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Archaeology recognised

This iconic early Christian monk stone is believed to illustrate the coming of Christianity to Shetland. Photo: Didier Piquer

THE ARCHAEOLOGY collection looked after by Shetland Amenity Trust has been recognised as a collection of “national significance” by Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS).

The collection comprises between 300,000 and 400,000 items and forms a valuable part of the archaeology record of Scotland, the UK and Europe.

It represents all aspects of life in Shetland from 400BC to the seventeenth century, when the islands were at the heart of European trade routes.

Excavated prehistoric settlements highlight a huge range of locally made tools, early agricultural implements, vessels for preparing food, textile production and a “rich assemblage” of animal bone deposits offering an insight into the diet of Neolithic communities.

The collection also contains evidence of funerary traditions and an important group of wooden tools suggesting a ritual tradition shared throughout northern Europe.

It has been highlighted by academics globally as “by far the most complete record of the Viking/Norse presence within the British Isles”.

Scotland’s culture minister Fiona Hyslop said the MGS recognition scheme served to “highlight Scotland’s most important national and international collections and contain some of our most important, best quality, historic artefacts and artworks. This very significant archaeology collection absolutely falls into that category.”

Shetland Museum and Archives curator, Dr Ian Tait, described the award as a “huge boost” for the islands’ cultural heritage.

“We’re honoured to be receiving this prestigious award,” he said. “It is testament to the dedication of our staff, the status of the collection, and the importance of it as a source of research.

“The award will help bringing this, one of our most significant collections, to the public in increasingly innovative and creative ways.

“We applied because we want to raise awareness of the archaeology collection, to safeguard continuing levels of investment and to enable us to further increase public access. The work done by Jenny Murray and Laurie Goodlad on this application will enable us to do just that.”

MGS chief executive Joanne Orr said it was “delighted” to be welcoming Shetland’s archaeological artefacts into the “recognition family”, adding it would give the collection “a boost in funding and give it the recognition it deserves.”