The Vale of York Viking Hoard returns to York
24 June 2015
Most significant Viking treasure to be found in Britain in 150 years on show from July 3
The most significant Viking treasure to be found in Britain in the last 150 years will return to York this summer after featuring in major exhibitions around Europe.
The Vale of Viking Hoard was found by metal detectorists in January 2007 and subsequently bought by the Yorkshire Museum and the British Museum in 2009.
Since then it has been on show in Berlin, Copenhagen and in London as part of the British Museum’s blockbuster exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend.
It has not been on show in Yorkshire since 2012.
Andrew Woods, curator of numismatics for York Museums Trust, said: “The Vale of York Viking Hoard is without doubt one of the most important Viking discoveries ever made in Britain and its significance can be seen by the interest shown by some of Europe’s most prestigious museums.
“We are delighted that it will be back on show in York this summer. Since it was last here in 2012, fresh research and discoveries mean we will be able to re-interpret the hoard from interesting new perspectives.”
The return of the hoard to the Yorkshire Museum coincides with a second major cultural event – the reopening of the York Art Gallery after an £8 million development.
Both of these York Museums Trust venues lie within the original precinct of St Mary’s Abbey.
The hoard was last on public show in The Vikings exhibition at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin until January this year.
Previously it has been at the Mercer Gallery in Harrogate in 2012, the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen in 2013 and the British Museum in 2014.
The Vale of York Viking Hoard
The hoard was declared Treasure in 2009 and was valued at £1,082,000 by the independent Treasure Valuation Committee. The size and quality of the material in the hoard is remarkable, making it the most important find of its type in Britain for over 150 years. It was discovered in North Yorkshire in January 2007 by two metal-detectorists, David and Andrew Whelan, who kept the find intact and promptly reported it to their local Finds Liaison Officer.
The hoard contains a mixture of different precious metal objects, including coins, complete ornaments, ingots (bars) and chopped-up fragments known as hack-silver (67 objects in total and 617 coins). It shows the diversity of cultural contacts in the medieval world, with objects coming from as far apart as Afghanistan in the East and Ireland in the West, as well as Russia, Scandinavia and continental Europe.
The most spectacular single object is a gilt silver vessel, made in what is now France or western Germany around the middle of the ninth century. It was apparently intended for use in church services, and was probably either looted from a monastery by Vikings, or given to them in tribute. Most of the smaller objects were hidden inside this vessel, which was itself protected by some form of lead container. As a result, the hoard was extremely well-preserved. Other star objects include a rare gold arm-ring, and 617 coins, including several new or rare types. These provide valuable new information about the history of England in the early tenth century, as well as Yorkshire’s wider cultural contacts in the period. Interestingly, the hoard contains coins relating to Islam and to the pre-Christian religion of the Vikings, as well as to Christianity.
The hoard was probably buried for safety by a wealthy Viking leader during the unrest that followed the conquest of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria in AD 927 by the Anglo-Saxon king Athelstan (924-39).
The Vale of York hoard is the largest and most important Viking hoard from Britain since the hoard found at Cuerdale in Lancashire in 1840. Objects from the Cuerdale hoard are now on display in several museums around the UK, with the largest group housed in the British Museum.
A Viking army conquered the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria in AD 869. The area remained under Viking control until it was conquered by Athelstan in 927. The area had another brief period of independence following Athelstan’s death in 939, which lasted until the death of the Viking ruler Eric Bloodaxe in 954. The Vikings made a lasting impact in Britain, including place-names, sculpture and influence on the English language, as well as archaeological remains.
List of funders
The Art Fund
Council for British Archaeology – Yorkshire
David Rymer Charitable Trust
Friends of the British Museum
Friends of Harrogate District Museums
George A Moore Foundation
The National Heritage Memorial Fund
Noel G Terry Charitable Trust
Patricia and Donald Shepherd Trust
R M Burton Charitable Trust
Rotary Club of York Vikings
The Headley Trust
University of York
York Civic Trust
York Common Good Trust
York Glaziers Trust
Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society
And numerous individual contributions.