British Museum unveils Viking hoard

Tom Marsh, 15.12.2015
Metal detectorist discovered the treasure in Oxfordshire
The British Museum has unveiled a “nationally significant” Viking hoard dating from the 870s and may shine new light on the little-known King Ceolwulf II.

Consisting of 186 coins, Viking jewellery and 15 ingots, the hoard was discovered in a field near Watlington, Oxfordshire by metal detectorist James Mather.

Mather alerted the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and later helped excavate the area, which was transported as a block to the British Museum for analysis.

The British Museum revealed the hoard as part of the PAS and Treasure annual report, reporting that it consists of 186 coins, seven pieces of Viking jewellery, and 15 ingots.
 
Academics from the British Museum and the Ashmolean suspect the hoard to have been buried sometime around the end of the 870s.

Some of the coins depict figures believed to represent King Alfred the Great of Wessex, who ruled from A.D. 871 to 899, and King Ceolwulf II of Mercia [now the Midlands], who ruled from 874 to 879, and appear to have been produced in both kings’ names.
 
The coins suggest that the two kings may have been equal in power and the subject of an alliance.
 
Gareth Williams, the curator of early medieval coinage at the British Museum, said: “The hoard comes from a key moment in English history. At around the same time, Alfred of Wessex decisively defeated the Vikings, and Ceolwulf II, the last king of Mercia quietly disappeared from the historical record in uncertain circumstances. This hoard has the potential to provide important new information on relations between Mercia and Wessex at the beginning of that process.”

If the hoard is declared Treasure, the Ashmolean Museum and Oxfordshire Museums Service will work in partnership with potential funders to try and ensure that it goes on public display. In 2013 (the last year for which figures are available), 363 finds recorded as Treasure were acquired by 91 museums so that the items could be exhibited close to where they were found.

Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, said: “Supported by the British Museum and its national and local partners, many of the most important finds from England and Wales have been acquired by local museums and displayed for people to learn about and enjoy through the Portable Antiquities Scheme.”

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