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Metal Detectorist Finds Britain’s Biggest ever Haul Of Viking Treasure

Metal Detectorist Finds Britain’s  Biggest ever Haul Of Viking Treasure
Permanent Secretary for Youth and Sports, Alison Burchell with participants from the workshop.
October 14
14:19 2014

The largest haul of Viking treasure ever found in Britain has been unearthed by a metal detector enthusiast.

The discovery was found on Church of Scotland land after the detectorist painstakingly searched the unidentified area in Dumfries and Galloway for more than a year.

The hoard, which consists of more than a hundred artefacts, many of which are historically unique, is now under the care of the Treasure Trove Unit and is regarded as being of significant international importance.

The hoard also includes a complete metal vessel containing more objects. It has not yet been emptied and the first step will be to examine its contents by X-ray.

Finder Derek McLennan, 47, was left speechless when he made the discovery in early September and was so emotional that when he called his wife she thought that he had been in a car accident.

Within the find is an early Christian solid silver cross, thought to date from the Ninth or Tenth centuries.

The cross is engraved with decorations that, experts say, are highly unusual, which Mr McLennan believes may represent the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Mr McLennan said: ‘I believe they resemble the carvings you can see on the remnants of St Cuthbert’s coffin in Durham Cathedral.

‘For me, the cross opens up the possibility of an intriguing connection with Lindisfarne and Iona.’

It was found amongst dozens of silver arm-rings and ingots two feet below the surface, deeper than his detector was thought to reach.

The excavation was undertaken by Andrew Nicholson, the county archaeologist, and, shortly after, Mr McLennan found a second signal at its base.

Further investigations uncovered a second level trove which is of considerably higher quality than the first.

It includes possibly the largest silver pot from the Carolingian dynasty discovered and could be up to 1200-years-old.

The pot appears to have been at least a hundred years old when it was first buried in the mid-Ninth or Tenth centuries.

Mr McLennan said: ‘We still don’t know exactly what is in the pot, but I hope it could reveal who these artefacts belonged to, or at least where they came from.’

He made the discovery in early September while out with two local ministers who are also keen detectorists, Rev Dr David Bartholomew, a Church of Scotland minister of a rural Galloway charge, and Mike Smith, the pastor of an Elim Pentecostal Church in Galloway.

Rev Dr Bartholomew said: ‘We were searching elsewhere when Derek initially thought he’d discovered a Viking gaming piece.

‘A short time later he ran over to us waving a silver arm-ring and shouting ‘Viking’.

‘It was tremendously exciting, especially when we noticed the silver cross lying face-downwards.

‘It was poking out from under the pile of silver ingots and decorated arm-rings, with a finely wound silver chain still attached to it.

‘It was a heart-stopping moment when the local archaeologist turned it over to reveal rich decoration on the other side.’

Mr McLennan is no stranger to finding treasure, having been part of a group which discovered more than 300 medieval silver coins shortly before Christmas last year.

Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said of the latest find: ‘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.’

Under Scots common law for rediscovered relics the hoard is currently in the care of the Treasure Trove Unit.

An agreement between the landowners – the Church of Scotland General Trustees – and Mr McLennan – has been reached for an appropriate finder’s fee.

 

 

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