A metal-detector enthusiast in southwest Scotland has discovered a hoard of gold and silver Viking artifacts dating back 1,000 years.
Among the 100 items unearthed in a Dumfriesshire field by 47-year-old retired businessman Derek McLennan are a solid silver medieval cross, a mysterious silver alloy vessel and a delicate gold bird pin that alone could be worth more than $100,000.
The find, which dates back to the 9th or 10th century AD, is being hailed as one of the largest and most spectacular Viking treasure hoards ever seen.
Other precious items found by McLennan include silver ingots, armbands, brooches and rings. The mysterious sealed silver alloy vessel, which seems to be wrapped in a cloth sack, is expected to contain yet more treasures. The vessel will be X-rayed by archaeologists before the lid is removed.
“It’s clear that these artifacts are of great value in themselves,” Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, told International Business Times, “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 Vikings, who were of Scandinavian origin, made frequent raids on Britain from the 8th to the 11th centuries. Their spoils were commonly buried for safekeeping.
The Treasure Trove Unit, a Scottish government agency that ensures that significant objects from Scotland’s past are preserved in museums for the public’s benefit, praised McLennan for his “responsible actions” in disclosing the discovery. Scottish law provide for rewards equal to the market value of the antiquities discovered. In this case, both McLennan and the local parish will benefit financially, although the actual numbers have not been released.
McLennan told BBC News that, at first, he didn’t think much of his initial find. “I thought it was a silver spoon,” he said. “Then I turned it over and wiped my thumb across it and I saw the Saltire-type of design. I knew instantly it was Viking.”
McLennan could hardly contain his excitement: “Then my senses exploded,” he said. “I went into shock, endorphins flooded my system, and away I went stumbling towards my colleagues waving it in the air.”
The Viking hoard is hardly McLennan’s first newsworthy discovery. In 2013, he unearthed nearly 300 medieval coins in an area not very far from the Viking find.
Photos: Treasure Trove Unit, Facebook/TreasureTroveScotland