Viking coins from Dublin found in Wales

Hoard of Viking coins unearthed in field and dating back 1,000 years declared treasure

Portable Antiquities Scheme: NMGW-038729

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One of the Viking Sihtric Anlafsson Long Cross pennies from Dublin © National Museum Wales

 

A hoard of historic Viking treasure found in a field has been declared treasure.

The haul, which includes ancient ingots and fragments of coins dating back almost a thousand years to the time of King Cnut the Great, was found by treasure hunter Walter Hanks from Llanllyfni, near Caernarfon, using a metal detector in nearby Llandwrog back in March.

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One of the Viking pennies of Sihtric Anlafsson from Dublin obverse and reverse © National Museum Wales

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A total of 14 silver pennies produced at Dublin under the Hiberno-Scandinavian ruler Sihtric Anlafsson (989-1036), which archaeologists say are rarely found on the British mainland, also make up part of the find.

Eight of the coins date back to AD 995 while the other six were believed to have been produced in AD 1018.

Experts believe that the hoard was purposely buried in the ground between 1020 and 1030 in a bid to store the silver – and could even have been used as part of a burial ritual.

The astonishing discovery was officially declared treasure by the North West Wales coroner Dewi Pritchard-Jones during an inquest at Caernarfon.

A spokesperson for National Museum Wales could not confirm the value of the coins and said the museum is seeking to acquire the hoard with grant funding from the Collecting Cultures stream of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The spokesperson added: “Now that the hoard has been declared treasure by the coroner, the next step will be to courier this to The British Museum for temporary safe keeping.

“The independent Treasure Valuation Committee, will commission an expert valuer to offer their view on current market/collector value and the committee will consider this, before making their recommendation. Finders and landowners are consulted and are able to offer comment or commission their own valuations, if they wish.

“Usually what happens is that the value is split equally between the finder and the landowner with each getting 50% of the current market value.”

Among the more interesting artefacts in the hoard were are fragments of three or four pennies of Cnut, King of England (1016-35), which were most likely all from the mint of Chester.

Cnut the Great, more commonly known as Canute, was a king of Denmark, England, Norway, and parts of Sweden who ruled from the year 985 or 995 to 1035.

Dr Mark Redknap, Head of Collections and Research in the Department of History and Archaeology at the National Museum Wales said the find will help historians to form a picture of the eleventh century Gwynedd economy.

He said: “There are three complete finger-shaped ingots and one fragmentary finger-shaped metal ingot.

“Nicking on the sides of the ingots is an intervention sometimes undertaken in ancient times to test purity, and evidence that they had been used in commercial transactions before burial.
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“At least four hoards on the Isle of Man* indicate that bullion retained an active role in the Manx economy from the 1030s to 1060s, and the mixed nature of the Llandwrog hoard falls into the same category.

“As such it amplifies the picture we are building up of the wealth and economy operating in the kingdom of Gwynedd in the eleventh century.”

 

*Glenfaba c. 1030 (464 coins, 25 ingots, armlet fragment)

Andreas parish churchyard ingots c. 1045

West Nappin, Jurby c. 1045

Kirk Michael parish churchyard c. 1065

 

 

Viking hoard Dumfries and Galloway

 Spectacular Viking treasure hoard found on Church land

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A hoard of Viking treasure described as the largest found in modern times has been discovered on land owned by the Church of Scotland.

The historically significant find was made by Derek McLennan, a committed metal detector enthusiast who has been searching around the area in Dumfries and Galloway for the last year. The hoard contains more than one hundred artefacts, many of which are unique. They are now in the care of the  Treasure Trove Unit and considered to be of international importance.

Derek, who’s 47, says he was rendered speechless when he made the discovery. He became so emotional when he phoned his partner, Sharon, to tell her the news that she thought he had been in a car crash. Derek is no stranger to finding treasure. He was part of a group which discovered more than 300 medieval silver coins shortly before Christmas last year. He says his latest discovery has enthused archaeologists, who believe it has the potential to reveal many new insights into the Vikings and other cultures of the time.

Among the objects within the hoard is an early Christian cross thought to date from the ninth or tenth centuries. The solid silver cross has enamelled decorations which experts consider to be highly unusual. Derek believes they could represent the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He says “I think they are remarkably similar to the carvings you can see on St Cuthbert’s coffin

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in Durham Cathedral. For me, the cross opens up the possibility of an intriguing connection with Lindisfarne and  Iona.”

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Update 

2017 Metal detectorist rewarded with nearly £2m after unearthing Britain’s biggest Viking treasure

Viking runestones

Rare Runic Stone Discovery

A newly uncovered runic stone-carving was brought to light by Jane Harrison (Senior Associate Tutor working in our Archaeology programmes) working as part of a project team for the intriguing ‘Languages, Myths and Finds‘ programme.

‘Languages, Myths and Finds: Translating Norse and Viking Cultures for the Twenty-first Century’ is a Collaborative Skills Development Programme that brings together graduate students and full-time researchers from across the UK and Ireland to explore the translation of Norse and Viking cultures into the modern day. The project is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, and is based in five communities with Norse heritage: the Isle of Lewis, Cleveland, the Isle of Man, Dublin and Munster.

The fragment of inscribed runestone was found in the Tees Valley at Sockburn, in the grounds of a ruined church, having been used as building stone. The inscription on it reads: Line A … (ept)ir molmu; Line B… (re)isti krus 

Jane said, ‘We compared this inscription with a formula used in many Scandinavian runes from the Isle of Man: ‘X raised this cross in memory of Y’. The inscription on our stone therefore translates as (line B, then line A) ‘…raised cross… in memory of Máel-Muire/Máel-Maire’. Sadly, the name of the patron is lost.’

Máel-Muire or Máel-Maire is a personal name from the Goidelic – which is an Insular Celtic language from the dialect continuum stretching from Ireland through the Isle of Man to Scotland. The name is linked to the place-name Melmerby (found in Cumbria and in North Yorkshire) and also seen in a runic inscription from the Isle of Man [Br Olsen;215 – Kirk Michael (III)].

‘The runestone is relatively small, measuring approximately 22 cm long, 16 cm wide and 9cm deep,’ said Jane. ‘But it’s a very exciting find, despite its small size: Scandinavian runic inscriptions in England are rare – there are fewer than 20 known.’

‘The character of the runestone suggests links with the west from the north-east. The Tees Valley has been relatively neglected in studies of the period but that’s likely to change. For “Vikingologists”, this runestone is a great find and one that makes a fascinating contribution to understanding the Viking settlement of the North-East.’

Also remarkable is the fact that the stone was found in an area with a high concentration of Norse place names, but little in the way of archaeological and historical evidence – apart from unique hogback sculptures (large stone-carved Anglo-Scandinavian sculptures from 10th-12th century England and Scotland usually found in churchyards).

The Languages, Myths and Finds programme draws on the research ideas behind the Vikings Exhibition at the British Museum to generate new research and an understanding of the Viking Age in areas of the country where that period is important but rarely discussed. Jane worked with project leads Professor Heather O’Donoghue (University of Oxford), Dr Pragya Vohra (Aberystwyth University) and PhD students Ellie Rye, Jo Shortt Butler and Nik Gunn (from Nottingham, Cambridge and York Universities).

In addition to the runic discovery, the team produced a research booklet, spoke at a conference and performed public engagement work with local societies.

For full information on the Languages, Myths and Finds project, please see the programme website, at languagesmythsfinds.ac.uk On the website you can download and enjoy the booklets produced by each of the project teams, including Jane’s team’s work in Cleveland, which can be found at: languagesmythsfinds.ac.uk/north-east-england/

 

And:

Viking runestone found on medieval scholar’s farmland


The runestone found at Naversdale, Orphir. (Picture:www.theorcadianphotos.co.uk)

In what has been described as an “amazing coincidence”, a viking runestone with a religious inscription has been discovered on a farm owned by archaeologist Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon, an expert on Norse church history.

Found by Dr Gibbon’s father, Donnie Grieve, a retired teacher from Harray, the runes on the broken stone are a 19-character Latin passage of part the Lord’s Prayer — “who art in heaven hallowed” [*(s)insilisantifi(t)s(i)(t)or – ‘…s in caelis, sanctificetur‘ with the runic “s” in place of the Latin  “c”]

The complete stone. (Picture:www.theorcadianphotos.co.uk)

Measuring approximately 8cm by 24cm, it was discovered by Mr Grieve at Naversdale farm in Orphir while he was gathering building stone from a field on September 26.

He said: “I recognised it right away as being runes. It’s very recognisable and very clear.

“It’s unusual, because it’s a Latin inscription — part of the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t think there’s any record of any inscription like that in Orkney or Shetland, so it’s unusual.

“There are plenty of runes, but they are mostly Viking graffiti. This is something a bit different.”

Mr Grieve said that since the find he has been looking out for the remaining parts of the stone.

“When looking for other stone, I’ve been keeping my eye open for the other piece, but I think there’s little likelihood of it turning up,” he said.

“It could have come from anywhere, and it’s probably long separated from the other half.”

Dr Gibbon said: “Dad’s discovery of the runestone is really exciting and, as far as I know, a first for Orkney. I couldn’t believe it when I first saw the stone. We have sent photographs to Professor Michael Barnes, expert on Orkney runic inscriptions, and I am looking forward very much to hearing what he has to say about the find.

“I am hoping he will be able to shed light on the date of the inscription so that we can begin to put it in its proper local and wider ecclesiastical contexts.”

Dr Gibbon said it was not known how or when the runestone came to Naversdale, but there were a number of possible scenarios.

“Was the inscription carved on a stone in a medieval structure on the farm, or was it brought here at a later date from somewhere else, perhaps from elsewhere on the Swanbister Estate?” she said.

“It would be fascinating to find out more about the history of our farm and the buildings on it, and we would be delighted to hear from anyone with information.”

Dr Gibbon added: “I am looking forward to discovering as much as I can about the runestone, especially as the preliminary findings indicate it is from a medieval Christian context, which is my main area of interest. The fact it was found where I live, by my dad, just makes this even more fascinating.”

Julie Gibson, Orkney county archaeologist, said: “The stone is a very beautiful one, each character evenly placed. I love that it is a religious inscription, and what an amazing coincidence that it should turn up at Dr Gibbon’s house.

“We are so lucky Sarah Jane’s father found it, and that  Sarah Jane could recognise its value right away.”

Mrs Gibson added that photos of the stone were sent to Terje Spurkland and Professor Michael Barnes, at Oslo University, where a year long runology project is under way.

“Terje confirmed suspicions that the runes represented slightly corrupted Latin, and he translated them as meaning ‘who art in heaven hallowed’,” she said.

The stone is currently with the Orkney College archaeology department, but it is hoped it will soon be on display at the Orkney Museum.

Viking king discovered?

East Lothian skeleton may be 10th Century Irish Viking king
A skeleton discovered on an archaeological dig in East Lothian may be a 10th Century Irish Viking who was king of Dublin and Northumbria.
King Olaf Guthfrithsson [Óláfr Guðfriðarson][Ánláf] led raids on Auldhame and nearby Tyninghame shortly before his death in 941.
The remains excavated from Auldhame in 2005 are those of a young adult male who was buried with a number of items indicating his high rank.
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They include a belt similar to others from Viking Age Ireland.
The find has led archaeologists and historians to speculate that the skeleton could be that of King Olaf or one of his entourage.
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A jaw bone was part of the remains found at Auldhame which may belong to King Olaf
Olaf was a member of the Uí Ímar dynasty who, in 937, defeated his Norse rivals in Limerick and pursued his family claim to the throne of York.
He married the daughter of King Constantine II of Scotland and allied himself with Owen I of Strathclyde.
The theory that he could have been buried close to the Auldhame battle site was revealed as Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited a Neolithic monument in County Meath, Ireland.
The tour of Newgrange is being used to highlight archaeological links between Scotland and Ireland.
Ms Hyslop said: “This is a fascinating discovery and it’s tantalising that there has been the suggestion that this might be the body of a 10th Century Irish Viking king.”
Dr Alex Woolf, a senior lecturer in the School of History at the University of St Andrews and a consultant on the project, admits the evidence is circumstantial.
But he said: “Whilst there is no way to prove the identity of the young man buried at Auldhame, the date of the burial and the equipment make it very likely that this death was connected with Olaf’s attack.”

Silver Viking pendant

Old news, but new exhibition.

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This pendant, found in 2002, has been on loan to the National Museum, Copenhagen for their Viking exhibition last year. It has since been returned to be one of the many exhibits in the Vikings: Life and Legend exhibition which opened at the British Museum in March this year.

It was aquired by Ipswich Museum in 2003: Rare pendant added to collection
IPSWICH Borough Council has added a rare early Viking pendant to its heritage collection – thanks to financial support from The Friends of Ipswich Museums.
The silver pendant is probably an Anglo-Scandinavian product, dated to the time of the main Danish settlement in East Anglia after around 879.
It shows a male [! cf. images below and National Museum captions] warrior wearing a long dress-like tunic holding a shield and sword. It was found near Wickham Market last year [2002] by a local medal detector and declared Treasure Trove. Ipswich Museum has managed to purchase it with financial assistance from the Friends of Ipswich Museums.
The pendant can be compared with a series of similar, early Viking-period, usually female figures of the 9th century from Scandinavia and England.
Danish Vikings plundered eastern England from the 8th century onwards, before settling in East Anglia after around 879. This can be seen in local place names. Suffolk’s Viking place-names are Ashby, Barnby, Eyke, Lound, and Risby. Ipswich’s prosperity in the late Saxon period was probably responsible for the fact that it was frequently the target of Danish raiders; they plundering the town in 919 and again in 991. The town was among the last targets of Danish raids on East Anglia in 1069.
Viking metal-detector finds from East Anglia easily outnumber those from other parts of the country. Mostly from the late 9th, 10th and 11th centuries and are predominantly small objects of personal adornment – brooches, buckles, pins etc, manufactured both in Scandinavia and locally in Scandinavian styles.
Sally Dummer, Registration and Collections Manager at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “This is an exciting acquisition, as the archaeology collections has very few objects from the Viking period. The Museum is very grateful to the Friends of Ipswich Museums for their assistance with this purchase. The pendant is now exhibited in the Viking display in the Ipswich Story at the High Street Museum.

Some other Viking valkyrie pieces:

1ccb0b9e19Figure depicting a valkyrie. In Norse mythology the valkyries took fallen warriors to Valhalla. Photograph: The National Museum.

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Piece of jewellery depicting a valkyrie. Found at Tissø.

Four views of the Valkyrie, cleaned and to scale

3D Hårby  valkyrie figure

Reinterpretation of a Viking metal rod

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A Viking metal rod which left experts baffled for more than a century has finally been identified as a ‘magic wand’ used by a witch [O.N. volva or Icelandic völva] to cast spells.
The staff, which was found in a ninth-century grave, is curved at the end – causing it to be misidentified as a fishing hook or a spit for roasting food.
However, archaeologists have now concluded that it was in fact a magical item belonging to a sorceress who was ‘on the margins of society’.
It had been buried next to a woman’s body alongside other valuable items including an unusual plaque made of whalebone, implying that the person in the grave had a high status in Viking society.
They suggest that the reason it was bent before being buried with its owner was to remove its magical properties – possibly to prevent the witch coming back from the dead.
The 90cm-long rod has been part of the British Museum’s collection since 1894, when it was discovered in Norway’s Romsdal province.
Its unusual shape, with a knobbly ‘handle’ and a hooked end, originally led historians to believe that it was a practical object used for catching fish.

They later decided that it was in fact a skewer for roasting meat – but after comparing the rod with other similar objects*, experts have now reached a different conclusion.
British Museum curator Sue Branning says that it was probably a magical staff [vølvestav] used to perform ‘seithr’ [seiðr], a form of Viking sorcery predominantly practiced by women.
‘Our rod fits with a number of these rods that turn up in the ninth and 10th century in female burials,’ she told The Times. ‘They normally take the form of these long iron rods with knobs attached to them.’
The curve in the end of the staff is likely to have signified that it was being put out of use, a common practice in the medieval period for grave goods which were routinely broken when they were buried.
Bending or breaking the buried possessions of the dead could have served to neutralise their magical properties – preventing their former owners from casting spells from beyond the grave.
‘There must have been some kind of ritual,’ Ms Branning said. ‘This object was ritually “killed”, an act that would have removed the power of this object.’
Although Viking society, like most medieval societies, was dominated by men, some women were believed to have special powers which made them influential figures.
Ms Branning said: ‘These women were very well respected, but they were quite feared as well. They may have been on the margins of society.’
Because the Vikings were not converted to Christianity until around 1000 AD, there is strong evidence for the importance of magic in their society at a time when the rest of Europe had largely abandoned the practice.

Cross fragment from kirk Michael, isle of Man, bearing a female figure with a staff, often interpreted as a wise woman with a staff.

Cross fragment from Kirk Michael, Isle of Man, bearing a female figure with a staff, often interpreted as a wise woman with a staff.

* A seeress from Fyrkat

Further reading:
Gardela, L. (2009) ‘A Biography of the Seiðr-Staffs. Towards an Archaeology of Emotions. In L. P. Slupecki, J. Morawiec (eds.), Between Paganism and Christianity in the North, Rzeszów: Rzeszów University, 190-219.

Insular mount from Viking grave

Celtic brooch

Looted Viking treasure is discovered in British Museum store: Curator spots 1,000-year-old brooch in lump taken from 18th century excavation

A Celtic treasure looted by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago has been discovered in the British Museum’s storerooms. An ornate, gilded disc brooch dating from the eighth or ninth century was found by chance and is being described as a “staggering find”. No-one knew of its existence until now.
It had been concealed in a lump of organic material excavated from a Viking burial site at Lilleberge in Norway by a British archaeologist in the 1880s and acquired by the British Museum in 1891.
Curator Barry Ager, a Vikings specialist, was poring over artefacts before a visit from a Norwegian researching the Viking site when his eye was caught by some metal sticking out of the side of the organic lump.
Intrigued, he asked the conservation department to X-ray it. “At that stage, I really didn’t know what was inside,” he said. “It was a staggering find.”
He added: “It turned out, quite remarkably, to be this Celtic disc… It’s extremely exciting… It’s a very rare example of its sort within the collection… shows contact between the British Isles and Norway in the Viking period … objects seized as loot in this country and taken back.”
He believes that it was originally made in Ireland or Scotland, that it came from a shrine or a reliquary, and that the Vikings converted it into a brooch by attaching rivet holes and a pin.
The brooch, almost 6cm in diameter, had been buried in the grave of a high-status Viking woman. Substantial remains of the gilding still survive on the top surface and its elaborate design includes three dolphin-like creatures and interlaced patterns.
“The …patterns, the quatrefoil of the central roundel and the form of the ‘dolphins’ heads have clear parallels in Celtic metalwork and manuscripts of the 8th to early 9th centuries, such as the Tara Brooch and the Book of Mac Regol,” Ager said.
He described the craftsmanship as “very fine” and said that the Vikings valued “eye-catching” objects: “The Vikings themselves were very skilled metalworkers, so I’m sure that’s something that would appeal to a Viking eye.”
Other artefacts that came to the museum from that burial site included two oval brooches and strings of beads. There was also a spindle whorl and a whalebone plaque, which may have been used as a food serving-tray in feasts.
Ager explained: “It was the custom to bury the person with their personal possessions. They were pagan at the time, so it was part of the standard Viking burial rite.”
The burial site was a grave field marked by large mounds. The 19th-century excavation was carried out by Alfred Heneage Cocks*, a British archaeologist, in his spare time between hunting and fishing in Norway. He recorded his progress in a journal. Describing the moment he discovered the spindle whorl, he wrote: “This my knife unfortunately divided before I saw it – it was as soft as the softest cheese.”
Fortunately, he also retained some lumps of organic material, Ager said.
Extensive research is yet to be done. The wood within that lump leads him to suspect that it is the remains of a box to which the brooch may have been attached. Tests might determine whether it is local from the British Isles.
14-59-Lilleberge-assemblage-580x431Investigating the Lilleburge assemblage, a collection of Viking objects that includes items still in the small blocks of soil in which they were excavated in 1886 from a long barrow in Norway.

Removing the brooch from the lump was a painstaking process involving scalpels as conservators wanted to preserve a rare example of Viking textile. That too will be tested, but experts have already detected three different types, including a herringbone pattern.
The brooch will go on display from March 27 in Room 41 – Sutton Hoo and Europe AD 300–1100 – which tells the story of a formative period in Europe’s history. A major exhibition, Vikings: Life and Legend, which focuses on the core period of the Viking Age from the late 8th century to the early 11th century, will include the remains of a 37-metre Viking longship – the longest ever found and never seen before in the UK – runs from 6 March to 22 June.

The reuse of an Insular mount may be paralleled by the example from Komnes, Norway. The gilt-bronze disc mount, with raised ‘watch spring’ spiral bosses, is now in the Universitetets Oldsaksamling, Oslo. It was probably, also, looted from an ecclesiastical cross or shrine during a raid in Ireland and brought to Norway and dates to the 8th or 9th century.

*Alfred Heneage Cocks (British archaeologist; collector; 1864 – 1928)