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Viking artefacts are treasure trove

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  • by John Turner
 

A rare Viking gold ingot was one of four discoveries of Norse treasure in the Isle of Man recently.

The ingot, along with a collection of silver coins, a gold ring and a silver seal were the subjects of three treasure trove inquiries before coroner John Needham.

The items were all declared treasure trove, meaning ownership is vested in the Lord in Man and the items will be placed in the custody of Manx National Heritage, with compensation paid both to the finder and the landowner.

Coroner John Needham said the issue was to decide if the items were treasure trove according to the criteria in the Treasure Trove Act of 1586.

Metal detectorist Robert Farrer said he found the ring buried around four inches deep in a stubble field in Michael, near the course of the old railway line. A silver seal was found buried about eight inches deep by fellow metal detectorist Andrew Falconer on the other side of the railway track.

Curator of archaeology for Manx National Heritage Allison Fox said the gold ring, dating from 1200 to 1250 and the seal, dating from 1315 to 1330 could have been part of a single hoard buried for safekeeping as late as the 1500s and later bisected by the railway line.

A stash of 119 silver coins found last year by metal detectorist Lee Morgan in a field in Braddan were also deemed treasure trove.

Miss Fox said the coins dated from 1272 to 1327 and included one contemporary forgery with a lower silver content. Two previous finds from the same area in 1978 and 1980 were probably all part of the same hoard, she said.

The final item, a gold ingot, was discovered buried around three inches deep in a stubble field about 150 yards from the road side in Maughold – again by a metal detectorist, John Crowe. A rare item of Viking age gold, the ingot probably dates from 950 to 1050AD.

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FACTFILE

Curator of archaeology for Manx National Heritage Allison Fox said the gold ingot was rare as most Viking finds to date were silver. The ingot, which is 92 per cent pure gold, would have been a valuable item when first produced. It is 38mm wide and weighs 26.8 grammes.

Miss Fox said the ingot did not pre-date coins as currency and the two trading methods had existed alongside one another.

Ingots were used in place of coins as payment but were often cut down in size to create smaller value tokens for trading. A similar ingot was found in Norfolk and was thought to date from 950 to 1050AD. A high value item like the ingot was likely to have been concealed for safe-keeping and could be part of a larger collection which could come to light later. The collection of silver coins, which date from the reigns of Edward I and II, is not the first to be discovered all at the same Braddan location. Finds date from the 1870s and total well over 350 coins so far. As metal detector technology improves, more finds come to light.

To be declared treasure trove an item must have been concealed with a view to retrieval, rather than lost, it must be precious metal – gold or silver – and the owner must be impossible to trace. The find should be promptly reported and searches should have been done with the agreement of the land owner.

 

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