ARCHEOLOGY – Consisting of a large brooch and ring ornaments in gold and silver, the treasure belonged to a person of high rank.
They will now adorn the galleries of a museum. Discovered on the Isle of Man at the end of last year by a British detectorist, a small batch of Scandinavian objects has just joined, on Thursday, the medieval collections of the Manx Museum, in the port of Douglas. Composed of only three small objects, the find seems modest. It is not: it constitutes one of the richest treasures of Viking goldsmith’s work so far discovered on this small island wedged between Great Britain and Ireland.
Contacted by the discoverer of the objects, the museum sent a team of specialists to the site to document the site, date the find as well as possible and ensure that no other archaeological remains are found on the site. Buried around 950, this treasure consists of three precious ornaments: a large silver pin brooch and two ring ornaments, a partially preserved silver cuff, as well as a gold bracelet, exceptionally preserved and decorated with engraved dot patterns.
«The bracelet is a rare findAllison Fox, curator at the Manx Museum, said in a statement. “Gold items were not very common during the Viking Age. Silver was by far the most common metal for trading and displaying wealth. It was estimated that gold was worth 10 times the value of silver and that this bracelet could have been worth the equivalent of 900 pieces of silver.»
While a handful of other gold objects – including an ingot – have been unearthed on the island since the 19th centurye century, it is the first time that a bracelet and a brooch of this kind have been discovered there. “The bracelet, the brooch and the armband are adornments of the highest social level which together represent a significant cumulative fortune.»Said the curator. “It would be important to find only one of these objects. The fact that all of them were found and deposited together suggests that whoever buried them was extremely wealthy and likely felt immediately and gravely threatened.»
A crossroads island
Taking into account the previous finds from the Isle of Man, it seems less and less impossible that a Viking goldsmith’s workshop existed there in the course of the IX-Xe century. Even without this assumption, the island was an important point of passage and exchange. Colonized by the Scandinavians at the beginning of the IXe century, the island benefited for a long time from its very advantageous position in the British archipelago, even around 950, when, as Allison Fox recalled, “to the east and west, Viking rule was coming to an end, which may have favored further Viking settlement on the island. The influence of the Vikings and the Norse remained strong on the island for another three hundred years, well past most of the other British Isles.».
The discovery of this new treasure is part of the renewal, in 2017, of the British law on finds. Under the new regime of the Treasure Act 2017, any discovery of archaeological objects must be declared, under penalty of a fine, to the authorities who reserve the right to redeem them in the event of proven historical value, as has just been the case. with the treasure of the Isle of Man. The last few years have been marked by a significant increase in the number of amateur excavators. In 2019, two English detectorists were convicted of having tried to sell an Anglo-Saxon treasure estimated at nearly 13 million euros without first having declared it to the authorities.
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