A father and son metal detecting in a field near Harrogate discovered what could be the most important Viking hoard discovered in Great Britain in 150 years. The hoard was likely buried some time in the 10th century.
The two detectors, David and Andrew Whelan, found 617 silver coins, a gold arm-ring and a gilt silver vessel. The objects come from Afghanistan, Russia, Scandinavia and Ireland among others.
To qualify as treasure, generally speaking a find must be composed of valuable materials like silver or gold. Such was the case here, and as a result the finder and the landowner will receive an award based on the value of the find. In this way, the treasure act encourages finders to report their discovery. Of course they will also receive a great deal of publicity for this important discovery.
There are problems, because its application hinges on the composition of the find. But it does an excellent job of forming a good compromise between treasure hunters and archaeologists. These metal detectors are compensated; while if there was simply a national ownership declaration, finders might be tempted to hide their discovery and sell it on the black market.
One of the local treasure Coroners, Geoff Fell stated at the treasure trove inquest in Harrogate that “Treasure cases are always interesting, but this is one of the most exciting cases that I have ever had to rule on. I’m delighted that such an important Viking hoard has been discovered in North Yorkshire.”
Michael Lewis, the deputy head of the British Museum Treasure Scheme praised the finders because “[they] resisted the temptation to tip the hoard … That gave the museum the opportunity to investigate the hoard.”
This find seems to have produced great results for everybody. Metal detecting cuts both ways. Responsible detectors like the Whelan’s can really add to the body of historical knowledge, but there are irresponsible detectors as well, as the forthcoming nighthawking (detecting at night) study to be conducted by the British Museum will reveal.