Viking Treasure Discovered in Scotland

WORLD

Buried for more than a thousand years, Scotland’s “Galloway hoard” may include rare artifacts looted from medieval monasteries. (Nat Geo News)

Use our resources to see a similar Viking vessel.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including today’s quick-and-easy MapMaker Interactive map.

This beautiful medieval cross was part of the Galloway Hoard, a collection of Viking treasure dating from the 9th and 10th centuries.  Photograph by Derek McLennan and Martin McSweeney, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-4.0

This beautiful medieval cross was part of the Galloway hoard, a collection of Viking treasure dating from the 9th and 10th centuries.
Photograph by Derek McLennan and Martin McSweeney, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-4.0

Vikings used pins like this, part of the Galloway Hoard, to hold their cloaks together at the right shoulder. Photograph by Derek McLennan and Martin McSweeney, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-4.0

Vikings used pins like this, part of the Galloway hoard, to hold their cloaks together at the right shoulder.
Photograph by Derek McLennan and Martin McSweeney, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-4.0

Discussion Ideas

  • Images from the Galloway hoard, a collection of Viking treasure discovered in 2014, have been shared with the public. Who were the Vikings?
    • Vikings were Scandinavian seafarers whose culture thrived in northern Europe (and eastern North America) in the 7th through 12th centuries. Viking culture informed the development of Scandinavian, Germanic, British, and Russian identities. Here’s a nice map of Viking exploration, and here’s one of Viking genetic heritage.
    • Vikings, sometimes called Norsemen, invaded the British Isles in the 790s. The Galloway hoard, unearthed in southwestern Scotland, probably dates to about a century later, in the early 900s.

 

  • What is a hoard?
    • A hoard is a “wealth deposit”—a hidden or secret collection of valuable items.

 

 

“From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord” . . . that famous prayer, associated with plundered Christian monasteries raided by Vikings, actually dates from the 20th century, not the 10th. Still, the raids took place and they weren’t pleasant, as these monks at Clonmacnoise, Ireland, could attest. A real prayer from Viking-era Britain: “Our supreme and holy Grace, protecting us and ours, deliver us, God, from the savage race of Northmen which lays waste our realms.” Illustration by Tom Lovell, National Geographic

“From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord” . . . that famous prayer, associated with plundered Christian monasteries raided by Vikings, actually dates from the 20th century, not the 10th. Still, the raids really took place and they weren’t pleasant, as these monks at Clonmacnoise, Ireland, could attest. A real prayer from Viking-era Britain: “Our supreme and holy Grace, protecting us and ours, deliver us, God, from the savage race of Northmen which lays waste our realms.”
Illustration by Tom Lovell, National Geographic

  • Why do archaeologists and historians think the metal vessel may have been a looted artifact?
    • According to Nat Geo, “many scholars think [vessels like this] were used during important ceremonies in the Catholic Church. It is possible that Viking raiders stole the Galloway vessel while plundering a wealthy monastery.”

 

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  • How do the artifacts of the Galloway hoard illustrate the travel and trade networks of medieval Europe? Take a look at today’s quick-and-easy MapMaker Interactive map for some help.
    • The Vikings had a fairly robust trading network extending across nearly all of Europe: from Iceland (and, later, Greenland) in the west to the Volga River in the east, as far north as Scandinavia and as far south as the Mediterranean Sea. The Galloway hoard, buried in southwestern Scotland, contains hints to some of these trading networks.
      • The vessel and metalwork are similar to other Viking-era artifacts from other sites in Great Britain and Ireland.
      • The Vikings themselves were Germanic people from what are now Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
      • The style of the vessel and other artifacts identify the hoard as dating from the Carolingian period, when European politics and culture was dominated by the Frankish Carolingian dynasty.
      • The silk remnants found in the hoard are a high-status luxury fabric known as samite. Samite was woven in workshops in the Iberian Peninsula, northern Africa, and Byzantium (today, Istanbul, Turkey).

 

  • The Galloway hoard was discovered by a retired businessman with great detective skills—and a metal detector—in 2014. Does he get to keep this treasure?
    • No. Derek McLennan, the Scotsman who located the hoard, called the authorities after discovering a silver arm ring with a Viking design, a large silver cross, and two other artifacts. He also contributed the two images we’re using in this entry to Wikimedia. (Thank you!)
      • McLennan’s actions allowed archaeologists an “unprecedented opportunity” to examine the hoard in situ. “‘Hoards are never dug up by archaeologists . . .’ Instead, most have been discovered ‘by accident during road building in the 19th century or just hauled out of the ground’ by amateur diggers.”
    • Today, the hoard is in the possession of the Office of Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer. (The QLTR, great title, is the government representative in Scotland who deals with ownerless property.) After the artifacts have been assessed, Scottish museums will have the opportunity to purchase the hoard. McLennan will then be eligible for the market value of the hoard, which may be as much as £1 million ($1.4 million).

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Pictures: An Elite Viking’s Prized Possessions

BBC: Galloway Viking treasure pot’s contents revealed after more than 1,000 years

Nat Geo: Viking Vessel photo

Nat Geo: The Galloway Hoard and Viking Trade MapMaker map

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