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Crofter finds a 'Viking' anchor on the Isle of Skye

3 December 09 18:07 GMT

A crofter has uncovered what is believed to be a Viking anchor while digging a drain on the Isle of Skye.

Graeme Mackenzie, 47, made the find after hiring an excavator to open the drain on rough pastureland 50yds (48m) from his home near Sleat.

Rain had partly washed away the bottom of the drain and exposed a corroded 4in (10cm) iron spike.

Mr Mackenzie levered it out and was "stunned" as the ancient anchor gradually emerged.

The Treasure Trove Unit at the National Museums of Scotland said the anchor will probably be claimed by the Crown.

Measuring 4ft high and a similar distance from tip to tip, the artefact is undergoing dating and metallurgical testing.

Preliminary results showed it is at least of medieval, possibly Viking, origin and could be about 1,000 years old.

If proved to be Viking, the find would be further evidence that many Norse raiders never returned to their native land, choosing instead to settle on Skye and many other places along Scotland's northwestern seaboard.

Mr Mackenzie said: "Where it was lying, is only 100 yards above the high water mark.

"We are on a raised beach, so the land has been rising since Viking times.

"Maybe then the tide came right up to the point where I found it.

"The anchor was 2ft under the peat. I hauled it out not realising what was at the end of it - but luckily it came out in one piece.

"When I gave it a hose down it was obvious what it was. It looks very like a pick, only with a metal handle.

"The top of the shaft was missing, because it was so badly corroded. I assume it would have had an eye at the top, but that's gone."

Growing potatoes

He added: "I stumbled on it quite by chance, I wasn't looking for anything. I just wanted to drain the land so I can grow potatoes there next year.

"When I dug it up I immediately knew it was old. I used to be a skipper and I therefore have some knowledge on anchors.

"And this one felt different. The metalwork is totally different from the modern anchors. It felt like a blacksmith had hammered it.

"On the internet I saw a picture of a Viking anchor and it looked exactly the same as mine.

"As far as I know Treasure Trove Scotland in Edinburgh, will eventually contact me and tell me if I'm due any financial reward. But I'm not ordering the Ferrari just yet.

"I'm not expecting anything. I don't think I can retire early."

In a report to the Museum of the Isles, a spokesman for the Treasure Trove Unit at the National Museums of Scotland said: "At the moment our working presumption is that the anchor is at least medieval".

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