Unearthing the 1,000-Year-Old Story of a Rare Viking Toolbox

Unearthing the 1,000-Year-Old Story of a Rare Viking Toolbox

The discovery of a rare 1,000-year-old Viking toolbox containing 14 unique iron tools caused excitement during recent excavations at an old Viking fortress. The toolbox was unearthed in a small lump of soil at Denmark's fifth Viking ring fortress: Borgring. It is the first direct evidence that people actually lived at the site.

Science Nordic journalist Charlotte Price Persson became an archaeologist for a day and joined the team of researchers to help clear away the dirt and expose the iron tools.

The soil containing the artifacts was removed from the site of one of the four gates at Borgring. The researchers suggest that the tools could have belonged to people who lived in the fortress. It contains an amazing collection of tools which were used around the 10 th century AD.

Lead archaeologist Nanna Holm decided to take a better look before excavation began on the tools. As she told Science Nordic: “We could see that there was something in the layers [of soil] around the east gate. If it had been a big signal from the upper layers then it could have been a regular plough, but it came from the more ‘exciting’ layers. So we dug it up and asked the local hospital for permission to borrow their CT-scanner.”

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The scans allowed the researchers to see the shapes of the tools and they realized that the toolbox itself was gone – the wood had rotted away over time. However, the placement of the objects suggests that the wooden box was replaced with soil. The discovery is exceptionally rare. Tools made of iron were very expensive and precious to the Vikings. It is strange that nobody had found them before and melted the objects down to repurpose the iron.

CT Scan of the Viking toolbox. ( videnskab.dk)

The archaeologists believe that an analysis of the artifacts will help them to understand what type of craftsman owned them. For now, they suppose that the spoon drills and drawplate could have been used to produce thin wire bracelets. But, this kind of drill was also used to make holes in wood – suggesting that it could have also been a carpenter’s toolbox.

Moreover, the location of the artifacts by the eastern gate of the fortress provides more information on the tools’ history. They could have been used after a fire that torched the fortress’ north and east gates in the second half of the 10th century.

The team also found a room near the gate which could have been a workshop or used for housing a craftsman. It measures about 30-40 square meters (322-430 sq. ft.), and had its own fireplace. The researchers speculate that the tools were buried underground when the gate collapsed – explaining why the recovery of the valued iron objects would have been difficult.

Aerial photo of Vallø Borgring. This is an edited version of a satellite photo with added hill shade. The arrow is pointing at a site which has a clear circular form. (Danskebjerge/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

Now the researchers want to scan the tools by X-ray. That should help Holm’s team to identify exactly what the tools are. She already has some ideas, for example, that one of the spoon drills may be a pair of pliers or tweezers. It is planned that the tools will be put on display next year, although the artifacts need conservation work before they will be ready to be exhibited.

Thinglink interactive image: https://www.thinglink.com/scene/850665224653504512


    Germanic & Norse

    (5) The Children of Ash: Cosmology and the Viking Universe. The Children of Ash: Cosmology and the Viking Universe. Viking Berserkers: Force for Evil or Sacred Warriors? When we think of Vikings, what often comes to mind are images of men in horned helmets and long cloaks, sailing off to conquer and pillage various parts of Europe.

    Well… that, and berserkers. The idea of the berserker is fairly well known in many parts of the world, if only imperfectly understood. What was a berserker? Berserkers were a particular subset of warriors in pre-Christian Scandinavia. They were a traveling brotherhood who would take service with different chiefs, according to History Extra. Torslunda helmet a one-eyed weapon dancer followed by a berserker. They usually were used in small groups, often about 12, in addition to the regular guard or army.

    Berserkers were elite shock troops, highly coveted, but difficult to control, since they fought in a state of battle rage which made them both nearly supernaturally strong and fierce, but also dangerous. Ulfhednar. Is this a fair and accurate portrayal? Check out 10 interesting things you may not know about the Vikings here: (5) Lord of the Noose: Odin and the Dead. (2) Berserkers (Berserkir) and Úlfhéðnar. Myths and legends from Switzerland. Fear of life's unpredictability Most of these tales "have their roots in a fear of the unpredictability we face in life," wrote Alexandre Daguet in 1872 in his Traditions et légendes de la Suisse romande ['Traditions and legends from French-speaking Switzerland'].

    For example, the mountain peak Les Diablerets ['the abodes of devils'] between the cantons of Vaud and Valais is named after the evil spirits said to have roamed there, playing skittles with the towering rocks – one of which is known as the 'Quille du Diable' ['devil's skittle']. Illustrator Denis Kormann, an avid lover of the mountains in Valais, was inspired by the "spectacular visual potential" of the Alpine landscape to create the recently published Mon grand livre de contes et légendes suisses ['My big book of Swiss legends and fairy tales'] (Helvetiq, 2017).

    In fact, he was so fascinated by this cultural heritage that he now plans to publish two more books. The Devil's Bridge (Uri) Youtube. Unearthing the 1,000-Year-Old Story of a Rare Viking Toolbox. At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings.

    And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained. Thurisaz. World of Mythology. The story of Ragnarok and the Apocalypse. In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a series of apocalyptic events that will define the end of the world, where giants of frost and fire will together fight the gods in a final battle that will ultimately destroy the planet, submerging it under water.

    According to the legend, the world will resurface, the surviving and returning gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors. Brothers will fight and kill each other, sisters' children will defile kinship. It is harsh in the world, whoredom rife —an axe age, a sword age —shields are riven— a wind age, a wolf age— before the world goes headlong. No man will have mercy on another.Dronke (1997:19) Norse Legends [Audio] Norse mythology. Norse Mythology - the gods of the Vikings. Introduction The red-blooded, rip-roaring, gung-ho Gods beloved by the Vikings.

    We could have listed them as Nordic, but 'Norse' sounds like the snorting of a giant battle stallion so we went for that. Their idea of Heaven was VALHALLA. Warriors only. You had to die in battle first and be escorted by beautiful blonde VALKYRIES. "Bjorn, when you took my head off with that double-headed axe — just fantastic! Norse and German Mythology. Myth is the foundation of life it is the timeless pattern, the religious formula to which life shapes itself…Whereas in the life of mankind the mythical represents an early and primitive stage, in the life of an individual it represents a late and mature one. -- Thomas Mann The following list came from a dozen or so sources, including translations of the Eddas.

    Where applicable comparisons with Greek and Roman deities appear. For a brief discussion of gods and archetypes see my Celtic Deities page. Those of us with a German or Norse ethnic background have sometimes felt reluctant to look more deeply into our mythologies. In part this is because they are associated with conquest, and in part because the Nazis trashed them in their attempt to regress to the thought patterns of an earlier time. Aegir ("AY-ear"): the Norse sea god, master brewer of storms, and husband to Ran, with whom he had nine daughters who personify as waves.

    Germanic Mythology: Texts, Translations, Scholarship. Germanic Myths, Legends, and Sagas. Compiled by D.

    L. Ashliman See also Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts Germanic Geography. Germanic Mythology Names. Norse Mythology. Germanic mythology.


    Hnefatafl: The Viking Chess

    According to Mills, Scandinavian players of Hnefatafl would use polished stones instead of lead as it deteriorates in the extreme cold, and they do not have access to it. But it seems that they have access to lead in Torksey, where the Viking chess pieces were found, so it was easier to make them.

    Hnefatafl popularity peaked during the Dark Ages in Northern Europe, which has developed over the last centuries until it has now come to new variants under the term 'Tafl,' which is played like a chess game with two players and the pieces follow a distinct pattern.

    Each Hnefatafl set consists of 37 pieces, in which 12 are for defense in turreted form, 24 attacking pieces in a spherical form, and a king with a copper decoration.

    Just like in chess, an opponent's piece is removed from the board once the enemy pieces occupy two opposite squares. But as opposed to chess, the enemy needs to sandwich the piece on opposite sides to land on the same square.

    The game's purpose is for the defender to move one of his or her king to the corner squares while the attacker prevents it from moving by surrounding the king in all four sides.

    Experts said that the game was very strategic, and it is the first time that a complete set is found at the same time. The Viking chess discovered by Bott will be auctioned on Tuesday at 1 pm with a starting price of $1039 (£800).

    Check out more news and information on Vikings on Science Times.


    Mysterious 1,000-year-old Viking ship discovered on Norwegian island

    Archaeologists in Norway have used radar technology to discover a 1,000-year-old buried Viking ship.

    Researchers have spotted a 43-foot keel just beneath the topsoil of a burial mound on the island of Edøy in western Norway. The fore and aft sterns, however, appear to have been destroyed by plowing, and the ship is thought to have once been up 56 feet long.

    The discovery was made by experts from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), using high-resolution georadar developed by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro).

    In a statement, Knut Paasche, Ph.D., head of the department of digital archaeology at NIKU, explained that only three well-preserved Viking ship burials are known in Norway, all of which were excavated a long time ago. The ship will be of great historical significance, he added.

    Georadar scanning at Edøy church. (NIKU)

    The ship is from the Merovingian or Viking period and more than 1,000 years old, according to Paasche.

    However, it is not yet known whether human remains and Viking artifacts are located within the buried ship, although they have been found at other ship burials.

    “The survey [at Edøy] has been purely non-intrusive,” a spokesman for NIKU told Fox News. “Our equipment is getting better, so we can be pretty sure of what we have here. On top of that, the island itself is smack in the middle of Merovingian and Viking activity more than a thousand year[s] ago. The locals were really happy with the find - but not really surprised.”

    The buried Viking ship at Edøy. (NIKU)

    The spokesman added that it’s a little too early to predict future excavations at the site. “It will depend on the state of the ship. There will probably be a probe-excavation to see if there is anything left at all and the state of the soil.”

    “Do we need to dig up everything?” the spokesman added. “We can do a lot more with non-intrusive instruments now that we know the exact location.”

    Archaeologists have also spotted traces of settlements in their data, but say that it is too early to date them.

    Viking-era discoveries have thrilled archaeologists across the Nordic countries, the Baltic and Scotland in recent years. A mysterious double Viking boat burial, for example, was recently discovered in Norway, intriguing experts.

    Last month, archaeologists excavating a site at Vinjeroa in central Norway uncovered the boat grave of a woman who died in the second half of the 9th century. Shell-shaped gilded bronze brooches and a crucifix-shaped brooch fashioned from an Irish harness fitting were found in the grave, along with a pearl necklace, two pairs of scissors, part of a spindle and a cow’s skull, according to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

    In Sweden, a grave containing the skeleton of a Viking warrior, long thought to be male, was recently confirmed as female.

    Last year, a Viking “Thor’s hammer” was discovered in Iceland and archaeologists in Norway used ground-penetrating radar technology to reveal an extremely rare Viking longship.

    Also in 2018, an 8-year-old girl discovered a 1,500-year-old sword in a Swedish lake and an incredible trove of silver treasure linked to the era of a famous Viking king was discovered on an island in the Baltic Sea. Hundreds of 1,000-year-old silver coins, rings, pearls, and bracelets were found on the German island of Ruegen.

    Two Viking boat graves were recently uncovered in Sweden in what archaeologists described as a “sensational” discovery.

    In 2017, an incredibly well-preserved Viking sword was found by a reindeer hunter on a remote mountain in Southern Norway. In 2016, archaeologists in Trondheim, Norway, unearthed the church where Viking King Olaf Haraldsson was first enshrined as a saint.

    Separately in 2016, a tiny Viking crucifix was found in Denmark. The wreck of a 12th-century ‘Viking-style’ ship discovered in a German port is also revealing its secrets thanks to high-tech 3D-scanning technology.

    A 900-year-old Viking chess piece that was bought for less than $10 in the 1960s was recently sold at auction for $924,000.

    The extremely rare chess piece was bought for 5 U.K. pounds ($6.30) in 1964 by an antique dealer in Edinburgh, Scotland, and then passed down through this family. For years, the Chessman was kept in a drawer at the home of the antiques dealer’s daughter.

    Experts are also unlocking the secrets of a mysterious Viking treasure trove that was discovered in Scotland. The “Galloway Hoard” was found by a man using a metal detector in 2014. It was acquired by National Museums Scotland in 2017, which describes the trove as “the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland.”

    Fox News' Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers


    1,000-year-old Viking tools have been unearthed in Denmark

    In 2014, a team of archaeologists from Aarhus University and the Danish Castle Centre discovered a ring fortress believed to date back to the time of the Vikings, and in particular King Harald Bluetooth.

    The ring fortress was located in Borgring on the island of Zealand, near the port of Køge in Denmark. Historians believe that the fort was built around 980AD as part of a string of fortified outposts constructed as Bluetooth was introducing Christianity to parts of Sweden and Norway, as well as to Denmark.

    The ring fortress, one of five ring fortresses that are unique to Denmark, is very big, with a diameter of 142 meters and encircled by palisades that measured around 7 meters high. It also appears that one of the gates was, at one time, destroyed by fire.

    It all started when an amateur archaeologist using a metal detector located something metallic close to the remains of the eastern gate. This find encouraged the archaeological team to excavate the area, and one of the artifacts that was sent for cleaning was a lump of earth that took two days to extract, needing to be carefully taken out in one piece.

    After sending the lump of earth for a CT scan, the archaeologists found a number of tools in it that appeared to have been placed together in what is supposed to have been a toolbox, although the wooden box itself had long ago disintegrated. The team initially identified fourteen tools in the lump of earth, but think that more may be hidden and unidentifiable in the clumps of rusted metal.

    Archaeologists find a 1,000 year old Viking toolbox and tools at a ring fortress site in Denmark https://t.co/auJmBp0nz2 pic.twitter.com/0tnmz9OeKK

    — Damn Interesting (@DamnInteresting) November 10, 2016

    Naturally, after 1,000 years underground the iron tools are heavily rusted, but meticulous cleaning has revealed some sophisticated tools that once belonged to a carpenter or other craftsman. Historians believe that the ancient craftsman had occupied a workshop within the gatehouse but that it collapsed sometime late in the 10 th century.

    The tools that have been revealed include spoon drills used for making holes in wood, a pair of tweezers which could also be a small pair of pliers, a “clink nail” used for fastening timbers together, a set of four finely-crafted chain links attached to an iron ring, and a draw plate that would have been used to make wire, possibly for creating jewelry.

    Iron was a prized commodity in Viking times, and it is unlikely that these tools were simply discarded. If they were no longer required, the iron would have been recovered and recycled to make other tools. So it seems likely that the items were covered up in the collapse of the gate house and could not be recovered.

    Aerial view of Borrering. Post-edited satellite photo. Photo Credit

    The excavation of this toolbox has renewed hope that other signs of human habitation will be uncovered in the fortress. Other ring forts excavated in Denmark show remains of houses and graveyards, yet so far nothing has been found at Borgring. But the toolbox demonstrates that humans were in residence, and it is hoped that further evidence of human habitation will now come to light, Mail Online reported.

    Any artisan will tell you that his tools are one of his most-prized possessions, so the loss of this toolbox, especially since it contained iron tools, must have been a significant blow to this ancient Viking craftsman. We are lucky to have found artifacts, especially tools, that would have been commonly used — such finds give us a glimpse into Viking daily life.


    Unique Findings

    March 30 1943, during World War II in Nazi-occupied Norway: On the farm Gjermundbu in Haugsbygd in Ringerike, a rich discovery is made: A burial mound proves to contain the burnt remains of two males and 76 different objects. They are placed in a wheelbarrow and hidden from the Germans.

    Among the objects which date back to the 900s, there was a Viking helmet. 71 years after the finds, the Gjermundbu helmet is still very special.

    There were also found an almost intact chain mail, three swords, one of which is ornamented with silver inlay and probably made in Gotland, three axes, three spearheads, four bulges from shields, riding equipment, game pieces and game die. It is believed that one of the buried men was a petty king from the Ringerike area.

    Since the findings, one object is still regarded as unique the helmet – the first and only documented helmet dating back to the Viking era. Archaeologists are fairly certain that it belonged to the dead petty king.

    Medieval picture showing Gutland, Carruthersland, Vikings wearing hats.


    Viking iron

    The cache of iron tools was first located by amateur archaeologists using a metal detector near the eastern gate of the buried fortress at Borgring.

    That discovery inspired Holm's archaeological team in August to excavate the eastern gatehouse, where they removed the deposit of earth containing all the tools in one piece — a delicate process that took two days.

    The next step was to transport the lump of earth, rust and iron to a local hospital, where it was scanned with computed tomography (CT) equipment usually used by doctors to examine the internal organs of their patients. [Photos: 10th-Century Viking Tomb Unearthed in Denmark]

    The CT scans revealed the precise arrangement of at least 14 iron tools, which have since been excavated from the toolbox deposit for individual X-ray studies and preservation before they are put on display in an exhibition next year, Holm said.

    All of the tools are heavily corroded, but much of the original iron remains, and even more tools may be hidden in the rust, according to the researchers. "There are a minimum of 14 tools, but I think there are 16 now, from the new X-rays that we've already done," Holm said.

    The contents of the toolbox provide a rare glimpse of working life in the late Viking age, she said.

    "They can be used for different crafts," Holm said. "We have some spoon drills for making holes in wood, which could be used for building ships or for building houses."

    The iron drawplate has a series of small holes of different sizes that were used to make wires from softer metals, the researchers said. "You pulled the metal through each of the holes to make it smaller and smaller, and thinner and thinner," she explained.


    Amateur Treasure Hunter Finds Trove of 1,000-Year-Old Viking Jewelry

    Last December, retired police officer and metal detecting enthusiast Kath Giles made a stunning discovery while exploring a tract of private land on the Isle of Man: a trove of 1,000-year-old Viking jewelry.

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    As Tobi Thomas reports for the Guardian, the cache includes a gold arm ring, a large silver brooch, a silver armband and a number of other artifacts dated to around 950 A.D.

    “I knew I had found something very special when I moved the soil away from one of the terminals of the brooch, [and] then I found parts of the pin, the hoop and underneath, the gorgeous gold arm-ring,” says Giles in a statement.

    After Giles unearthed the objects, she promptly contacted Manx National Heritage, an organization responsible for protecting and conserving historical artifacts on the island, which is a British dependency located off the northwest coast of England.

    All archaeological discoveries made on the Isle of Man must be reported to Manx within two weeks, notes BBC News. If experts deem the artifacts treasure, Giles may receive a finder’s fee. (Current guidelines define treasure very narrowly, but as Caroline Davies writes in a separate Guardian article, the United Kingdom government is working to expand these parameters in order to better protect the country’s national heritage items.)

    Some of the finds—including the gold-plaited arm ring, which is engraved with groups of three tiny dots—are particularly unique.

    “Gold items were not very common during the Viking Age,” says Allison Fox, an archaeologist at Manx, in the statement. “Silver was by far the more common metal for trading and displaying wealth. It has been estimated that gold was worth ten times the value of silver and that this arm ring could have been the equivalent of 900 silver coins.”

    Another highlight of the trove is a silver “thistle brooch of ball type,” according to the statement. It features a large hoop that measures about 8 inches in diameter and a 20-inch-long pin. The accessory’s owner would have used it to fasten thick garments while showcasing their wealth, as Ashley Cowie points out for Ancient Origins.

    According to Historic U.K., Vikings initially came to the Isle of Man between 800 and 815 A.D. The island later became an important trading post, connecting Dublin, northwest England and the Scottish Western Isles.

    “Kath’s hoard can be dated on stylistic and comparative grounds to about 950 A.D., a time when the Isle of Man was right in the middle of an important trading and economic zone,” says Fox in the statement. “The Viking and Norse influence remained strong on the island for a further 300 years, long after much of the rest of the British Isles.”

    Most of the recently uncovered items were “high-status personal ornaments,” notes the statement. A member of the nobility likely hid the stash ahead of an invasion.

    “The fact that all were found together, associated with one single deposition event, suggests that whoever buried them was extremely wealthy and probably felt immediately and acutely threatened,” says Fox in the statement.

    Last week, the artifacts went on temporary view at the Manx Museum, where they’ll remain prior to valuation and conservation work.

    “At the moment,” Fox tells the Guardian, “we know its historic and cultural value to the history of the Isle of Man, but its financial value will be assessed in the future.”


    Rare Viking “death house” discovered in Denmark

    An fascinating insight into the Nordic warrior race is provided by a Viking tomb unearthed in Denmark, hinting at the scale of their maritime journeys.

    The ‘death house’ was first discovered in 2012 and contains the tombs of two men and a woman, which archaeologists believe date back to 950 CE. Archaeologists first uncovered the ‘Death House’ tomb in Denmark in 2012. They say that from markings on the graves, two of the bodies were of a high-born couple who may have travelled far and wide. Pictured is a reconstruction of the woman found in the main chamber, who is believed to have been of high status

    According to archaeologists, two of the bodies were of a high-born couple who may have traveled as far as Afghanistan, based on markings on the graves.

    During construction work, engineers unearthed the graves on a new highway in Haarup, on what was once the Viking burial ground.

    But experts identified the tomb where they lay as a ‘dødehuse’, a type of specialised tomb which translates to ‘Death House’. Coins found with the couple indicate they may have led a very international lifestyle, with the coins believed to come from modern day Afghanistan

    The tomb measures 4 metres by 13 metres (13 feet by 43 feet) and contained three bodies.

    Analysis indicates that it was built more than 1,000 years ago, with a man and woman buried in the main chamber and the body of another man in a separate chamber, believed to have been added later. Experts believe that ceramics found in the tomb originated in Asia, highlighting the extent to which Vikings travelled

    According to ScienceNordic, objects unearthed around the bodies of the man and woman show they received burial rites reserved for people of high status.

    The woman’s body was buried in a wagon with keys, symbols of great power and status, while the man was buried with a battle axe.

    Kirsten Nelleman Nielsen, an archaeologist at the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, said: ‘It’s a very large axe and would have been a formidable weapon.

    People across Europe feared this type of axe, which at the time was known as the Dane Axe – something like the ‘machine gun’ of the Viking Age.’ Archaeologists at the site said the battle axe (pictured) was the ‘machine gun’ of its day and was a symbol of power and status among Vikings

    But most intriguing are coins and a clay vessel found in the Dead House.

    Experts say that the clay pot and silver coins are reminiscent of those from South and Central Asia, hinting at how well travelled these Vikings were.

    ‘It wouldn’t surprise me that the idea came from [outside Scandinavia].

    ‘We’ve also found Baltic ceramics in the form of a clay vessel and silver coins from what is today Afghanistan, so the residents must have been quite international,’ said Nielsen.

    Researchers believe the artefacts may be from central Asia, which could have been obtained through trade with settlers in the region, or through raids in the lands around the Caspian Sea. But experts identified the tomb where they lay as a ‘dødehuse’, a type of specialised tomb which translates to ‘death house’

    While the remnants of Viking conquest are clear in Britain and northern Europe, evidence suggests they travelled far further afield – reaching North America, a region the Vikings called Vinland.

    The reason for their expansion – including trading, raiding and creating new settlements – remains a matter of some debate, but experts believe it may have been driven by a need for food, opening new trade routes into the Islamic lands and even a need for women to counter their selectivity for male children.


    Fit for a king: true glory of 1,000-year-old cross buried in Scottish field is revealed at last

    A spectacular Anglo-Saxon silver cross has emerged from beneath 1,000 years of encrusted dirt following painstaking conservation. Such is its quality that whoever commissioned this treasure may have been a high-standing cleric or even a king.

    It was a sorry-looking object when first unearthed in 2014 from a ploughed field in western Scotland as part of the Galloway Hoard, the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland, acquired by the National Museums Scotland (NMS) in 2017.

    The tiniest glimpses of its gold-leaf decoration could be spotted through its grubby exterior, but its stunning, intricate design had been concealed until now. A supreme example of Anglo-Saxon metalwork has been revealed. The equal-armed cross was created by a goldsmith of outstanding skill and artistry. Its four arms bear the symbols of the four evangelists to whom tradition attributed the gospels of the New Testament: Saint Matthew (man), Mark (lion), Luke (cow) and John (eagle).

    Dr Martin Goldberg, NMS principal curator of early medieval and Viking collections, recalled his “wonderment” after seeing the cross in a gleaming state.

    He told the Observer: “It’s just spectacular. There really isn’t a parallel. That is partly because of the time period it comes from. We imagine that a lot of ecclesiastical treasures were robbed from monasteries – that’s what the historical record of the Viking age describes to us. This is one of the survivals. The quality of the workmanship is just incredible. It’s a real privilege to see this after 1,000 years.”

    The Galloway Hoard was buried in the late 9th century in Dumfries and Galloway, where it was unearthed by a metal detectorist in 2014. The cross was among more than 100 gold, silver and other items, including a beautiful gold bird-shaped pin and a silver-gilt vessel. Incredibly, textile in which the objects had been wrapped was among organic matter that also survived.

    Goldberg said: “At the start of the 10th century, new kingdoms were emerging in response to Viking invasions. Alfred the Great’s dynasty was laying the foundations of medieval England, and Alba, the kingdom that became medieval Scotland, is first mentioned in historical sources.”

    Galloway had been part of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, said Goldberg, and was called the Saxon coast in the Irish chronicles as late as the 10th century. But this area was to become the Lordship of Galloway, named from the Gall-Gaedil, people of Scandinavian descent who spoke Gaelic and dominated the Irish Sea zone during the Viking age.

    “The mixed material of the Galloway Hoard exemplifies this dynamic political and cultural environment,” Goldberg added.

    “The cleaning has revealed that the cross, made in the 9th century, [has] a late Anglo-Saxon style of decoration.This looks like the type of thing that would be commissioned at the highest levels of society. First sons were usually kings and lords, second sons would become high-ranking clerics. It’s likely to come from one of these aristocratic families.”

    The pectoral cross has survived with its intricate spiral chain, from which it would have been suspended from the neck, displayed across the chest. The chain shows that the cross was worn. Goldberg said: “You could almost imagine someone taking it off their neck and wrapping the chain around it to bury it in the ground. It has that kind of personal touch.”

    Conservators carved a porcupine quill to create a tool that was sharp enough to remove the dirt, yet soft enough not to damage the metalwork.

    Dr Leslie Webster, former keeper of Britain, Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum, said: “It is a unique survival of high-status Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical metalwork from a period when – in part, thanks to the Viking raids – so much has been lost.”

    Why the hoard was buried remains a mystery. Goldberg said that the cross now raises many more questions, and that research continues.

    The exhibition, Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure, will be at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh from 19 February to 9 May, before touring to Kirkcudbright, Dundee and Aberdeen.


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