, has noted that the worked crystal itself looks like a Corinthian column capital, similar to carved crystal columns from the Roman empire that are now in the Vatican collections. ‘And so it was maybe 500 years old by the time it was transformed in the late 8th or early 9th century into a gold-wrapped jar,’ he said.
The work, including 3D X-ray imagery in partnership with the British Museum, forms part of research into the hoard led by National Museums Scotland with the University of Glasgow. Other objects from the hoard are currently on display at Kirkcudbright Galleries (until 10 July 2022) in the exhibition Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure, which will then travel to Aberdeen Art Gallery (30 July to 23 October 2022).
National Museums Scotland also recently announced their acquisition and conservation of four oak armorial roundels – panels featuring coats of arms that were used in decorative schemes in royal and noble houses as a show of status and connections. The roundels are said to have come from an Edinburgh house where Marie de Guise, duchess of Longueville and wife of James V, lived c.1543-1554. One shows the combined arms of James and Marie, later used by their daughter Mary Queen of Scots.