Scottish officials announced today “a hugely significant find” – the discovery of a Viking Hoard in Dumfries. Over 100 artifacts dating back to the 9th and 10th century have been found, including a solid silver cross and a Carolingian pot.
The discovery was made by Derek McLennan, a metal detector enthusiast who was exploring fields owned by the Church of Scotland in Dumfries. He explained to the BBC that “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.”
When the discovery was made in early September, Derek was in the company of two ministers who are also detectorists; Rev Dr David Bartholomew, who is a Church of Scotland minister of a rural Galloway charge, and Mike Smith, the pastor of an Elim Pentecostal Church in Galloway. David says “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.”
Among the finds are metal ingots, arm bands, a golden bird pin, silver stamp-decorated bracelets from Ireland and beads commonly found in Scandinavia. Mr McLennan, who found 300 medieval coins in the same area last year, is particularly excited about the discovery of the early medieval cross: “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.”
Scotland’s Treasure Trove unit released a statement, which its Head, Stuart Campbell, explained, “This is a very important and significant find and has required the close cooperation of Historic Scotland with Treasure Trove Unit and National Museums Scotland staff to recover the fascinating items it contains.
“Due to the quantity and variety of the objects, and the importance of the find overall, it will take some time for experts to assess the hoard as a whole so that we can appreciate its true significance. We look forward to learning more.”
Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, added, “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.”
The value of the hoard is still to be determined, but is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. It will be split between Mr. McLennan and the Church of Scotland.
Image of some of the silver in the Viking hoard. Ingots, arm rings, gold ring, and Early Medieval cross. pic.twitter.com/rXseVmJVWq
— Treasure Trove Unit (@TTUScotland) October 12, 2014
— Adrián Maldonado (@amaldon) October 12, 2014