Vikings Treasure

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Viking Treasure Trove Unearthed from English Field

James Mather was giving up hope of getting a birthday surprise. After spending hours scanning a muddy field 40 miles west of London with his metal detector, the treasure hunter had nothing to show for his time except for some stray soda can tabs and cartridge cases, according to the Guardian newspaper. But just as the retired advertising manager was ready to find a more festive way to celebrate his 60th birthday this past October, he spotted something that resembled a silver Viking ingot he had once seen at the British Museum embedded in the ground.

James Mather, finder of the Watlington Hoard, at the find spot of discovery. (Credit: Portable Antiquities Scheme)

After digging into the mud, the amateur archaeologist discovered a mass of old coins clumped together. As the Guardian reports, Mather followed British law and phoned the government-funded Portable Antiquities Scheme, which encourages the voluntary reporting of archaeological objects found by the public, and was told to refill the hole. For several days Mather checked on the plot of farmland outside the English village of Watlington to ensure the find remained undisturbed before an officer from the Portable Antiquities Scheme could arrive and carefully excavate the block of clay holding the artifacts, which was brought to the British Museum for further examination.

A selection of items in the Watlington Hoard after examination work. (Credit: Portable Antiquities Scheme)

British Museum conservator Pippa Pearce told the Associated Press that the find looked like a “greasy clay haggis” when it arrived in her laboratory. After weeks of careful extraction and cleaning of the encased artifacts, the British Museum yesterday unveiled what they found inside the lump of soil—seven pieces of Viking jewelry, 15 silver Viking ingots and 186 rare Saxon coins. According to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the “Watlington Hoard” dates from a turbulent time in the late 870s A.D. when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex were in a fierce fight against the invading Vikings.

Although the precise circumstances of how and why the hoard was buried can never be known, archaeologists believe it likely occurred as the Vikings were forced to travel north of the River Thames to East Anglia after their decisive defeat by King Alfred the Great of Wessex at the Battle of Edington in 878 A.D. That battle marked a turning point in history that led to England’s eventual unification under the Anglo-Saxons in the 10th century.

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Coin group 3 from the Watlington Hoard. (Credit: Portable Antiquities Scheme)

The silver coins—some in fragments but others well-preserved—have the potential to rewrite English history because they bear not only the images of King Alfred, but the little-known monarch of the adjoining kingdom, Ceolwulf II of Mercia, who ruled from 874 to 879 A.D. “Poor Ceolwulf gets a very bad press in Anglo-Saxon history, because the only accounts we have of his reign come from the latter part of Alfred’s reign,” Gareth Williams, the British Museum’s curator of early medieval coinage, told the Telegraph newspaper. The little recorded history of Ceolwulf, written under the orders of Alfred years after the Battle of Edington at a time when Wessex was taking control of Mercia, paints the rival king as the puppet of the Vikings. However, since the coins found in the Watlington Hoard depict the images of both Alfred and Ceolwulf, it suggests they were actually allies in the fight against the Vikings.

Only one example of the double-figured coin from each kingdom had been found previously, but the discovery shows they were more extensive than previously thought. “What we can now see emerging from his hoard is that this was a more sustained alliance with extensive coinage and lasting for some years,” Williams told the Telegraph.

“Here is a more complex political picture in the 870s which was deliberately misrepresented in the 890s after Alfred has taken over the whole of Ceolwulf’s kingdom,” Williams said. “Perhaps we should be thinking more of Stalin and Trotsky, with Ceolwulf being airbrushed out of history because he’s no longer convenient. That of course gives a very different picture of history of Alfred the great national hero, defeating the Vikings.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 10: A Viking armband is held during a press preview for a rare Viking hoard discovered by metal detector enthusiast James Mather, at the British Museum on December 10, 2020 in London, England. The hoard was discovered in Watlington in Norfolk and is believed to have been buried in around 870. It was excavated as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and is now on display at the British Museum. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

If the hoard is legally declared to be a treasure, it will belong to the government and may be acquired by museums, with preference given to local institutions such as the Ashmolean Museum and Oxfordshire Museums Service. In addition, both the farmer who owned the field in which the hoard was discovered and Mather would receive a sizable reward—one that would make for a very welcome belated birthday present.

Huge Viking Treasure Found in Denmark

In Norse News by Skjalden July 18, 2020

The three Danish amateur archaeologists, Marie Aagaard Larsen and her husband Kristen Nedergaard Dreiøe and their common friend Poul Nørgaard Pedersen went for a treasure hunt on a warm summer day, to a field in Vejen municipality with their metal detectors. Vejen is in the region of Southern Denmark on the Jutland peninsula. This was not just some random field they chose to search, because in 1911 someone found a gold chain in exactly this field.

This day would turn out to be the luckiest day in the life of the three amateur archaeologists because shortly after arriving they found seven Viking artifacts. One bangle in silver and six bangles in gold, dating back to the 9th century. The six gold bangles weigh 840 gram and the silver bangle weighs 160 gram. Just like the gold chain that was found in 1911, these bangles are made in the style called Jelling-style.

This makes the archaeologist Lars Grundvad who is also the curator of the museum in Vejen, to believe they are all apart of the same Viking treasure. Lars Grundvad says that this is a very rare find and he doesn’t think that this will happen again for many decades. The amateur archaeologist Marie Aagaard Larsen says that the treasure hunt is far from over, even if her luck does not repeat itself again. The Viking treasure has now been sent to the National Museum in Copenhagen, to be closely studied and evaluated so the three amateur archaeologists can get their finder’s fee.

Viking treasure haul unearthed in Scotland

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A haul of Viking treasure has been unearthed from a field in south west Scotland by an amateur using a metal detector.

Derek McLennan, a retired businessman from Ayrshire, made the find in Dumfriesshire in September.

In total, more than 100 items were recovered, including armbands, a cross and brooches.

Experts have said the discovery is one of the most important Viking hoards ever found in Scotland.

The items are believed to be worth a six-figure sum.

Mr McLennan last year uncovered Scotland’s biggest haul of medieval silver coins.

Among the objects within the hoard is an early Christian cross thought to date from the 9th or 10th Century.

The solid silver cross has enamelled decorations which experts consider to be highly unusual.

The haul also includes possibly the largest silver Carolingian pot ever discovered, with its lid still in place.

The pot is likely to have been around 100 years old when the hoard was buried in the mid 9th or 10th Centuries.

Stuart Campbell, National Museum of Scotland’s head of Scotland’s treasure trove unit, said: «This is a hugely significant find, nothing like this has been found in Scotland before in terms of the range of material this hoard represents.

«There’s material from Ireland, from Scandinavia, from various places in central Europe and perhaps ranging over a couple of centuries.

«So this has taken some effort for individuals to collect together.»

Mr McLennan said he had dragged himself out of his sick bed to pursue his passion for metal detecting on the day he found the Viking treasure.

He had been given permission to search the site and after an hour he found a silver object, at first he thought it was a spoon but when he rubbed the surface he recognised the Viking decoration.

Further excavation unearthed more than a hundred items of silver and gold including a bird pen, metal vessel, armbands, cross and brooches. Experts say it’s one of the most significant Viking hoards ever found in Scotland.

He said: «I dragged myself out of my sick bed because I had two friends that wanted to detect and I’m a bit of an obsessive.

«I unearthed the first piece, initially I didn’t understand what I had found because I thought it was a silver spoon and then I turned it over and wiped my thumb across it and I saw the Saltire-type of design and knew instantly it was Viking.

«Then my senses exploded, I went into shock, endorphins flooded my system and away I went stumbling towards my colleagues waving it in the air.»

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: «The Vikings were well known for having raided these shores in the past, but today we can appreciate what they have left behind, with this wonderful addition to Scotland’s cultural heritage.

«It’s clear that these artefacts are of great value in themselves, but their greatest value will be in what they can contribute to our understanding of life in early medieval Scotland, and what they tell us about the interaction between the different peoples in these islands at that time.

«The Dumfries hoard opens a fascinating window on a formative period in the story of Scotland and just goes to show how important our archaeological heritage in Scotland continues to be.»

«As ever, the Scottish government will work to facilitate and support the discovery, analysis and exhibiting of finds like this, for the benefit of people here and abroad.

«With that in mind I would like to echo the praise for the responsible behaviour of the metal detectorists: without their continued cooperation this would not be possible.»

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