Oct. 5th, 2012

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I've just returned from the second of my three conference outings for the autumn season.  Today's offering was the autumn meeting of the Finds Research Group, a research body dedicated to small finds of the historic period. The FRG normally has its meetings down south in Englandshire (i.e. well out of the reach of Yours Truly) but today it was having an unusual foray north of the border in Edinburgh.

It was certainly well worth the trip.  The papers were all very interesting, in a day conference devoted entirely to Precious Metals.

My highlights had to be the two papers on Early Historic & Viking silver: Firstly, Martin Goldberg gave a fascinating talk on the Early Historic & Viking Use & Manufacture of Roman to Viking Silver, which demonstrated how metallurgical analysis can establish the relative dates of Early Historic & Viking artefacts by the nature and percentages of impurities in the metal - Roman silver is higher quality, and less debased, and as it gets recycled through the years, more base metal gets added, hence more impurities appear.  Goldberg's presentation was followed by another equally absorbing paper by Alice Blackwell, who presented a paper on New Research on the Norrie's Law Hoard. This identified the presence of three 19th century fakes amongst the original Pictish hoard, again isolating them by using metallurgical analysis.  One of the interesting observation made by Goldberg was how the English warrior elites of this period favour gold & garnet, while the Pictish/Viking elites of the north make more extensive use of silver and enamel.

Honourable mention must also go to David Caldwell for his engaging lecture on that magnificent artefact of medieval Scots origin, the Bute Mazer - here's a link for what can only be described as an over-sized quaich with real attitude!!

http://www.nms.ac.uk/our_collections/highlights/bute_or_bannatyne_mazer.aspx

Caldwell was somewhat scathing of the abilities of the goldsmith, who's thought to have been based in the West of Scotland.  He pointed out that the lion looked like it was wearing a knitted balaclava, then compared it to the man-in-a-lion-suit that features in that classic comedy sketch, Scott of the Sahara by Monty Python.

Oh dear.  I'll never be able to look at the Bute Mazer in the same way again. Conversely, I'll never look at Scott of the Sahara the same way, either!!!

And now I'm signing off.  Last night's Book Signing was for the launch of The Healing of Luther Grove by Barry Gornell.  Again, it was a fascinating insight into how it;s done - this particular event featured a useful question & answer session, but how I could possibly fit this in to a similar event is a trickier task to accomplish...

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