Viking Hoards

The finding of a Viking hoard has been in the news and reported byAardvarchaeologist, Cronaca and The Cranky Professor, has reminded me of a smaller hoard found in recent years, known as the Huxley Hoard.

Contents of the Huxley hoard

The hoard is thought to date to the first decade of the tenth century AD. The 22 silver objects consist of one small cast ingot and 21 bracelets or arm rings that had been folded flat, probably for ease of burial. Sixteen of the bracelets are intricately decorated with stamped designs using a distinctive type of punch work. The different types of bracelet are:

  • six flat arm rings with a stamped decoration of central crosses and a cross at each end.
  • six flat arm rings with a stamped decoration of central crosses
  • two flat arm rings with stamped lattice patterns
  • four flat plain arm rings
  • one flat arm ring with an hourglass stamp around the outside
  • one flat arm ring with stamped chevrons, a central and end crosses
  • one arm ring which is now a twisted bar with a stamped zig zag pattern

The hoard weighs nearly 1.5 kg in total. The presence of the lead fragments suggests that the silver was either wrapped in a sheet of lead or could even have been buried in a lead lined wooden box, all traces of the wood having now vanished.

‘Unsung heroes of heritage’ extolled for unearthing hoard of treasure

The Viking silver, made up of a twisted silver rod, 21 bracelets, and a single heavy silver ingot, was found in the remains of a battered lead box. Steve Reynoldson, who discovered it in a field in Cheshire, had been at the weekend rally of a metal detecting club, on land that had yielded nothing more exciting than a few medieval pennies. He found scraps of lead about a foot below the turf. The first piece of silver appeared near the river Gowy, which is little more than a puddle now but in the 10th century was probably deep enough for Viking boats.The bracelets so closely resemble silver items from the spectacular Cuerdale Viking hoard – 8,600 pieces found by workmen near Preston in 1840 and now in the British Museum – that tests will be done to see if they came from the same workshop. The bracelets were made in Dublin, a Viking town from which Irish chieftains drove the Scandinavians in 902. It took them 12 years to take the settlement back.Rob Philpott, head of archaeology at Liverpool Museum, believes the silver might have been brought across the Irish sea to the Vikings on Merseyside to pay for mercenaries to help in the attack. There was also no sign of a building at this site. Mr Philpott believes the hoard may have been buried under a long gone tree, by someone who meant to go back for it. “Who knows what happened? They were very lively times.”Mr Reynoldson will get half the £28,000 reward, the remainder goes to the landowner. The silver will be on permanent public display in the region where it was found.

Another hoard from that area are the Bryn Maelgwyn hoard, near Deganwy, c. AD 1020, with its extensive hoard of pennies of Cnut, many from the Chester mint.

A small Viking-age hoard of English coins was found in 1845 near the cathedral at Bangor [North Wales], possibly representing a burial for safekeeping at a time of insecurity during the 960s. Viking silver hoards include a set of pristine armlets from Red Wharf Bay on Anglesey, and a Scandinavian coin hoard (which included some Arabic coins) buried at Bangor in about 925. Whether these hoards were loot, savings or capital intended for trading is not clear.

The most spectacular Viking Hoard, from that side of the country, was found in 1840 and was the Cuerdale Hoard.

Checklist of Coin Hoards from the British Isles, c.450-1180

A book and articles on the subject:

  • James Graham-Campbell and Gareth Williams, ‘Silver Economy in the Viking Age’
  • John Sheehan, ‘Ireland’s early Viking Age Silver Hoards: Components, Structure and Classification’ in Acta Archaeologica vol.71, 2000, pp.49-63
  • Susan E Cruse & James Tate, XRF Analysis of Viking Age Silver Ingots in Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 122, 1992,pp.295-328
  • Update Viking silver treasure hoard worth £1m unearthed after 1,000 years

    Update Publication

    Knitting sheaths from Brecknock Museum and Art Gallery.

    Knitting sheaths were given as love tokens in the same was as lovespoons. They would be skilfully and often elaborately carved by a suitor and given to his sweetheart. At the beginning of the 19th century, this custom was confined to the peasantry but gradually, the knitting sheath became popular in the Victorian parlours and some were carved out of ivory, metal and other materials as well as wood.These knitting sheaths did serve a practical purporse and would be worn on the right side of the body, at an angle. In the sheath would be placed the bottom of the knitting needle, leaving the left hand to work the yarn on the other kneedle. The sheath was supposed to hold the weight of the wool thus preventing the hooks from falling off the end of the knitting needles.Source: Catrin Stevens, ‘Arferion Caru’ (Llandysul, 1977)

    Cairo toe earliest fake body bit

    An artificial big toe found on the foot of an ancient Egyptian mummy could be the world’s earliest functional fake body part, UK experts believe. A Manchester University team hope to prove that the leather and wood “Cairo toe” not only looked the part but also helped its owner walk.They will test a replica in volunteers whose right big toe is missing.If true, the toe will predate the currently considered earliest practical prosthesis – a fake leg from 300BC. The Roman Capua Leg, made of bronze, was held at the Royal College of Surgeons in London but was destroyed by Luftwaffe bombs during the Second World War.

    Rare Mary Rose sword to be displayed for first time Twenty five years after it was retrieved from the bed of the Solent and the wreck of Henry VIII’s favourite warship Mary Rose, a rare 16th century basket-hilted sword is to be put on display for the first time.

    A rare Irish 9th century silver brooch has been donated to National Museums Northern Ireland.

    The Ballyvolan brooch, described by experts as “exceptional”, was found in the ruins of Ballyvolan Fort near Kilmartin in County Wicklow about 1900.

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