Vale of York hoard

Found near Harrogate, England, probably buried around AD 927

Vale of York hoard

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This major hoard of Viking objects was discovered in January 2007. Its size and quality make it one of the most important finds of its type in Britain.


It contains a mixture of different precious metal objects including coins, complete ornaments, ingots (bars) and chopped-up fragments known as hack-silver. It shows the diversity of cultural contacts in the medieval world at the time, with objects coming from as far apart as Afghanistan in the east and Ireland in the west, as well as Russia, Scandinavia and continental Europe.

The most spectacular single object is a gilt-silver vessel, made in northern France or Germany in around the middle of the ninth century. It was apparently intended for use in church services, and was possibly either looted from a monastery by Vikings, or given to them in tribute.

Most of the smaller objects were hidden inside this vessel, which was itself protected by some form of lead container. As a result, the hoard was extremely well-preserved.

Among the other objects are a fine gold arm-ring, and over 600 coins, including several that were previously unknown or rare types. These provide valuable new information about the history of England in the early tenth century, as well as Yorkshire’s wider cultural contacts in the period.

Interestingly, the hoard contains coins relating to Islam and to the pre-Christian religion of the Vikings, as well as to Christianity.

The hoard was probably buried for safety by a wealthy Viking leader during the unrest that followed the conquest of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria in AD 927 by the Anglo-Saxon king Athelstan (924-39). This was a key moment in English history, with the whole of England brought under one king for the first time. However, the hoard provides interesting evidence that the process was not as smooth as the official record produced at Athelstan's court suggests.

The hoard was acquired jointly by the British Museum and York Museums Trust in 2009.


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A History of the World in 100 objects

 
By Neil MacGregor

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Object details

 

2009,4133.77-693 | 2009,8023.1-76

Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100

     

    Aquired with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), the Challenge Fund, York Museums Trust, the British Museum Friends and
    public appeal.

    References

    See these objects in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval art, (London, British Museum Press, 2013), no. 111

    B. Ager, and G. Williams, The Vale of York Hoard, (London, The British Museum Press, 2010)

    J. Graham-Campbell, and G. Williams (ed.), Silver Economy in the Viking Age, (California, 2007)

    R. Naismith, ‘Islamic Coins from Early Medieval England’, Numismatic Chronicle, 165 (2005), 193–222

    K. Scarfe Beckett, Anglo-Saxon Perceptions of the Islamic World, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003)