Copper alloy chain

E84 St Nicholas Site Week 32 Building in area B - work in progress Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections
General view of sacristy, east wall across bottom (yellow buckets inside sacristy)

The first photograph in this post shows the lower part of the walls of a building to the north of the main church building as it was in the 13th to 15th centuries. Because of its position it is assumed that this would have been a sacristy – a place for keeping vestments, sacred vessels, books and other items used in worship and also for keeping church records. There was some rather tentative evidence when this was being uncovered during the archaeological dig of 2006 that this could have been a two-storey building. Inside there were many intriguing artefacts.


E84 St Nicholas site Week 33 Chain 1203 Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections
A copper alloy chain found in the sacristy

The second photograph shows one of these artefacts, a delicate copper alloy chain. Its construction is unusual with a ‘figure of eight’ shaped link, so that it produces a double chain. Many different alloys of copper have been used, by adding a second metal, for example bronze (copper and tin) and brass (copper and zinc). Their use was common because of their resistance to corrosion – as this photograph shows, since this chain is likely to have been in the soil for more than 600 years. The scale shown has 1cm divisions, so it can be seen that creating this chain would have been quite an intricate task. The chain has not yet been conserved because we have not had sufficient funds. Once it has been cleaned and conserved the true craftsmanship will become more obvious. We are always open to offers to help with the post-excavation work which still has to be carried out.

(The photographs are copyright Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collections and used with permission.)