Spectacular hoard of Viking treasure found on church land revealed after 1000 years

Viking
A pendent unearthed as part of the Galloway Hoard. Images Historic Environment Scotland.

A television programme about a spectacular hoard of Viking treasure found buried under land owned by the Church of Scotland is being broadcast tonight.

The Galloway hoard – the most important discovery of its kind in Scotland for more than 100 years - features on the latest episode of BBC Four's Digging for Britain at 9pm.

The historically significant find was made by Derek McLennan, a committed metal detector enthusiast, on glebe land in an undisclosed area of Dumfries and Galloway in September, 2014.

Conservators have now released images that reveal the "stunning" contents of a Carolingian' (West European) vessel, or pot,which dates from 9th-10th centuries AD, many of which are unique.

The cache of objects, part of a wider hoard of more than 100 items, includes a large number of silver ingots and armrings, a beautifully-preserved cross, an ornate gold pin in the likeness of a bird and six silver Anglo-Saxon disc brooches.

Byzantium silk from around modern-day Istanbul and gold and crystal objects that have been carefully wrapped in cloth bundles were also discovered – a hoard that provides "unparalleled insight" into the minds of Vikings in Galloway.

Extremely proud

Mr McLennan said: "The Galloway Viking Treasure is unprecedented and could be considered one of the greatest ever found throughout the world, and most definitely within the UK.

"So, you can imagine how difficult it has been to keep all this information, not only from the public, but my family and friends as well.

"The iconic make-up of the hoard and the potential history behind it, with links to Iona and the Book of Kells makes our bond to the Church of Scotland even stronger.

"I am extremely proud of this discovery."

David Robertson, Secretary of General Trustees of the Church of Scotland which holds land owned by the Kirk, said: "We are delighted to be involved in this exciting find, which we understand to be of immense historical and cultural significance.

"The artefacts found, and particularly those now uncovered from the Carolingian pot, show incredible artistry and craftsmanship.

"I am sure, as the research and investigation continues, it will reveal more fascinating details and insights into life in Scotland in the 9thand 10th centuries.

"The Church very much appreciates the work of Historic Environment Scotland in carrying out the painstaking conservation process.

"We look forward to learning more in due course."

Unparalled insight

Richard Welander, of Historic Environment Scotland, said: "These stunning objects provide us with an unparalleled insight to what was going on in the minds of the Vikings in Galloway all those years ago.

"They tell us about the sensibilities of the time, reveal displays of regal rivalries, and some of the objects even betray an underlying sense of humour, which the Vikings aren't always renowned for."

The project is being funded by Historic Environment Scotland, working in partnership with the Treasure Trove Unit, and the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR).

Stuart Campbell of the Treasure Trove Unit, said: "The complexity of the material in the hoard raises more questions than it answers, and like all the best archaeology, this find doesn't give any easy answers.

"Questions about the motivations and cultural identity of the individuals who buried it will occupy scholars and researchers for years to come."

Museums

The items from within the vessel, which may have been accumulated over a number of generations, reveal objects from across Europe and from other cultures with non-Viking origins.

At the moment, their purpose remains a mystery.

The decision about which material to include in the vessel appears to have been based on complex and highly personal notions of how an individual valued an object as much as the bullion value the objects represented.

The vessel contents are now with the Treasure Trove Unit, who will assess the value of the hoard on behalf of the Office of Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer.

Once the valuation process is completed, accredited Scottish Museums will have the opportunity to apply for them.

(Images provided by Derek McLennan.)