ONE of Scotland's most important cultural artefacts will leave Glasgow today for the first time in a millennium.

The 'Hogback Stone', an early-medieval gravestone, will be moved from Govan Old Church and transported 403 miles to London for the opening of a new exhibition at the British Museum.

It is one of the five famous 'Govan Stones', the largest collection of early-medieval burial markers kind in the UK.

The stone will form part of a new exhibition called 'Vikings: Life and Legend' that will run at the museum until June 2014.

It will be returned once the exhibition finishes.

In the Ninth Century AD Govan was the political, administrative and spiritual capital of the ancient Britons, the seat of the kings of Strathclyde and one of the most important centres in the UK.

The ornately carved gravestone marked the resting place of one of the ancient kings of Strathclyde.

Around the time that the Vikings were conquering much of northern Europe, the kingdom of the Britons covered a large part of southern Scotland and northern England.

The easily recognisable carved designs on the Govan Stones are thought to represent stylised Viking houses for the dead.

Stephen Driscoll, Professor of Historical Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, said: "The Govan Stones are central to our understanding of the important but poorly documented kingdom of Strathclyde.

"Their presence gives us clues towards the complex and evolving society that existed within the region at this time."

The stone will feature in the first exhibition in the new British Museum's new Sainsbury Gallery.