The Vale of York Hoard, also known as the Harrogate Hoard and the Vale of York Viking Hoard, is a 10th century Viking hoard of 617 silver coins and 65 other items. It was found intact in 2007 near the town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England. The hoard was the largest Viking hoard discovered in Britain since 1840, when the Couerdale Hoard was found in Lancashire, although the Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in 2009, is larger.
On Jan. 6, 2007, David Whelan, a retired Leeds businessman, and his son Andrew, a surveyor, discovered the Harrogate treasure using metal detectors. The Whelans told BBC News that they had been searching for metals as a hobby for about five years.
The treasure was found in an empty field that had not yet been plowed for spring crops. The field was later explored, but no evidence of a settlement or structure was found. About 30 cm (1 ft.) below the ground, after parts of the lead chest had been unearthed, a silver bowl fell from the side of the excavation. Upon inspection, coins and pieces of silver were visible on the ground. The Whelans reported the find to Amy Cooper, the findings liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Program : it was one of the first finds reported to Cooper. The couple was praised for their "exemplary behavior of not unpacking all the items from the bowl, but keeping the find intact." The Velans also noted the exact location of the find before pouring the pit. This proved to be a valuable step, as the rain washed away the evidence of the find when the archaeologists returned only four days later. The treasure trove was given to the British Museum, where restorers excavated each find to preserve the objects and "contextual information." The discovery was announced on July 19, 2007. A press release from the British Museum stated, "The size and quality of the hoard is remarkable, making it the most important find of its type in Britain in more than 150 years," and reported, "the find is of global significance as well as of great significance to the history of North Yorkshire."
At a court hearing in Harrogate on July 19, 2007, North Yorkshire Coroner Jeff Fell classified the treasure as treasure under the Treasure Act of 1996 , which requires that the find be offered for sale to museums, with the proceeds divided by agreement between the discoverers and landlords. The find has been appraised by the Independent Treasure Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport.
The treasure consists of 617 silver coins and 65 other items, including jewelry, bullion and precious metal . These items were hidden in a gilded silver vessel lined with gold (variously identified as a cup, bowl, or pot), which is believed to have possibly been a church vessel from Northern France, either looted or given away as tribute. Vines, leaves, and six running animals (two lions and four beasts of prey) decorate the bowl. The bowl is so similar to the Halton Moore bowl in the British Museum that both must be from the same Carolingian workshop and were produced in the mid-ninth century. The vessel was buried in a lead chest.
Also found were a rare gold hand ring (possibly from Ireland) and chopped silver (fragments of cut metal sometimes used as currency). Reports indicate that the coins depict Islamic, Christian and pre-Christian pagan symbols: "some coins show a mixture of Christian and pagan imagery, shedding light on the beliefs of the Viking converts to Christianity."
The treasure was protected by some kind of lead film. The coins are dated to the late ninth and early tenth centuries, which is the final point for dating the treasure. The first theory as to the likely 10th century case for such a careful burial was that it belonged to a wealthy Viking leader during the unrest that followed the conquest of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria in 927 by the Anglo-Saxon king of united England, Athelstan (924-939). Another short period of Viking rule in Northumbria also followed the death of Athelstan in 939; this continued until the exile and assassination of Viking King Jorvik (modern-day York ) Eric the Bloody Axe, in 954.
The treasure trove included items from a wide variety of places, including Samarkand in what is now Uzbekistan, North Africa, Afghanistan, Russia, Ireland, Scandinavia, and continental Europe, "illustrating the breadth of Viking travel and trade connections." Gareth Williams, curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum, examined the artifacts.