One of the most important hoards of Viking silver ever found in Britain
contains valuable coins bearing the identity of a previously unknown ruler,
it emerged yesterday.Image 1 of 2The Viking hoard pictured at the British Museum Photo: Trustees of the British Museum.
The “hugely significant” hoard of 1,000-year-old artefacts includes more than 200 coins, ingots and pieces of silver jewellery that was found buried underground in north Lancashire.
Experts at the British Museum are currently examining the hoard after it was discovered in a lead pot by a metal detector enthusiast. A coroner will decide later this week whether it qualifies as treasure.
The hoard was placed in a lead box and buried underground at a time when the Anglo-Saxons were attempting to wrest control of the north of the country from the Vikings.
Yesterday, the central London museum unveiled the hoard, the fourth largest ever found, which included Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Viking, German and Islamic coins.
In total there were 201 silver objects, including the 27 coins which date the burial around 900AD, around the time the Vikings had been expelled from Dublin and were fighting the Anglo-Saxons to keep control of the north of England.
It also includes also coins from the time of Alfred the Great, who reigned from 871 to 899, and from the Viking kingdom of Northumbria.
One silver denier, bears the name Charles. Others bear the name Airdeconut, a Viking ruler in northern England.
Officials said the inscription Airdeconut, appeared to be an attempt to represent the Scandinavian name Harthacnut.
They said this was because many Vikings had converted to Christianity within a generation of settling in Britain.
On the other side were the words DNS (Dominus) REX, which was arranged in the form of a cross.
“The design of the coin relates to known coins of the kings Siefredus and Cnut, who ruled the Viking kingdom of Northumbria around AD900, but Harthacnut is otherwise unrecorded,” a museum spokesman said.
“It is a very significant find. It is a very large haul and it is the fourth large Viking find in the UK. Because it is recently discovered there is lots of research to be done.”
Experts believe the hoard, which also includes 10 arm rings, two finger rings, 14 ingots, six brooch fragments and a fine wire braid which may have been worn as a necklace, could have been buried by a Viking warrior before he went into battle.
The collection of 10 bracelets and other jewellery are thought to have been worn to signify rank of the influential owner.
Dr Gareth Williams, the curator of early medieval coins at the museum, said: “Some of the coins reinforce the things we already know but with some of them it fills in the gaps where we didn’t even know we had gaps.
“It is always great when you get a new piece of evidence. This is the first new medieval King for at least 50 years and the first Viking King discovered since 1840. It is a very exciting find.”
It was found in September by Darren Webster, 39 using a metal detector on land around Silverdale, in north Lancashire.
If the coroner rules it is treasure, an independent committee will value it and any money raised will be divided equally between company director and the landowner.
The hoard was unveiled at an event in the museum yesterday to mark the launch of the Treasure and Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) reports, which showed there were 157,188 finds recorded between 2009 and last year.
Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister, said: “It is widely recognised that both the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act 1996 have been a great success.
“They are both helping to enrich museum collections, with the most important archaeological discoveries being acquired for the nation.
“It is a tremendous achievement that the Staffordshire and Frome hoards are now on display in public collections where they can be enjoyed by all.”
Mr Webster said he would “love” the collection to go to his local museum in Lancaster.