Viking treasure sells for nearly $2 million

Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:50am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - An important Viking hoard of jewels and coins unearthed in England by a father-and-son team of treasure hunters in 2007 has been acquired by two museums and will go on display next month.

The Vale of York hoard, valued at 1.1 million pounds ($1.8 million) and dated at 1,000 years old, includes objects from Afghanistan, Ireland, Russia and Scandinavia, underlining the global spread of cultural contacts during medieval times.

The York Museums Trust in York, northern England, and the British Museum in London bought the treasure, which they say is the most important find of its kind in Britain for 160 years.

"This find is of global importance, as well as having huge significance for the history of England and Yorkshire," said Jonathan Williams, keeper of prehistory and Europe at the British Museum. Robert Bewley, director of operations at the National Heritage Memorial Fund which contributed half the money needed to buy the hoard, added that the find "provides us with a unique and wonderful snapshot of troubled times in Britain and Europe."

The hoard contains 67 objects and 617 coins, many of which were contained in a gilt silver vessel made in Europe in the middle of the ninth century.

It was probably intended for use in church services, and was believed to have been looted by Vikings from a monastery or given to them as a tribute.

Because it was kept in a lead container, it is well preserved. The hoard contains coins relating to Islam and the pre-Christian religion of the Vikings, as well as to Christianity.

Experts believe the hoard was buried for safekeeping by a wealthy Viking leader during unrest that followed the conquest of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria by the Anglo-Saxon king Athelstan in 927.   Continued...

<p>An undated handout picture released on August 27, 2009 shows some of the hundreds of items from a Viking hoard of jewels unearthed in England by a father-and-son team of treasure hunters in 2007. REUTERS/The British Museum/Handout</p>