Treasure Hunter that Found Unique Viking hoard to be Awarded £2 Million
Derek McLennan, a British metal detectorist who unearthed the richest collection of unique Viking artifacts ever found in the UK will receive an astonishing £2 million (US$2.6m) as a reward. The amount is ex gratia and has been set to reflect the market value of the find.
Amateur Treasure Hunter About to Receive 2 Million Pounds for his Discovery
Derek McLennan discovered the 10th-century hoard in a Dumfries and Galloway field (one of 32 unitary council areas of Scotland) in 2014. The incredibly valuable treasure includes silver bracelets and brooches, a gold ring, a bird-shaped gold pin, an enameled Christian cross, and a Carolingian vessel filled with artifacts.
McLennan notified the authorities about his valuable finds and now, three years later, the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (the body that rules on ownerless goods and property), has ruled that the one-hundred unique items of the hoard should be held with National Museums Scotland (NMS) for public display, after offering ex gratia to McLennan, the enormous sum.
In contrast with the rest of the UK, where awards are split with the landowner, rules on discoveries in Scotland reward only the finder who receives the whole payment and now NMS has six months to raise the funds. Dr. Evelyn Silber, University of Glasgow’s honorary professorial research fellow in History of Art and Safap chair, told The Guardian, “The panel is grateful to the finder for reporting these stunning artefacts which include decorative glass beads, silver bracelets and brooches, a gold ring, a bird-shaped gold pin and a highly-decorated gilt vessel recognized as being one of only three known examples. These will now be preserved and put on display for the people of Scotland, and the world, to enjoy.”
The Discovery of the Hoard
But how did Derek McLennan end up discovering the richest Viking hoard in British history? Was it pure luck or did he knew something? As April Holloway reports in a 2014 Ancient Origins article, McLennan used a metal detector on Church of Scotland land when he picked up a signal indicating the presence of metal beneath the ground. He dug down some 24 inches (60cm) before finding the first item. As soon as Derek recovered the first arm-ring he realized the significance of his find and contacted the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit. They sent an experienced archaeologist, Andy Nicholson and the hoard was excavated properly.
What’s interesting, however, is that the Church of Scotland, which owns the land where the treasure was found, reached an agreement with McLennan back then about the equitable sharing of any proceeds that he would be awarded and now it’s unknown whether McLennan will honor this agreement with the Church of Scotland, or if he will claim the rules of Scotland as we already mentioned before, which rewards only the finder of the treasure.
Some of the treasures: A silver disk brooch decorated with intertwining snakes or serpents (Historic Scotland), a gold, bird-shaped object which may have been a decorative pin or a manuscript pointer (Robert Clark, National Geographic / Historic Environment Scotland), one of the many arm rings with a runic inscription (Robert Clark, National Geographic / Historic Environment Scotland), a large glass bead (Santiago Arribas Pena), and a hinged silver strap (Robert Clark, National Geographic / Historic Environment Scotland).
Hoard is of International Significance
David Harvie, the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, described the Galloway hoard as globally remarkable and one of the most important finds ever discovered in Scotland. “I am pleased to announce that I am minded to accept the recommendation of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel [Safap] that these wonderful items be allocated to National Museums Scotland, subject to it meeting the ex gratia award which would then be payable to the finder,” he told The Guardian.
Dr. Gordon Rintoul, director of NMS, appears to be grateful in his statements as The Guardian reports, “The Galloway hoard is of outstanding international significance and we are absolutely delighted that QLTR has decided to allocate it to NMS. We now have six months to raise £1.98m to acquire this unique treasure for the nation and ensure it can be enjoyed by future generations both at home and abroad.”
Additionally, NMS stated that several other finds from the UK and Ireland have been remarkable as well, but the Galloway hoard offers an incredible variety of objects, revealing previously unknown relationships between European nations in the 10th century, a fact that opens new horizons of study and research on the matter.
Top image: Left: Large silver alloy Carolingian vessel, which was part of the hoard. Right: Derek McLennan, the finder of the treasure hoard. Photograph: Jamie Simpson