City centre treasures subject of special exhibition tour

15/10/10

A special exhibition tour of Aberdeen's famous medieval coin hoards and the first display from Bon Accord Centre archaeological excavations will take place at 12.30pm on Tuesday 26 October at Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill.

Aberdeen City Council's lead curator of local history and archaeology Judith Stones and Stewart Thain, former assistant keeper of research at Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums will team up to give a special tour of the two related aspects of Aberdeen Art Gallery's current exhibition Celebrate: 125 years of Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Stewart, who curated the city's collections of coins, medals and banknotes for over 25 years, will discuss the three medieval hoards of silver pennies which are on display together for the first time in a quarter of a century.

Aberdeen is remarkable for the number of medieval coin hoards found within a small area of the city centre. Five have been recorded, of which the three presently on display are the largest and the only ones that survive today.

In total, they contain nearly 20,000 silver pennies of the reigns of Edward I, II and III. No other city in the UK, or indeed in Europe, can claim the same concentration of hoards.

The Upperkirkgate hoard, in its elegant but worn bronze cauldron, was discovered in 1886 and is one of the earliest items to have been added to the collections of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums. Two other hoards were revealed in 1983 and 1984 during construction of the St Nicholas Centre.

Aberdeen is one of a tiny group of European towns, which also includes York and Oslo, where waterlogged soil conditions have allowed preservation below ground of medieval remains dating from the 12th century onwards.

Particularly significant is the survival of organic items, such as remnants of timber buildings and fences, wooden artefacts, textiles, animal bones, leather shoes and clothing. Analysis of soil samples captures seed and insect remains, providing evidence of diet and the local environment of the area in medieval times, as well as intimate details such as the presence of human parasite eggs.

Judith Stones said: "There have been many archaeological excavations in the city over the past 30 years which have produced stunning evidence of Aberdeen's medieval past, but none quite as outstanding as the investigation in 2007 prior to the extension of the Bon Accord Centre."

The Celebrate exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery showcases items from these excavations for the very first time in the city. Judith will provide an introduction to a collection that includes part of a Viking-age tree, well-preserved leather shoes, a 14th century horse's skull, hazelnuts nibbled by medieval mice and fragments of moss which have been used as toilet 'paper'.

The Bon Accord Centre excavation and post excavation is the work of AOC Archaeology Group, generously funded by Land Securities.

Places on the tour are limited so please book by telephoning Aberdeen Art Gallery (01224) 523700. The tour will last approximately 30 minutes.