Hunter, Fraser (2016) ‘Coal money’ from Portpatrick (south-west Scotland): reconstructing an Early Medieval craft centre from antiquarian finds. In: Ancient lives: object, people and place in early Scotland. Essays for David V Clarke on his 70th birthday. Sidestone Press, Leiden, Netherlands, pp. 281-302. ISBN 9789088903755

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Late 19th and 20th-century finds of debris from shale bangle manufacture at Portpatrick in south-west Scotland occasioned considerable interest at the time. The early discoveries were found in grave-digging, giving rise to folk traditions of the material as ‘coal money’ placed with the departed, but these were soon dismissed by antiquaries. Surviving material is split among at least seven different museums and has seen no recent study. This paper synthesises the finds to reconstruct the chaîne opératoire of the making of bangles by removing a central core, and a secondary process of reworking these cores. The extensive secondary use arose because the material was imported, and thus had an enhanced value. The technique of core removal is unusual in Scotland, and wider study identifies a regional cluster around the Firth of Clyde in the Early Medieval period. The technique is widely attested in Ireland at the same time, and it is argued the technology spread from there as part of wider Irish influences. Taken with other strands of evidence, this suggests that a significant Early Medieval centre lies under the modern village of Portpatrick, a site well-placed for Irish connections as it provides the traditional harbour at one end of the shortest sea route to Ireland

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Full-text available to be read online for free via the official URL
Uncontrolled Keywords: Oil shale, bangles, antiquarian study, craft processes, Early Medieval, Irish connections
Subjects: A General Works > AC Collections. Series. Collected works
A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
T Technology > TT Handicrafts Arts and crafts
Theme: Material culture: creation and use
Department: Scottish History and Archaeology (from 2012)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Ross Anderson
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2016 15:10
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2016 15:10

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