An Amateur Metal Detectorist Has Unearthed a Rare Stash of 1,000-Year-Old Viking Jewelry on the Isle of Man

The hoard may have been buried amid an invasion.

The “Kath Giles Hoard.” Courtesy of Manx National Heritage.
The “Kath Giles Hoard.” Courtesy of Manx National Heritage.

A retired police officer on the Isle of Man has come across a small but remarkable trove of Viking artifacts that are likely more than 1,000 years old.

The find, which was made by Kath Giles last December with the use of a metal detector, was made on a stretch of private land. There, she found a gold arm-ring, a large silver brooch, and a silver armband among other treasures.

The objects are believed to have been buried around AD 950, when the area was under the rule of the Scandinavian Kings of Dublin. 

“I knew I had found something very special when I moved the soil away from one of the terminals of the brooch, but then I found parts of the pin, the hoop and underneath, the gorgeous gold arm-ring,” Giles said in a statement put out this week by the Manx National Heritage trust.

The trust has since declared the artifacts to be treasures, meaning they belong to the government. Giles, meanwhile, will be compensated with a finder’s fee.

“I knew straight away that it was a significant and exciting find,” she continued. “I’m so thrilled to have found artifacts that are not only so important, but so beautiful!”

The exact location of the discovery was withheld to “protect the integrity of the find site.”

Allison Fox, a curator at Manx National Heritage, assisted with the find after getting a call from Giles last year.

“Kath’s hoard can be dated on stylistic and comparative grounds to about AD 950, a time when the Isle of Man was right in the middle of an important trading and economic zone,” Fox said. “The Viking and Norse influence remained strong on the island for a further 300 years, long after much of the rest of the British Isles.”

The objects are all “high-status personal ornaments,” she said, noting that they likely belonged to the wealthy and were possibly stashed during an invasion.

“Finding just one of these items would be of significance,” she added. “The fact that all were found together, associated with one single deposition event, suggests that whoever buried them was extremely wealthy and probably felt immediately and acutely threatened”. 

The “Kath Giles Hoard.” Courtesy of Manx National Heritage.

Courtesy of Manx National Heritage.

The arm-ring is a particularly special find as gold items were far less common during the Viking Age than those made of silver. It’s estimated that gold was worth as much as 10 times the value of silver; were that the case, the arm-ring would have been worth the equivalent of 900 silver coins.

What the objects are worth now, though, is still being determined, as is the size of Giles’s finder’s fee.

“At the moment, we know its historic and cultural value to the history of the Isle of Man, but its financial value will be assessed in the future,” the curator told the Guardian.

The objects are on view now at the Manx Museum, but will soon be taken away for conservation work. 

Treasure hunting has been on the rise in the UK. A report published this month found that more than 1,000 individual discoveries have been made in each of the last six years, with 2019 alone accounting for 1,300 finds. The vast majority—roughly 96 percent—were uncovered by amatuer metal detectorists like Giles, according to the Guardian.

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