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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Viking treasure trove unearthed
The Viking hoard (British Museum)
The hoard contained many semi-precious metal objects

One of Britain's most significant Viking treasure hoards has been unearthed by a father and son team.

The collection, found in Yorkshire using metal detectors, consists of some 600 precious metal objects including coins, jewellery and other ornaments.

Experts believe the hoard may have been buried by a wealthy Viking after AD928 during a turbulent period in the UK's history.

Jonathan Williams of the British Museum said the find was "phenomenal".

Metal detectorists David and Andrew Whelan uncovered the treasures at a site near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, in January 2007.

Andrew Whelan told the BBC News website: "We've been metal detecting for about five years; we do it on Saturdays as a hobby.

"We ended up in this particular field, we got a really strong signal from the detector... Eventually we found this cup containing the coins and told the antiquity authority.

"We were astonished when we finally discovered what it contained."

'Spectacular find'

After the team reported their discovery, archaeologists began to carry out the painstaking process of excavating the objects.

The conservation work revealed that the hoard was one of the most significant to have been found in Britain for 150 years.

Dr Williams, keeper of prehistory in Europe at the British Museum, said: "The objects are absolutely spectacular."

Silver gilt cup (British Museum)
The silver gilt cup is very rare

Among the treasures, archaeologists uncovered 617 silver coins, originating from as far afield as Afghanistan, chopped up fragments of silver bullion and a rare gold arm-band.

Dr Williams added: "There was also a wonderful silver gilt cup, which may well have been a Christian vessel.

"It is beautifully decorated and made in France or Germany at around AD900. It is fantastically rare - there are only a handful of others known around the world. It will be stunning when it is fully conserved."

Viking turmoil

Experts believe that the goods may have been buried sometime after the year AD928, during a period of unrest in Britain. At this point in history, the Christian English, based in the south, were pushing north to conquer the kingdom of Northumbria, ruled by the pagan Vikings.

Dr Williams said: "The Vikings would have been on the run, and we speculate that a wealthy Viking would have buried his treasures in the ground at some point during this turbulent period."

Researchers hope the objects will give them valuable information about the history of Britain during the early tenth century.

The hoard, once declared a Treasure by the 1996 Treasure Act, will go forward for valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Dr Williams said that the British Museum and the York Museums Trust would be looking to raise the finds to purchase the collection so it could eventually go on public display.

The proceeds would be split between the finders and landowners.

'Viking' gold ring finds new home
06 Mar 07 |  North East Wales
State is taking 'Viking treasure'
29 Sep 05 |  Northern Ireland
Treasure found in Viking market
01 Feb 05 |  Cumbria

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