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Reptile fossil from 350 million years ago.

They have been handpicked as the 26 treasures which define us as a nation.

From three-billion-year-old rocks to a bionic hand, they are part of a fascinating new exhibition at the National Museum which tells the story of Scotland. Every visitor between now and the end of January will have their personal favourite.

But what about the museum's staff? Here, six of them tell MARION SCOTT about a few of their favourite things.

THE BIG 26 THE OLD BOY At three billion years old, the oldest rock in Britain originates from Loch Finbay in the Outer Hebrides.

WESTLOTHIANA LIZZIAE Reptile fossil from 350 million years ago.

TOWIE BALL Carved stone ball which dates from 2500 BC, found at Towie, Aberdeenshire.

Historians believe it is one of 425 Pictish supernatural symbols.

CRAMOND LIONESS Roman origin sandstone sculpture shows a lion devouring either a Christian martyr or a rebellious slave. Pulled from the River Almond by a ferryman in 1997.

ST NINIAN'S TREASURE Pictish bowls, weapons and jewellery which were discovered in a box in St Ninian's Isle, Shetland, in 1958.

HILTON OF CADBOLL STONE This 7ft sandstone statue dates from 800 AD and was made in the village of Hilton of Cadboll, in Ross and Cromarty.

BIONIC HAND This world first was created in 2004 by Touch Bionics in Livingston.

LEWIS CHESSMEN The 12th century pieces have been the subject of a long-running controversy over where they should be exhibited. Eleven pieces are on display at the National Museum with the rest at the British Museum in London.

QUEEN MARY HARP This was gifted to an aristocratic family by Mary Queen of Scots in 1450. It stands 81cm high and is strung with metal strings.

THE BUTE MAZER Maple, silver and gilt drinking cup which dates from 1320 was made to celebrate Robert the Bruce's close friendship with the Stewarts.

THE COIGRICH The silver handle of eighth century Saint Fillan's staff has been officially designated a holy relic.

ALEXANDER PEDEN'S WIG AND MASK Covenanter Peden wore the cloth mask to hide from royal forces as he travelled addressing supporters.

THE MAIDEN A 14ft oak gibbet used to execute at least 150 people in Edinburgh between 1564 and 1710 including its own designer James Douglas for his part in the murder of Lord Darnley. THE DARIEN CHEST Used to store documents associated with the Darien Quest which almost bankrupted Scotland in 1698.

NAPIER'S BONES An early calculator made by Edinburgh's master mathematician John Napier, who died in 1617.

THE INSTRUMENT OF AUTHORITY Treaty drawn up by William Wilson, keeper of the Scottish Crown Jewels, to ensure the jewels would remain at Edinburgh Castle, which they have to this day.

THE SERF'S COLLAR An 18th century brass collar found in the River Forth at Logie in Stirling and its wearer is identified by the inscription.

GOVAN RENT STRIKE RATTLE Used to rally women during the famous rent strike of 1915.

DRAG CHAINS Chains come from the former Fairfield yard at Govan, the scene of one of the longest ever work-ins led by shop stewards Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie.

DANIEL LAIDLAW'S VICTORIA CROSS Awarded to the brave musician who piped his battalion home from Loos, France, despite severe injury.

ARTHUR'S SEAT COFFINS Miniature caskets found in 1836 on the north eastern slopes of the peak in Edinburgh. Some experts believe they represent a mock burial for the 17 known victims of bodysnatchers Burke and Hare.

THE ROSS TARTAN SUIT Made for student Alexander Ross for the visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822. The suit was taken to Australia when he emigrated in 1864.

GOWN OF REPENTANCE... Sackcloth which petty criminals or unmarried mothers were forced to wear before their church congregations during the 17th and 18th centuries.

BONNIE PRINCE'S SILVER CANTEEN Set of travelling cutlery made by an Edinburgh goldsmith in 1740 as a 21st birthday present for Bonnie Prince Charlie.

SPORRAN CLASP This 18th century clasp, with four concealed pistols, is said to have inspired novelist Sir Walter Scott.

GOLD TEAPOT Handed out at Leith Races in 1737, which were held on the sands at Leith. Tea was highly prized at the time and pots were given as presents amongst the gentry.

Elaine Macintyre, digital media content manager The Arthur's Seat Coffins These were my favourite, even before I worked at the museum.

They have been linked to the Burke and Hare story.

I like the mystery that still surrounds them and the way they tap into the Jekyll and Hyde aspect of Edinburgh.

Dr Stuart Allan, senior curator of military history Daniel Laidlaw's Victoria Cross The wounded piper is one of those classic images of Scottish military history.

The Battle of Loos, in which Laidlaw was awarded the VC for his actions, is one of the biggest and most costly battles in which Scottish soldiers have ever been involved.

It's a powerful object and a powerful story.

Ken Wilson, sales assistant in the museum Bonnie Prince Charlie's travelling canteen It's a beautiful object of wonderful art and engineering which brings to life an almost mythical figure from our history.

It was made for his 21st birthday and contains all the essentials - two wine beakers, a knife and fork and, of course, a nutmeg grater.

Kimberly Baxter, exhibition designer Napier's Bones They're very clever, and anything which makes maths easier is good in my book.

But not only that, they're also beautifully made.

They remind me a little of Scrabble tiles and I'd really like to handle them.

Claire Allan adult learning officer The Gown of Repentance An unmarried woman who fell pregnant would be forced to wear a gown like this in front of her church congregation for weeks as her unborn child grew inside her.

It's an object from a different time, with a great story.

Sophie Forsyth, Visitor services assistant. The Hilton of Cadboll Stone I find it fascinating because of its age and sense of mystery. It's 7ft tall so it's imposing and goes back so many centuries.

It's survived all this time and yet we still don't know what it really means.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 4, 2011
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