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Treasure Trove Inquest spotlights Viking heritage

[Thursday 19 July 2007]
north yorkshire Viking artefacts
Treasure Trove Inquest spotlights Viking heritage

THE most significant hoard of Viking artefacts found in Britain for over a century is set to be the subject of a Treasure Trove Inquest in Harrogate today.

The hoard of coins and other artefacts was discovered in North Yorkshire back in January by metal-detectorists David and Andrew Whelan.

The Yorkshire Dales and wider North Yorkshire area are renowned for their Viking heritage and the size and quality of this hoard is remarkable, making it the most important find of its type in Britain since a discovery at Cuerdale in Lancashire in 1840. That hoard was the largest ever found in Western Europe.

The father and son detecting team promptly reported the hoard to their local Finds Liaison Officer. As a possible Treasure find, it was then transferred to the British Museum where conservators have carefully excavated each find to avoid damaging the individual objects or losing important contextual information.

The conservation work has revealed that like other Viking hoards of the period, it contains a mixture of different precious metal objects, including coins, complete ornaments, ingots (bars) and chopped-up fragments known as hack-silver.

The hoard also shows the diversity of cultural contacts in the medieval world, with objects coming from as far apart as Afghanistan in the East and Ireland in the West, as well as Russia, Scandinavia and continental Europe.

The most spectacular single object is a gilt silver vessel, made in what is now France in the first half of the ninth century. It was apparently intended for use in church services, and was probably either looted from a monastery by Vikings, or given to them in tribute.

Most of the smaller objects were hidden inside this vessel, which was itself protected by some form of lead container. As a result, the hoard was extremely well-preserved.

Other star objects include a rare gold arm-ring, and over 600 coins, including several new or rare types. These have provided the British Museum with valuable new information about the history of England in the early tenth century, as well as Yorkshire's wider cultural contacts in the period.

Interestingly, the hoard contains coins relating to Islam and to the pre-Christian religion of the Vikings, as well as to Christianity.

I'm delighted that such an important Viking hoard has been discovered in North Yorkshire

Geoff Fell - North Yorkshire Coroner

It is thought the hoard was probably buried for safety by a wealthy Viking leader during the unrest that followed the conquest of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria in AD 927 by the Anglo-Saxon king Athelstan.

The hoard will today be declared Treasure by the North Yorkshire Coroner under the terms of the 1996 Treasure Act. The find is of global importance, as well as having huge significance for the history of North Yorkshire.

The next stage of the Treasure process is for the hoard to be valued for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. In the meantime a number of museums will continue to develop more detailed plans to raise money for the acquisition, and to exhibit the hoard once it is acquired.

Mr Fell, Coroner, commented: 'Treasure cases are always interesting, but this is one of the most exciting cases that I have ever had to rule on.

"I'm delighted that such an important Viking hoard has been discovered in North Yorkshire. We are extremely proud of our Viking heritage in this area."

Gina Lane Director of Operations for the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council added: "Thanks to the continuing responsible behaviour of metal detectorists, another fantastic find has been made available for everyone to enjoy, either online or in museums. This is also thanks to successful partnership working between the local museum services and the British Museum."

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