According to experts, Scotland’s oldest tartan dates back to the 16th century
Scientists have discovered that a piece of cloth more than 400 years old is Scotland’s oldest tartan.
The faded cloth, discovered in a peat bog at Glen Affric in the Scottish Highlands, shows traces of green and brown in color and belonged to an unknown clan.
It is believed to date back to the early 16th century at the earliest, possibly during the reigns of James IV, James V or Mary Queen of Scots.
But experts have said the tartan was most likely worn as “outdoor workwear” and would not have been worn by royalty.
Although faded, the tartan is in an impressive state, largely because peat bogs are oxygen-depleted environments, a condition that prevents decay.
The Glen Affric tartan is believed to be the oldest in Scotland and will be featured in a new exhibition at the V and A Dundee from next month
The priceless fabric, discovered in a peat bog in Glen Affric in the Scottish Highlands, belonged to an unknown clan
The tartan was found in Glen Affric’s peat bog about 40 years ago, but only now have experts determined its age.
The Glen Affric tartan
Discovered: Glen Afric
Old: 400 years
Dimensions: 21 inch x 17 inch (55 cm x 43 cm)
Dye analysis and radiocarbon testing of the wool fabric was commissioned by the Scottish Tartans Authority (STA).
“The testing process took nearly six months, but it was well worth the effort and we are delighted with the results,” said Peter MacDonald, Head of Research and Collections at STA.
“In Scotland, surviving specimens of ancient textiles are rare as the soil is not conducive to their survival.
“Because the piece was buried in peat, it wasn’t exposed to the air and was therefore conserved.
“The tartan has multiple colors with multiple stripes of different sizes, which is what people would think of as a real tartan.”
The fabric measures approximately 55 x 43 cm (21″ x 17″) and features the criss-cross patterns that are still typical of tartans today.
STA identified four initial colors in the tartan that have since faded – green, brown, and possibly red and yellow.
Left to right Chairman John McLeish, Curator James Wylie and Peter MacDonald Tartan Historian of the Scottish Tartans Authority with the Glen Affric tartan
The artifact will be on public display at the Dundee Design Museum from April 1st to January 14th next year
Dye analysis also confirmed the use of indigo or woad in the green but was inconclusive for the other colors, likely due to degradation of the dye.
However, no artificial or semi-synthetic dyes were involved in the creation of the tartan, leading researchers to believe that it originated before the 1750s.
A wide age range between 1500 and 1655 has been identified, but the period 1500 to 1600 was the most likely – making it the oldest known piece of true tartan discovered in Scotland.
It may have belonged to the Chisholm clan, who controlled the area at the time, although researchers are unable to draw any firm conclusions.
“While we can theorize about the Glen Affric tartan, it’s important that we don’t construct a story around it,” said MacDonald.
“Although Clan Chisholm controlled this area, we cannot attribute the tartan to them as we do not know who owned it.
“The potential presence of red, a color Gaels see as a status symbol, is interesting because of the more rustic nature of the fabric.
“You wouldn’t associate this piece with royalty or someone of high status, it’s more of an outdoor workwear piece.”
Tartans have long been worn in the Highlands, although they were temporarily banned after the Jacobite Rising of 1745.
John McLeish, Chairman of the STA, said the tartan’s “historical importance” likely dates from the reigns of James V, Mary Queen of Scots or James VI and I.
V&A Dundee curator James Wylie wearing the Glen Affric tartan. Researchers cannot make firm conclusions about which clan it belonged to
James VI of Scotland became James I of England by the union of the Scottish and English crowns in March 1603.
His mother, Mary Queen of Scots, had been executed in February 1587 after 19 years in captivity when she was found guilty of plotting the assassination of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
Further research into the material could reveal more about the clan’s identity and its connection to Scotland at the time.
The artifact will be on public display at the Dundee Design Museum from April 1st to January 14th next year.
“Being able to display the Glen Affric tartan is immensely important in understanding the textile traditions from which modern tartan derives,” said James Wylie, Curator at V&A Dundee.
“I’m sure visitors will appreciate seeing this for the first time in public.”
Scotland in the 16th century
Sixteenth-century Scotland was marked by a Protestant Reformation and a rivalry with England that involved military combat.
At the beginning of the century James IV (1488-1513) married Margaret, daughter of Henry VII of England.
He was killed during the Battle of Flodden against England in September 1513 and was succeeded by his son James V.
The reign of James V between 1513 and 1542 witnessed the beginnings of Protestantism in Scotland.
After King Henry VIII seceded from the Catholic Church in 1534, James V would not tolerate heresy and a number of outspoken Protestants were persecuted during his reign.
James died in December 1542 following the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Solway Moss by English forces.
His only surviving legitimate child, Mary, succeeded him at just six days old.
Mary Queen of Scots depicted with her son James VI and I; In reality, Mary last saw her son when he was 10 months old
As the great-granddaughter of Henry VII of England, Mary was in line to the English throne after the children of Henry VIII.
In England, she became a political pawn in the hands of Queen Elizabeth I and was imprisoned in various castles around England for 19 years.
It was established that Mary plotted against Elizabeth; Encrypted letters from her to others were found, and she was found guilty of high treason.
After 19 years in captivity, Mary was found guilty of plotting the assassination of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
She was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on February 8, 1587.
Her son James VI. of Scotland became James I of England by the union of the Scottish and English crowns in March 1603.
Source: historical-uk.com/Encyclopædia Britannica
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-11906373/Scotlands-oldest-tartan-dates-16th-Century-experts-say.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 According to experts, Scotland’s oldest tartan dates back to the 16th century