August 27, 2009 / 1:51 PM / 10 years ago

Viking treasure sells for nearly $2 million

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.

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

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.

The Viking army conquered Northumbria in 869 and it remained under Viking control for nearly 60 years.

It is the largest and most important Viking hoard found in Britain since that discovered at Cuerdale, Lancashire, in 1840 which contained more than 8,000 objects.

For David Whelan and his son Andrew, who made the discovery, it was a treasure hunter’s dream come true.

They found the hoard using metal detectors in a field near Harrogate in January, 2007, and reported their find to the authorities, as required under law.

“Being keen metal detectorists, we always dreamt of finding a hoard, but to find one from such a fantastic period of history is just unbelievable,” they said in a statement. “The contents of the hoard we found went far beyond our wildest dreams.”

They will divide the proceeds from the sale with the owner of the land where it was found.

Highlights of the hoard will go on display at the Yorkshire Museum in York from September 17 to November 1 before moving to the British Museum.

Editing by Steve Addison

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