Dozens of silver Viking arm rings and ingots together with a beautifully decorated early Christian cross and a carefully wrapped vessel are among the astonishing finds being hailed by archaeologists as the best to emerge in Scotland in recent years.
The haul, discovered in September 2014 on Church of Scotland land in Dumfries and Galloway by metal detectorist Derek McLennan, is the largest to be found in modern times in Scotland and contains more than one hundred artefacts, including gold, silver, glass, enamel and textiles. Many of them are believed to be unique.
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Experts from the Scottish Government’s Treasure Trove Unit have been looking at the hoard and conserving it with a view to ascertaining its meaning and significance.
The early Christian cross, which was unearthed from beneath a pile of ingots and rings, is solid sliver and is thought to date from the ninth or tenth centuries
Whoever buried it had wrapped it in cloth and a finely wound silver chain, but of most interest are the preserved enamelled decorations, which could be the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The haul also includes possibly the largest silver Carolingian pot ever discovered, with its lid still in place. Experts are yet to reveal what is inside the vessel, but it is hoped the contents might provide clues as to who buried the hoard and why.
The finder, Derek McLennan, worked with county archaeologist Andrew Nicholson and his team to fully excavate the site, which yielded over 100 items including a well-worn golden ring.
He described his initial discovery as a “heart stopping moment” and was “rendered speechless” when he realised he had uncovered a Viking hoard.
McLennan is developing a track record for spectacular finds. In 2013 he was part of a group who unearthed one of biggest hauls of medieval coinage ever found in Scotland.
Describing the latest find as a “wonderful addition to Scotland’s cultural heritage”, Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said “their greatest value will be in what they can contribute to our understanding of life in early medieval Scotland, and what they tell us about the interaction between the different peoples in these islands at that time”.
“The Dumfries hoard opens a fascinating window on a formative period in the story of Scotland and just goes to show how important our archaeological heritage in Scotland continues to be.”
Ms Hyslop said the government would “facilitate and support the discovery, analysis and exhibiting of finds like this, for the benefit of people here and abroad.”
Update: A petition is currently underway to keep the hoard in Galloway at in Kirkcudbright’s new art gallery.