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The Viking hoard included a gold arm ring found by metal detectorist Kath Giles. Source: Manx National Heritage Museum

Rare Treasure Hoard Unearthed On Viking Island

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A hoard of Viking Age artifacts that was discovered on the Isle of Man has officially been declared a national treasure. This latest Viking treasure hoard was buried around 950 AD and discovered in November 2020 by metal detectorist Kath Giles. Comprising three valuable items of jewelry: a gold arm-ring, a silver armband and a massive silver brooch, all three will soon join the spectacular Viking display at the Manx Museum. Named after the diligent finder who followed all national treasure protocols and delivered this magnificent micro-hoard to the nation, the exhibition will be called “the Giles Hoard.”

Posing with the impressive Viking hoard is Kath Giles, left, who found the hoard, and Allison Fox, curator for archaeology at Manx National Heritage. (Manx National Heritage Museum)

Posing with the impressive Viking hoard is Kath Giles, left, who found the hoard, and Allison Fox, curator for archaeology at Manx National Heritage. ( Manx National Heritage Museum )

Viking Hoard: Symbols of a Maritime Trading Master

The Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. Vikings settled on the Isle of Man in the 800s AD and established a trade network with mainland Britain. Several Viking Age burials have been excavated on the Island, buried according to pagan traditions, and within these graves many rare Viking Age artifacts have been found, all of which can be seen in the Manx Museum , Douglas, on the Isle of Man.

 

 

Several items of Viking Age gold and silver jewelry have previously been discovered on the Island, however this collection of three artifacts is “exceptionally rare,” according to Allison Fox, Curator for Archaeology for Manx National Heritage . The gold arm-ring and brooch are the first of their type to be found on the Island and add significantly to the picture of wealth circulating on the island and around the Irish Sea area in general over one thousand years ago, said Fox. The artifacts have been declared a “treasure” by Jayne Hughes, the Isle of Man Coroner of Inquests.

The gold arm-ring was manufactured from three plaited rods of gold and the two ends were merged into a flat lozenge-shaped band before it was stamped all over with groups of three dots. The arm-ring is also a “very rare” find because gold items were not commonly made during the Viking Age. 

Silver, however, was the common metal used for trading and displaying wealth and with gold being worth about 10 times the value of silver, this arm-ring might have been worth “the equivalent of 900 silver coins.” The silver brooch is properly “a thistle brooch of ball type” and it represents one of the largest examples of its type ever discovered, made in the Irish Sea area, and brought to the Isle of Man . This c.20 cm diameter hoop has a c.50 cm long pin and it would have been used to pin heavy clothing to someone’s shoulder serving also as a powerful display of the wearers wealth. 

The rare Viking hoard was discovered on the Isle of Man by Kath Giles, and has been dubbed the “the Giles Hoard.” (Manx National Heritage Museum)

The rare Viking hoard was discovered on the Isle of Man by Kath Giles, and has been dubbed the “the Giles Hoard.” ( Manx National Heritage Museum )

Artifacts of a Wealthy Viking Trader Found

This Viking Age treasure was buried around 950 AD. At this time the Isle of Man was situated slap-bang in the middle of a very profitable and strategic economic trading zone. The arm-ring, brooch and cut armband were highly prized objects as “all high-status personal ornaments and represent a large amount of accumulated wealth.” The finding of all three artifacts together is a particularly special and unique find since “just one of these items would be of significance,” said Alison Fox.

In a dark twist to this merry discovery, there is perhaps only one reason someone would strip themselves of their most valuable ornaments and bury them together. According to Allison Fox - they “probably felt immediately and acutely threatened.” It is thought that the three artifacts result from a “deliberate deposition of hoard material, presumably buried during a time of threat, with the intention by the original owner to reclaim the artifacts at a later stage.”

The spectacular “Kath Giles” hoard will go on display in the Viking and Medieval Gallery at the Manx Museum in Douglas, Isle of Man, on Thursday 18 February 2021.

Top image: The Viking hoard included a gold arm ring found by metal detectorist Kath Giles. Source: Manx National Heritage Museum

By Ashley Cowie

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