6.5.3 Clothing and Dress

Whether as single stray finds or found in hoards, early medieval brooches provide a fascinating glimpse into the kinds of material culture used by the occupants of the power centres discussed above.

The earliest is a hoard from Tummel Bridge, which was found before 1888 and primarily known for three silver penannular brooches with flared triangular terminals (MPK450; X.FC 162, 163 and 164). It was found alongside another six fragments of three copper-alloy vessels. The first (X.FC 165166) are fragments of the rim and base of a bronze hanging bowl of reconstructed diameter 29.6cm, along with an openwork peltaic escutcheon (X.FC 168) probably belonging to the same bowl. The others are a fragment of a bronze cup of unknown type (X.FC 167) is a fragment of a bronze cup of unknown type, and rims from a smaller bronze bowl, whose diameter has been reconstructed as 15.5cm (X.FC 169170). It has been considered a metalworker’s hoard given the ‘unfinished’ nature of the plain silver brooches alongside bronze scrap, but the brooches were clearly buried intact unlike the associated bronze objects. Suggested dating has fluctuated widely over the last century, most dating the hoard by its oldest objects, the hanging bowls of 5th or 6th century type, but the plain brooches will not easily support such an early date. The latest assessment (Stevenson in Bruce-Mitford 2005) argues that the brooches may be as late as the 7th century, supported by a reassessment of similar Irish brooches (Murray and McCormick 2012, 24–6). The find-spot is at an important crossing over the River Tummel but which is otherwise isolated from known early medieval settlement. However, the area around Loch Tummel has a concentration of monumental roundhouses, some of which have episodes of early medieval activity (Taylor 1990, fig 9, 53: Strachan 2013). There is at least one crannog in Loch Tummel (MPK1067) known to have been occupied in the late medieval period.

Circular, silver brooch with a long, pointed pin connected horizontally across the brooch. The silver is broken on one side and looks worn, but is still shiny in places. Taken against a black background.
Silver brooch from Tummel Bridge ©️ NMS

Three penannular brooches, of 8th–9th -century date, are now known from Loch Clunie (as discussed above). These have been found at different times and under different circumstances. The first two (MPK5520; X.FC 176 and X.FC 177) were said to be from ‘the neighbourhood of Perth’ when first described (Anderson 1880), but were originally found ‘near Cluny Castle’ (Stevenson 1985, 236). FC 176 is of cast silver and dated to the 7th century through comparison with a mould from Clatchard Craig fort, Fife (Close-Brooks 1986, 163, illus 25). FC 177 is among the most accomplished of Pictish brooches, dated to the 8th or 9th century (Henderson and Henderson 2004, 105–7). A third is now attributed to this site, a fragment of a gilt-silver terminal of an elaborate 8/9th-century brooch with chip-carved and filigree ornament, with an empty setting for a large gem or stud, found north-east of the Castle Hill in 1990 (X.1993.7; RCAHMS 1994, 90–1). While the deposition circumstances for all three finds remain obscure, it is possible they were once part of a silver hoard, similar to late 8th/9th-century Pictish brooch hoards known from Scotland at Croy, Inverness; Rogart, Sutherland; St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland; and Broch of Burgar, Orkney (Graham-Campbell 1987, 255–7; Maldonado 2021, 83–5). Clunie Castle (MPK3954) is a medieval motte of uncertain date, and it is possible that a power centre here, perhaps on the crannog in the loch, was raided by Vikings in the reign of Cináed mac Alpín (Batey 2002). An important power centre in this general area has long been posited (RCAHMS 1994, 90–1; Hall, Henderson and Taylor 1998), for which the brooches provide tantalising evidence. Another recent metal-detected find of a penannular brooch fragment from Cambusmichael near Scone (MPK15390) shows clear stylistic links to the Clunie brooches (Hall 2007a, 70–1), supporting local participation in broader ‘Pictish’ fashions (David Wilson in Small et al 1973, 97–103).

Top: Oblique image of a heavily decorated circular brooch, shaped like a horseshoe. The brooch and its long, pointed pin are golden and bronze coloured, with gemstones in the ends of the arms and interlacing details. Bottom: Close up of the pin where is is attached to the brooch with a loop of metal. The pin is damaged, with some gold missing, but the spiral details are visible and very detailed.
Pennanular brooch from near Clunie Castle ©️ NMS

A particularly fine silver penannular brooch with gilt chip-carved panels and red and blue glass insets was recovered from Aldclune monumental roundhouse (MPK3; NMS X.FC 304; Stevenson 1985; Hingley et al 1997, 419). Of likely 9th-century date, it was found in post-occupation deposits in an otherwise Iron Age site, probably indicating a short-lived, temporary reuse of the site.

Image of a horseshoe shaped brooch with glass beads of orange, red and clear colour in the end and at the top. The brooch is silver and gold and the pin is a long silver point with a leaf shaped head, painted with the same gold leaf or yellow paint as the brooch.
Pennanular brooch from Aldclune ©️ NMS

In addition to these important penannular brooches, the ‘Breadalbane Brooch’ is a virtuoso example of an Irish/Dál Riata pseudo-pennanular brooch of Hunterston-Tara style (British Museum 1919,1218.1). Notably, its connecting bar has been removed, and its pin replaced, modifications which made it more suited to the ‘Pictish’ fashion for penannular brooches (Youngs 1989; Brunning 2020). It may represent another tangible connection to the Gaelic west, facilitated by the glens of Highland Perthshire, but its provenance is not known and the name is derived from it having been in the collection of the Earl of Breadalbane.

Beads and other accessories

Several excavated sites in the area have produced early medieval glass beads, which appear to have been in common use. One of the earliest is an Anglo-Saxon ‘traffic light’ bead of 5th- or 6th-century date from the monastic site at Fortingall (MPK457; Blackwell 2018, 227–8). Another early example is a rare segmented green glass bead, with early Anglo-Saxon parallels, from Lair, Glen Shee; it came from a pit beneath a building occupied between the 6th to 8th centuries (MPK4456; Campbell in Strachan et al 2019, 103–4). A yellow glass example from the Queen’s View (MPK1212) monumental roundhouse, and a distinctive blue and white cable decorated bead from Forteviot (MPK1887) have been more precisely dated to between AD 700–900 (Taylor 1990, 33; Blackwell 2020, 88–89). The more common blue glass beads found at, for example, Dundurn (MPK346; Alcock et al 1989, 216), Forteviot (Blackwell 2020, 88–90), Carn Dubh, Moulin (MPK1752; Rideout 1996, 151–3), and as a stray find from Newton of Pitcairns, Dunning (MPK13475; Hunter 2000, 72) are not closely datable, however. Ranging from Iron Age to early medieval, they require chemical analysis to help to narrow the date range and the nature of production.

Close up of a green bead which resembles three regular beads fused together. The closest and middle bead are pale green, and the farthest is dark green. Inclusions of sand and soil are visible across the object, which is not highly polished, but textured.
Glass bead from Glen Shee ©️ Heather Christie; available on Sketchfab:

A segmented blue glass bead found during excavations at Forteviot is a rare imported type with parallels from Viking Age sites and burials (Cradle of Scotland; Blackwell 2020, 88–9). It is one of a growing number of finds with Viking Age and Late Norse parallels from central Scotland. Excavations at Castle Craig broch revealed 10th-century reoccupation of the site; finds included a polyhedral ring-pin of Irish Sea type (MPK1399; Cradle of Scotland; James 2011, 17). A disc-headed pin from Carn Dubh, Moulin, formerly thought to be Viking Age, is now understood as an 11–12th-century type (Newman in Rideout 1996, 156, fig 9). Its closest parallels are from Hiberno-Norse Dublin and Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly (Ó Floinn 1987), though more examples of such stick pins are being recognised from Scotland (cf Maldonado 2021, 204–5).

Leather Items

An important addition to our understanding of early medieval clothing is the well-preserved decorated leather shoe from Dundurn fort.  Unique in Scotland, it evokes those worn by kings and clerics on Pictish cross-slabs (Ritchie 2005, 37–8). Its closest parallels in Scotland are two decorated leather shoes from the early monastery of Iona (Barber 1981). Evidence for leatherworking was also found in the waterlogged deposits of Dundurn itself (Alcock et al 1989).

Image of a dark brown/black leather shoe, which has a wide toe and a folded, soft heel. The leather has lines of notches across the whole shoe.
Leather shoes from Dundurn ©️ HES