look at the pipe to the right of the bowl.
I wonder what else they kept in that bowl...
Museum shows off treasure buried for 1,000 years
Maev Kennedy and Martin Wainwright
Thursday July 19, 2007
Some of the found treasure on display at the British Museum. Photograph: AP/British Museum
A Viking treasure hoard of silver traded and looted from far across Europe and into Asia and north Africa, and lost for over 1,000 years, was revealed again today at the British Museum.
The find is unrivalled in Britain in over 150 years, and one of the most spectacular recent discoveries from anywhere in the Viking empire. The 600 coins, some unique, come from as far as Samarkand in central Asia, Afghanistan and Russia.
The hoard was found in January by David and Andrew Whelan, father and son hobby metal detectorists, in a bare winter field near Harrogate soon due to be ploughed again for spring sowing.
They first found fragments of the lead sheeting that once protected it, then the pot itself. They could see coins and scraps of silver poking out of the mud, but restrained themselves and brought the whole thing intact to their local archaeological finds officer.
The site seems then as now to have been an empty field: archaeologists scoured it for evidence but found no trace of any settlement or structure.
The Whelans' patience, which preserved priceless clues as to how and when the pot was hidden, was rewarded when the British Museum invited them to watch while the conservator Hayley Bullock delicately tweezed the treasure out of the hard-packed mud.
The Whelans and the museum staff were astounded as her bench gradually filled with the contents of the bowl: a gold arm ring possibly made in Ireland, silver rings and brooches, dress ornaments, ingots, the chopped up scraps of silver which the Vikings used by weight as cash, and coins by the score, many in superb condition.
"If somebody asked me to fit it all back in now, I'm not sure I could," she said yesterday.
The treasure was crammed into an exquisite silver pot decorated with incised lions and deer and plated inside with pure gold, which may once have held the communion bread for some wealthy church in northern France.
The clue to why the Harrogate treasure had remained hidden lay in the bowl itself, archaeologists found. The latest coin was minted in 927 AD by the Anglo-Saxon king Athelstan, who was the first to proclaim himself "king of all Britain". The most serious challenge to the Viking power was marching north, and the archaeologists are not surprised that the owner was never able to go back to retrieve his hoard.
The find was formally declared treasure yesterday by the North Yorkshire coroner, Geoff Fell, who said it was one of the most exciting cases he had had to decide.
Its value has still to be determined by the treasure valuation committee, but the British Museum and the York Museum Trust, which already has a superb Viking collection, are ready to try to raise over £1m to acquire the hoard. Once a value has been established, the finders will split the amount with the landowner.
The field had yielded nothing much before to the Whelans apart from 20th-century junk including a dump of 90 metal buttons. David, a 51-year-old semi-retired businessman from Leeds, initially thought he had scanned a rusting bicycle or a bit of broken cattle trough when his detector started bleeping.
"We were sweeping and I got a signal, so I took a couple of shovels full of soil and there was a stronger one," he said outside the coroner's court in Harrogate after the hearing. "I just kept going and going. A ball of earth rolled out of the side of the hole and I could see a coin stuck in it. We dug the hole out. We crouched down on our hands and knees."
Andrew, a 35-year-old surveyor who took up the hobby with his father three years ago, said: "We were sat there shaking - it was unbelievable. We made sure we got everything out and then packed up for the day and went home to find out what to do with it.
"We told the antiquity authority and handed it over all intact. We were astonished when we finally discovered what it contained."
Neither of the men has great plans for the money they will receive. David Whelan said: "We don't need 'owt. We've got all we want. It's a thing of dreams to find something like this. If we had found one coin we would have been over the moon."