The culture of amber in Scotland

Clark, N. (2013) The culture of amber in Scotland. Deposits, 33, pp. 48-49.

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The last place most people will associate with amber is Scotland. Yet, it is the place where some of the oldest inclusions (from the Carboniferous) in tree resin have been found. Amber is defined differently by different cultures. Its precise origin is unknown, but is fossilised tree resin and not the sap. Some consider Baltic amber (or succinite) as the only true amber, but most would accept that other fossilised tree resins (such as the amber from the Eocene of the Dominican Republic, or the Cretaceous amber from the Isle of Wight) also exhibit similar properties. It may be surprising to some that the oldest ‘amber’ (also known as middletonite) to have been found with inclusions was found from the coalfields of Ayrshire in Scotland. John Smith published this discovery in 1894, describing the inclusions as parts of coniferous plants and fungi. Although the actual specimens John Smith studied are now lost to science, new research using some of the more modern techniques like 3D X-ray imaging, which looks at opaque amber, may eventually reveal evidence of such inclusions in this type of resin. There are also folklore and traditions associated with amber in Scotland, but, as yet, no sources for any amber (post-Carboniferous). So where has all this amber-lore come from? It was most likely brought by visitors and immigrants from Scandinavia and northern Europe over the millennia. Scotland has had strong historical and commercial links with these Baltic and other northern amber states that is reflected in the place names (such as John O’Groats or Valtos) and language (words like ‘Kirk’ or ‘Bairn’).

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:History, culture, scotland, amber, viking, prehistoric
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Clark, Dr Neil
Authors: Clark, N.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Q Science > QE Geology
Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QK Botany
R Medicine > RX Homeopathy
College/School:University Services > Library and Collection Services > Museum and Art Gallery
Journal Name:Deposits
Publisher:UKGE Ltd
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2013 UKGE Ltd
First Published:First published in Deposits 33:48-49
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the permission of the publisher

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