Thursday, 21 October 2021

Important Viking find in Watlington

VIKING arm rings and silver ingots have been discovered in a field near Watlington

VIKING arm rings and silver ingots have been discovered in a field near Watlington.

The find also includes rare coins of King Alfred ?the Great? of Wessex (871-99) and King Ceolwulf II of Mercia (874-79).

Archaeologists say the items are ?nationally significant?.

The hoard was uncovered in October by 60-year-old metal detectorist James Mather, from Tilehurst, Reading, and excavated by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

It was block-lifted and taken to the British Museum in London where the soil block was excavated and the finds studied by experts from the museum and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

It consists of 186 coins or coin fragments, seven items of jewellery and 15 ingots.

The hoard dates from the time of the Last Kingdom, when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex were fighting for their survival from the threat of a Great Heathen Army, leading to the unification of England. It was buried around the end of the 870s in the period following Alfred?s decisive defeat of the Vikings at Edington.

Mr Mather, a retired advertising and marketing executive, said: ?It is every detectorist?s dream to find something like this, albeit I didn?t know exactly what it was at the time.

?I?m a bit humbled really. It highlights how responsible metal detecting, supportive landowners and the scheme contribute to national archaeological heritage.

?I hope these amazing artefacts can be displayed by a local museum to be enjoyed by generations to come.?

Gareth Williams, the British Museum?s curator of early medieval coinage, said: ?The hoard comes from a key moment in English history.

?At around the same time, Alfred of Wessex decisively defeated the Vikings and Ceolwulf II, the last king of Mercia, quietly disappeared from the historical record in uncertain circumstances.

?Alfred and his successors then forged a new kingdom of England by taking control of Mercia before conquering the regions controlled by the Vikings.

?This hoard has the potential to provide important new information on relations between Mercia and Wessex at the beginning of that process.? The hoard, if declared as treasure at an inquest, will be valued by the treasure valuation committee.

Mr Mather said he believed it would prove to be ?very valuable? and he and the landowner would split the proceeds equally.

The Ashmolean Museum and Oxfordshire Museums Service will work in partnership with potential funders to try to ensure that the find can be displayed.

The last hoard of this type found in the South was in the 1860s in Croydon.

Under the Treasure Act 1996 there is a legal obligation for finders to report such discoveries.

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