LONDON, July 19 (Reuters Life!) - The most important haul of Viking treasure to be discovered in Britain since the 19th century was unveiled by the British Museum on Thursday.
Discovered earlier this year by a father and son detecting team near Harrogate in northern England, the find includes coins, ornaments, ingots and precious metal objects all hidden in a gilt silver bowl and buried in a lead chest.
“The size and quality of the hoard is remarkable, making it the most important find of its type in Britain for over 150 years,” the museum said.
“The find is of global importance, as well as having huge significance for the history of North Yorkshire,” it added.
Vikings, sailor-warriors from modern day Norway and Denmark, began raiding the undefended coast of ancient Britain at the end of the eighth century AD.
Less than 100 years later they had settled in large parts of the country -- particularly the north where many modern day place names still bear witness to their enduring impact.
The largest Viking hoard discovered in western Europe was found in 1840 at Cuerdale in the northern English county of Lancashire.
The museum said the Harrogate hoard was probably buried by a wealthy Viking leader during the unrest that followed the brief conquest of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria in 927 AD by the Anglo-Saxon king Athelstan.
Viking control of the region finally ended in the middle of the 10th century.
Illustrating the breadth of the Vikings’ travels and trade connections, objects in the Harrogate hoard have been identified as originating from as far afield as Afghanistan, Russia, Ireland and continental Europe.
The most impressive part of the treasure, which includes more than 600 coins and a rare gold arm ring, is the silver gilt bowl which the museum said was probably from a monastery in what is now France.
The hoard contains coins relating to Islam, to the Vikings’ pre-Christian religion and to Christianity.
Most items were stored in the bowl which was then enclosed in the lead chest, accounting for the high state of preservation of the artefacts.
Classified as treasure under a parliamentary act, the hoard must now be valued by a panel of independent experts which will determine how much money the finders receive.
“Treasure cases are always interesting, but this is one of the most exciting cases that I have ever had to rule on,” said the North Yorkshire coroner who decided the hoard was treasure.
“I’m delighted that such an important Viking hoard has been discovered in North Yorkshire. We are extremely proud of our Viking heritage in this area,” he added.
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