The Harrogate Hoard is Britain’s largest and most important Viking hoard discovered in a field since 1840.
Metal detector enthusiast David Whelan and his son Andrew found Harrogate Hoard in a newly built field near Harrogate, Yorkshire, England. Having worked the field before, they could find nothing more than a few Victorian buttons.
David received a signal that caused him to dig a little deeper, resulting in a stronger signal. Digging further revealed lead fragments and a round object covered in mud. That object turned out to be a silver bowl visible in the mud along with a few coins.
Whelan recognized one of the coins as an Anglo-Saxon coin from the reign of Edward the Elder (899-924 AD). The two carefully recorded what they had found and its exact location in the field.
This turned out to be an important step, as by the time the researchers returned to the restoration site, all evidence of digging had been washed away in a storm. They took the cup and a few coins and reported the find to Amy Cooper, the Mobile Antiquities Authority’s Search Liaison.
The Treasures Act of 1996 requires that all finds, including those more than 300 years old and more than 10% gold or silver, be reported to authorities. The Whelans obeyed the law and reported the find not only to Cooper but also to the landowner.
They resisted the lure to remove the objects from the bowl and asked only that they be present when the objects were removed for inspection and cleaning. The ability to know the order in which the coins were placed is crucial, and thanks to the way the Whelans excavate and search responsibly, researchers will be able to pinpoint when the objects were placed at this site.
Hoard of 617 silver coins and 67 silver objects including silver and gold bracelets, bracelets, rings, other jewelry, silver hacks and lead fragments in a rare gilded silver vase (second of its kind found in the UK and one of only seven found in Europe).
Made in Germany or France circa 900 AD, it is intricately carved with vines, leaves, and 6 hunting scenes showing lions chasing deer and horses. Archaeologists believe the vessel may have been used in religious ceremonies. The lead is believed to be part of a storage box in which the hoard was buried.
The coins show pre-Christian Muslim, Christian and Norse pagan symbols. The hoard included items from a variety of locations, including Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Russia, North Africa, Scandinavia, Ireland, and continental European countries.
Vikings in the seventh and eighth centuries often buried their treasure in times of war, with the intention of returning when it was safe. Hoards found across the UK and surrounding areas may indicate the owner was killed or forced to flee.
Maybe the vault was the property of a Viking chieftain; he may have left it after the conquest of the Viking Kingdom of Northumbria in 927 AD by Athelstan (924 AD – 939 AD), the Anglo-Saxon king of England. Under the Treasure Law, the value of hoards must be determined, and the items offered to museums for bidding.
The proceeds are divided between the property owner and the discoverers. The independent Treasure Valuation Committee valued the treasure at £1,082,000 ($1,329,723 US currency) and was purchased jointly by York Museums Trust and the British Museum, with subsidies from the Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the British Museum Friends, and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, to name just a few.
When the father and son were asked what they would do with the proceeds, Andrew Whelan remarked, “Being fairly cautious Yorkshire people, we won’t go and buy a sports car or anything like that”. The restored items are on display at The Yorkshire Museum in the Medieval Gallery.
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