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24.01.2021

Silverdale Hoard

The Silverdale Treasure is a collection of more than 200 pieces of silver jewelry and coins discovered near Silverdale, Lancashire, England, in September 2011. The items were deposited together and under a lead container buried about 16 inches (41 cm) underground that was found in the field by a metal detector. It is thought to date from around 900 AD, a time of intense conflict between Anglo-Saxons and Danish settlers in northern England. The treasure is one of the largest Viking hoards ever discovered in Britain. It was acquired by the Lancashire Museum Service and is on display at the Lancaster City Museum and Lancashire Museum in Preston. It is especially significant in that it contains a coin with the name of a previously unknown Viking ruler.

The treasure was discovered by local metal prospector Darren Webster after 20 minutes of discovery in a field he had previously searched several times before, finding nothing more substantial than through a Tudor half mule. His wife had given him the detector the previous Christmas, and he had taken some time off to try his luck before going to work. When he found the coffin, he was at first disappointed, as it looked like just a sheet of lead, but when he picked it up, he found that it had been formed into a container, from which silver objects spilled out as he lifted it. According to Webster, "The minute I found the silver, I knew what it was, or had a very good idea what it was." He knew at once that it was "probably Viking." The find was reported to the local Portable Antiquities Scheme finds liaison officer and the items were taken to the British Museum for weighing, analysis, cataloging and cleaning.

The treasure consists of a variety of silver objects, including 27 coins, 10 armbands, 2 rings, 14 ingots, 6 brooch fragments, a thin wire braid, and 141 fragments of armbands and ingots that have been crushed and turned. into chopped silver that was used as currency in Viking times. Together they weigh just over two pounds (1 kg). The hoard contains coins of Arab, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Viking, and Viking origin. They date to 900 AD and include coins from Alfred the Great and the Danish kingdom of Northumbria. Some of the other items appear to have been for personal adornment, perhaps to indicate the rank of the wearer. Armbands would have been given to a warrior by a chief as a reward for services rendered. One group in particular is notable for its unusual combination of Irish, Anglo-Saxon and Carolingian design styles.

One coin of a previously unknown design bears the name AIRDECONUT. It appears to be a translation of the Scandinavian name Harthacnut ("strong knot"). On the reverse are the letters DNS (Dominus) REX (King) in the form of a cross, indicating Christian affiliation. Its design is related to the coins issued by the Norhtumbrian Viking rulers Sigfrod and Knutr, who may have ruled the kingdom together from 895 to 905. The name Airdeconut has not been previously recorded and seems to refer to an otherwise unknown Viking ruler. He is believed to be the first recently identified medieval ruler in England in the last fifty years and the first "new" Viking king identified since 1840.

Another important coin is a silver penny circa 900-902, with the inscription ALVVALDVS (Alvaldus) on the obverse. It is believed that to denote Æthelwold, the son of Alfred's older brother, King Ethelred I. After Alfred's death in 899 he tried to claim the throne and then fled to Northumbria, where he was received by the king. Aethelwold was killed at the Battle of the Hill in 902.

The treasure is the largest Viking treasure found in Britain since the discovery of the York Valley Hoard in 2007, and is the fourth largest Viking treasure found in Britain. It bears a striking resemblance to the much larger Couerdale Hoard, discovered about 40 miles (64 km) away in 1840. It is thought that both hoards were buried around 900 AD, during a time of conflict between Viking settlers from northern England and the Anglo-Saxons, whose kings Alfred the Great and Edward the Elder sought to restore Anglo-Saxon control of the Danish state ruled territory in England. It was worth a considerable sum at the time, perhaps the equivalent of a flock of sheep or cattle. The fact that the owner of the treasure never returned to claim it may indicate that they did not survive the disturbance.

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