Kingdom’s treasures brought together in St Andrews

A Skeleton ring which will feature in the exhibition 'Treasures of the Kingdom: Fife's Decorative Heritage Unearthed'.
A Skeleton ring which will feature in the exhibition 'Treasures of the Kingdom: Fife's Decorative Heritage Unearthed'.

From the gleaming gold of a medieval ring to the carved Pictish stone carvings, a new exhibition about to open in St Andrews is bringing together the wonders of treasures found across the Kingdom.

It is the first time the collection has been brought together in one location in an exhibition curated by postgraduate students from the University of St Andrews.

Among the oldest items on show will be Neolithic carved stone balls which are 6000 years old and Bronze age objects, including cinerary urns, jet necklace and gold ring, which are 4000 years old.

However, one of the most intriguing objects is a skeleton ring from the 16th century. The ring is in the shape of a human skeleton and is inscribed ‘COGITA MORI’. This is one half of a popular motto ‘Vivere disce, cogita mori’ (Learn to live, remember death), which reminded people to live a good life on earth, in expectation of judgment in the next life.

Many of the pieces have been found over recent years by metal detectorists while others are finds from excavations, including several Bronze Age cinerary urns from Law Park, St Andrews, which was discovered in 1859.

All the exhibits belong to Fife Council’s Museums collections, now managed by Fife Cultural Trust, with some of the objects originally coming from the University’s Archaeology collection, which was transferred to St Andrews Museum in the 1980s.

Many of the items came into the Trust’s museums collections through the Treasure Trove scheme. Under Scottish Law any ownerless objects found become property of the Crown. After being assessed by the Treasure Trove Unit in Edinburgh, interested museums can bid to accept the object into their collection and the finder is given a financial reward.

“For most of us, it was our very first experience as “junior” curators,” said Alix Marion, one of the postgraduate students involved. ”We were helped by many people, including curator Jane Freel and our lecturers Dr Ulrike Weiss and Dr Karen Brown, with many others from the University helping us in the planning and organisation.”

‘Treasures of the Kingdom: Fife’s Decorative Heritage Unearthed’ opens at St Andrews Museum on March 14 and runs until May 17.