Museum Displays Viking Treasure

The woman who found a stash of over 100 pieces of Viking silver has told Gef that it’s ‘absolutely fabulous’ to see them on display in the Manx Museum.

Kath Giles, a retired police officer, has been an avid metal detector for four years and is already responsible for finding a gold arm ring and silver brooch from 950 AD in December. She discovered this latest horde whilst searching a field in the north of the island in April but it has only recently been declared treasure after a legal inquest.

On first finding the treasure, she said: ‘When I found the first one it was so badly damaged that I thought that could be it but after detecting for a little while longer I very quickly found two more coins, one in perfect condition and another that was quite bent. I went home because it was quite late but I had trepidation for the next morning thinking, am I gonna find anymore? The next day I ended up finding 31 coins in total which was quite incredible.’

The Viking silver is believed to have been buried in the 1030s AD

The discovery ended up totalling 87 silver coins and 13 pieces of cut silver arm rings, or ‘hacked silver,’ amongst other assorted artefacts dating from the 990s to 1030s AD. The collection includes 13 of the earliest recorded examples of ‘Hiberno-Manx’ coins which are part of a small number minted in the Isle of Man using a coin die from Dublin.

Manx National Heritage’s curator of archaeology, Allison Fox, said: ‘The objects themselves are really beautiful and the designs are wonderful but it’s about the story they tell us about the Isle of Man a thousand years ago and how important the island was to the wider Viking story. There will obviously be a financial valuation put on the finds but it’s more about what they can tell us about what our ancestors were doing at that time.’

Talking about the history of the coins, Kath said: ‘What amazes me is that I’m the first person to touch those items since someone put them into the ground 1,000 years ago and we’ll never know exactly why they did that. I wasn’t particularly interested in history at school but once I took up metal detecting, you just want to find as much as possible about the objects you find so over the last four years my knowledge has increased quite a lot about different areas of history.’

The items, which are now owned by the crown after being declared under the Treasure Act 2017, are currently on display in the Manx Museum and will be transported for valuation at the British Museum before being brought back to the island as their permanent home.

Kath added: ‘It’s absolutely fabulous to see them in the museum, this is exactly why I do it, I don’t really do it for monetary value or anything like that, it’s just to recover pieces of history for everyone to see. To see them on display in such a lovely way is just fabulous for me.’

Kath Giles now has two of her finds displayed in the Manx Museum

The find includes coins from various regions of Europe and Allison told Gef this is the most significant piece of information about the discovery. She said: ‘There haven’t been many of the coins minted in the Isle of Man found anywhere so it’s always important when we get a new number of those. Also, the fact that they are in there with coins minted in Dublin, England and what’s now Germany, it just tells us more about the economy of the island at that time, basically if anybody had any cash, we’d accept it.’

The Treasure Act requires that anyone who finds something that they have reasonable grounds to believe is treasure reports it to the Manx Museum or National Trust. Allison says that this can simply be an email with a photo that they can use to let the finder know if it may be important.

Advising anyone who may be inspired by this find to start metal detecting, Kath said: ‘If anybody is interested, you do need to have permission to be on people’s land unless you’re detecting on the beaches as you are allowed to detect on most beaches on the Isle of Man. You need to get permission most of the time though, whenever I’ve asked landowners I explain that it is my passion and I don’t want to hide anything, I just want to recover things for the people of the island, and generally it’s been fine. Just don’t buy a cheap and nasty detector or you’ll soon get frustrated only digging up old nails.’ 

Allison added: ‘There is a metal detecting club over here and there’s a wealth of experience in that club so they’ll be able to help anyone. Reporting the artefacts, aside from being a legal requirement, also makes sure we have a broader picture of what’s being found and helps us tell the story of our island.’

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