Gold and silver Viking ornaments found by an amateur metal detectorist are to join the permanent collection of Manx Museum of National Heritage after being declared treasure at an inquest this week.
Described as “internationally significant”, the collection is believed to have been buried on the Isle of Man around 950 AD. It was discovered in December by Kath Giles, who has been metal detecting for around three years and counts a bronze age sword among her previous finds.
“I was absolutely ecstatic,” Giles told Museums Journal. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I never thought I’d find something so magnificent in my life.”
The ornaments consist of a gold arm ring, a cut armband, a silver thistle-headed brooch and a number of related items.
All of the pieces were in good condition and have already been put on display at the museum, although further remedial conservation work may be carried out on the silver items in future.
The museum has only just reopened after lockdown and the find has given it a huge boost, said Allison Fox, curator of archaeology at Manx National Heritage: “The number of people that have been walking around saying ‘ooh, where’s the treasure’ – it’s really good.
“I think from a curator’s point of view it’s that, apart from them being absolutely beautiful, significant objects in their own right, they act as such a good gateway to get people to come into the museum, especially people who haven’t been in here for years.
“To get something like this now has really given that impetus for the museum to be a place that people really want to go to, to bring it back into the local community,” added Fox. “We’ve missed our tourists this year, but one thing that we have seen more of is more local people coming back and having a look around and engaging a bit more.”
In the longer term, the museum is considering a refresh of its Viking gallery, using the latest discovery and other recent finds as an opportunity to “add a little bit more to the story of the Viking age”, said Fox.
The treasure – which Fox believes was most likely buried for safekeeping by someone facing an immediate threat – has bolstered the view that the Isle of Man was a central trading hub in the Viking empire.
“This is the best quality gold arm ring we’ve had, it’s one of the biggest thistle brooches that’s been found anywhere,” said Fox. “This just reinforces the message of how much wealth there was over here at this particular time.”