Over 1,000 years ago, during Britain's storied Anglo-Saxon period, Viking raiders terrorizing settlements and monasteries throughout England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland made off with untold sums of medieval jewelry, silver and gold. As metal detector enthusiast Derek McLennan discovered, not all of that treasure found its way back to Viking territory.
In 2014, while surveying an undisclosed field with friends in Galloway, Scotland, McLennan was elated to uncover a silver arm ring of Viking design.
"I unearthed the first piece. Initially I didn’t understand what I had found because I thought it was a silver spoon and then I turned it over and wiped my thumb across it and I saw the Saltire-type of design and knew it was Viking," McLennan told the BBC at the time. "Then my senses exploded, I went into shock, endorphins flooded my system and away I went stumbling towards my colleagues, waving it in the air."
After calling for assistance from a county archaeologist with Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit, the pair quickly excavated additional arm rings, an early Christian cross and silver ingots. The best, however, was yet to come. Buried just below the first hoard of treasure, the team discovered a large upside-down, richly-decorated pot. Called a Carolingian, these vessels are extremely rare and were primarily used during important ceremonies in the Catholic church.
As you can see in the video below, a CT scan revealed that the vessel was stuffed with even more treasure; with each piece carefully wrapped to protect it from the elements.
"Nothing like this has been found in Scotland before in terms of the range of material this hoard represents," Stuart Campbell, National Museum of Scotland's head of Scotland's treasure trove unit, told the BBC. "There’s material from Ireland, from Scandinavia, from various places in central Europe and perhaps ranging over a couple of centuries."
The silver Carolingian vessel, wrapped in linen to protect it from the elements, contained a rich collection of medieval brooches, jewelry and other artifacts. (Photo: History Environment Scotland/Facebook)
Unlike the rest of the United Kingdom, where treasure hunters must split their finds with landowners, Scottish law allows the finder to keep the full value of their discovery. According to a recent fundraising effort undertaken by The National Museum of Scotland to secure the treasure, McLennan's Viking hoard is valued at just over $2.5 million.
"The Galloway Hoard is an unparalleled treasure hoard of Viking-age gold, silver and jewelled treasures," the museum declares on its site. "It is the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland. Of international significance, it will transform our understanding of this period of Scottish history."
The National Museum has until November 2017 to raise the funds.
"Unlocking its secrets has the potential to reveal new insights into the Viking-age world, to understand its people and their stories — and in doing so, to revisit our preconceptions about who we are and where we come from," the museum notes.