The silver dates back to the 5th or 6th century, after the Romans decamped and before the Vikings stormed onshore. In this time of political and cultural ferment, Scotland was the realm of an enigmatic people known as the Picts. Often stereotyped as tattooed barbarians, the Picts certainly had a talent for war – but also a talent for carving stone and shaping silver.
More from USA Today:
Legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt dies at 64
Nature Valley Granola Bars recalled over Listeria concern
Bring on another Brexit: England bounced by Iceland in stunner
The Gaulcross hoard, as the treasure is known, includes both Roman handiwork and fine Pictish goods. The Roman items include clippings of silver dishes and silverwork of a kind that adorned Roman military uniforms, says archaeologist Alice Blackwell ofNational Museums Scotland, who is analyzing the hoard. There are also fragments snapped off Pictish brooches and bits of an extremely rare type of wrist bangle.
Like other hoards, the Gaulcross treasure has "preserved fashions (from) what we think of as the darkest bits of the dark age after the fall of the Roman Empire," says study co-author Martin Goldberg of National Museums Scotland. "It's like a little snapshot in time."
But the key to the mysterious treasure may lie not with the few intact objects but with the many small scraps of silver. Half of the hoard, Goldberg says, consists of silver pieces smaller than a pinky fingernail, many the remains of hacked-up bracelets. Similar hoards have turned up in Denmark and Germany.