Viking axe head discovery is ‘evidence of battle’
Archaeologists think the axe head could be evidence of a battle in 894 AD
A Viking axe head found in a Gloucestershire village could be evidence of a battle more than 1,100 years ago, according to archaeologists.
The wrought iron object, found in Slimbridge in 2008, has now been identified as being of Viking origin.
Historians say a band of Vikings sailed up the River Severn and fought against the Anglo-Saxons in 894 AD.
Archaeologists say where the axe head was found is where they could have tied up their ships.
It was discovered by Ian Hunter Darling under a hedge in his garden.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw. I thought it could have been an agricultural implement of some description,” he said.
He said an archaeological visit to the farm where he lives had got the experts “quite excited”.
“They said I should take it to a museum to have it looked at.”
According to historians King Alfred the Great fought the Vikings in a bloody battle at Minchinhampton, about 10 miles from Slimbridge, in 894 AD.
Three Viking princes were killed in the battle, and fighting could have ranged over a wide area of the Berkeley Vale.
For over a century archaeologists have speculated where the Vikings could have moored their ships.
“They realised my driveway would have been creek in those days before there was a sea wall on the River Severn,” said Mr Hunter Darling.
“The boats could have tied up at the bottom of my garden.”
Members of Slimbridge local history society now want to gather further evidence of Viking activity in the village.
Peter Ballard, from the society, said: “A member of a local family claimed he found a Viking sword in a ditch by the River Cam many years ago, but that has now been lost.”
They are asking for residents who may have found other Viking objects to come forward.
A meeting to highlight the importance of the discovery will be held in Slimbridge Village Hall on 21 February.
The axe head is to go on display at Stroud Museum in the Park.
And the update:
Viking axe find in Slimbridge discounted by archaeologists
An axe head found in a garden in Gloucestershire, which was claimed to be of Viking origin, is an 18th Century woodworking tool, experts have said.
It was found in 2008 by Ian Hunter Darling under a hedge at his home in Slimbridge.
Slimbridge Local History Society who said last week it was Viking have now renamed it the “Slimbridge axe head”.
A meeting about the find is taking place in Slimbridge on 21 February.
David Mullin, from Stroud Museum, where the axe head has been on display for the last six months, said: “The axe was deposited with the museum, its Viking origin having been suggested by others.
“It will continue to be on display at the museum and we plan to take it to the Slimbridge Local History meeting on 21 February.”
Archaeologist Kurt Adams, from Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, said he went to see the find at Stroud Museum on Thursday.
He said: “It’s definitely an 18th or 19th Century woodworking tool – a heavy duty woodworking axe.
“Axes can be quite difficult to date because the form fits the function – but having said that Viking and battle axes are quite distinct.
“A single artefact doesn’t show evidence for a battle, as it could have been an object which was traded or lost.”
Peter Ballard, from the Slimbridge Local History Society, said: “We’ve decided to call it the ‘Slimbridge axe head’ because we don’t know whether it’s Viking or 18th Century.”
Professor Mark Horton, from the University of Bristol, said: “The find has aroused a great deal of interest and incredulity with the archaeological community on the internet – on the Britarch discussion board.
“There is no way that this is a Viking axe head – they look completely different. As to the claim that there was a major battle at Minchinhampton in the 10th Century – these I’m afraid are the product of an over fertile antiquarian imagination.
“There was certainly Viking activity on the River Severn during this period but this is a case of two plus two equalling five.”
British Museum accession no. 1838,0110.2: 10th=century /11th-century battle-axe
London Museum Gallery case 9.1 battle-axes and spears