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30.12.2020

Penrith Hoard

The Penrith Treasure is a dispersed hoard of 10 silver age penannular brooches , found at Flusco Pike, Newbiggin Moor, near Penrith in Cumbria , and now in the British Museum in London. The largest "thistle brooch" was found in 1785, and another in 1830, with the bulk of the objects having been discovered by archaeologists in 1989 in two closely related groups.  Whether all of the finds close together were originally deposited at the same time remains uncertain, but it is thought likely that at least the brooches were. It is believed that the brooches were deposited around 930.

The earliest surviving finds were discovered by a young boy in 1785 at what was already called "Silver Field" on Newbiggin Swamp. This name indicates that earlier finds, now lost, had been made. Another smaller thistle brooch was found in 1830. Although the exact location of the find is unknown, there is great suspicion that this brooch also came from "Silver Field." A common reason for "giving away" the hoard is that routine agricultural operations, such as plowing, can move some elements of one hoard before they are discovered.

Later archaeological investigations in 1989 at the same site found other silver items which confirmed that this was a scattered hoard and not the single loss of a single brooch. Two groups of objects were found in nearby fields: one consisting of five Viking brooches with fragments of two more, and the other consisting of over fifty objects including coins, ingots , jewelry and khaki (jewelry and other silver items crushed) very similar date. The brooches were declared a "treasure trove" during an investigation in Penrith on July 23, 1990, and came into the British Museum in 1991, and in 2009 they were joined by another treasure trove.

The mother-of-pearl brooch, originally a common utilitarian clasp for clothing - usually of base metal - in Roman Britain, evolved in the post-Roman period into a highly elaborate and decorative status symbol in Ireland and Scotland. Brooches, worn by both men and women, were made of precious metals and often adorned with precious stones. When the Vikings began to raid and settle the British Isles, they began to wear these brooches, but now of pure silver. The thistle and bobblehead types represented in the hoard were the most popular styles, both evolved from earlier Celtic styles.

It has been suggested that the hoard, with items clearly indicating an Irish connection, is related to the events of 927, a date that matches the style of the finds. In that year "the kings of Strathclyde and Scotland came south to Penrith to pay homage to Athelstan. Also in the area with his army was troublesome the Norse-Gael King of Dublin , Gothreid wa Imair or Gothfrith. Athelstan forced kings who were apparently associated with pagan Vikings such as Gothfrith to abandon idolatry, but "Gothfrith and company slipped away to attack York." After briefly becoming king of the Northumbrians he was kicked out and replaced by Athelstan later that year, and he returned to Ireland. At some point during these maneuvers the supplies may have been delayed.

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