After months of painstaking conservation, the stunning details and unique items preserved amongs the contents of a Viking hoard found in Yorkshire have been revealed. Discovered by metal- detectorists in 2012, the Bedale Hoard was bought by the Yorkshire Museum last spring, and since then the hoard has been cleaned and closely examined by Yorkshire Archaeological Trust.
A Visigothic Buckle. Courtesy of The Portable Antiquities Scheme.
Some of the finds from the Bedale Hoard.
This process has revealed that the hoard – thought to have been buried in the late 9th or early 10th century- contains objects from around the Viking world, including silver neck- rings from Russia and Britain, an arm band made by Hiberno-Norse craftsmen in Ireland, silver ingots, and an Anglo – Saxon sword pommel adorned with delicate gold plaques. The pattern incised into these gold sheets are reminiscent of Trewhiddle style- an animal motif named after a site in Cornwall- but some imagery is normally seen on silver or base-metal items.
The sword Pommel from the Bedale Hoard
This is the first time that Trewhiddle style has been seen used on gold- and it is also unusual to find it this far north, which raises questions about how people and ideas were moving around the country. ” Interestingly the decorations seem to be a mixture of true Trewhiddle, and more typically Northern styles, as if a local craftsman has taken the idea and made it their own ” said Natalie McCaul curator of Archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum.
The pommel is not the only artifact in the cache whose design has been given a Northern twist: Natalie also highlighted a huge silver neck-ring, which at more than 0.5g in weight, is the largest known example of its kind. It is a very typically Scandinavian design, but the way the collar has been put together suggests a Yorkshire variant on a Viking idea; Natalie said.’ The ring can’t have been comfortable to wear, but it would have been very impressive- perhaps it was only taken out for special occasions or ceremonies use’
Other questions of cultural identity were raised during analysis of the hoard’s 29 silver ingots, three of which were found to have crosses scratched into the surface. There are certain similarities here with the Cuerdale Hoard (a massive Viking cache found in Lancashire and thought to have been buried in the early 10th century), where the ingots had been cast using a mould marked with crosses. The Bedale examples are a little more crude, as they were done by hand, but they might hint at the religious leanings of their owner.. Natalie tells us that the ingots are also interesting because they were found at the bottom of the hoard, very tightly and neatly packed together in four rows. This might suggest that they were originally boxed or wrapped up in some way- we hope that soil analysis might shed further light on this, but traces of fabric preserved on the back of the sword pommel indicate that this item at least might have been wrapped in cloth before burial..
The objects appear to have been buried in an isolated place, with no other Viking-era sites or structures known nearby, although as the find-spot lies beside a stream it could be that it was buried near a now-lost routeway. This is the most northerly discovery of Viking material in Yorkshire, making it an incredibly exciting find. It has the potential to change both what we know about this area, and about the wider York hinterland: we are extending the story of Yorvik just a little bit more Natalie so proudly said.
Curator of archaeology Natalie McCaul putting the Bedale Hoard on display at The Yorkshire Museum.
NOTE- The Bedale Hoard is on permanent display in the Yorkshire Museum’s Medieval Gallery