Did four different people bury the Viking Age Galloway Hoard?

  • Maiya Pina-Dacier
  • 2 June, 2021

The Galloway Hoard is one of the most spectacular discoveries of the century, and new research is beginning to tell its story…

Archaeologists say that the famous hoard appears to have been buried in four distinct layers and that maybe four different people – or groups – may have been involved in the burial, which was made around 900 AD.

It contains over 100 objects, neatly wrapped and packed in layers. Items also include four different groups of silver arm rings, engraved with the names Ed, Til and Ber (all thought to be Anglo-Saxon abbreviations) with a fourth, longer Runic inscription yet to be translated.

Silver arm rings from the Galloway Hoard were engraved with individual names

The hoard was discovered in 2014 by metal detectorist Derek McLennan in 2014 in Dumfries and Galloway, which was part of the kingdom of Northumbria (just like our site at Lindisfarne) at the time it was buried.

Each layer was packed full with carefully wrapped objects. One of the layers included beads, pendants, a rock crystal jar, and a lidded silver-gilt vessel has now been revealed to be decorated with leopards, tigers and Zoroastrian religious symbols.

The lidded vessel is still in its wrapping, and with decoration revealed. New analysis suggests it came from Central Asia. NMS.

Originally thought to have come from continental Europe, this new analysis of the lidded metal vessel shows that it dates to 680-780 AD and was instead likely to have been moved along vast trade routes from Central Asia, through Russia and into Europe.

Only two other lidded vessels have been found in Viking hoards in Britain and Ireland, both which originated from continental Europe.

Colourful glass beads were found resting as a group on a silver brooch hoop at the top of the lidded vessel

An intensive programme of conservation and research is now underway, uncovering the secrets of the Hoard for the very first time. The news of these latest findings come just as the hoard begins an exhibition tour.

It will be on display at National Museums Scotland until September, before moving to Kirkcudbright Galleries in October and on to Aberdeen Museum and Art Gallery in summer 2022 thanks to support from the Scottish Government.

The exhibition is designed to take visitors through each of the four distinct layer, in the same manner that they were discovered. If you manage to visit, let us know what you think in the comments!