One of the most important relics of indigenous Viking culture will leave Scotland for the first time in its 1,100 year history to go on display at the British Museum this week.
The Hogback Stone – an ornately carved, curve-ridged grave marker from the early medieval period – dates back to when Strathclyde was the spiritual and political capital of the ancient Britons.
It is one of five hogbacks kept among the world famous Govan Stones collection housed at Govan Church in Glasgow.
The half-tonne memorial to the now forgotten rulers will be on loan to the British Museum as part of the Vikings: Life and Legend exhibition which will include a 37m longship sent from Denmark and the Vale of York Hoard which includes hundreds of Norse coins found by two amateur metal detectors in 2007. It will be returned to Scotland in June.
Stephen Driscoll, Professor of Historical Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, said the stones were central to what was known of the otherwise poorly documented Kingdom of Strathclyde. “Their presence gives us clues towards the complex and evolving society that existed within the region at this time.
“While the wording on the stones is mostly Celtic, the shape and some of the designs are taken from the Viking tradition, giving us the idea that the old kingdom was a melting pot of indigenous Celtic and Briton cultural influences and newer Norse ones”, he said.
Hogback stones are found in other important Viking centres in the UK including York. The designs are believed to represent houses for the dead. They represent a flourishing in the cultural contact between ancient kingdom of the Britons which included Scotland and northern England and Scandinavia around the time of the end of the first millennium.