Derek McLennan was feeling a bit under the weather, but he knew he couldn't pass up the chance to go metal detecting in a field owned by the Church of Scotland. After all, he had found medieval coins in the same spot just a year before.
So, despite not feeling his best, Derek set out with a couple of friends and his trusty metal detector. Little did he know, he was about to make a discovery that would blow his mind. This was no ordinary find. Keep reading to learn more about the treasure that had been hidden for a whopping 1,000 years!
Afternoon With Friends
Derek McLennan, from Ayrshire in the southwestern part of Scotland, is a businessman who's become an avid metal detector enthusiast. He was out in the country with two friends when something amazing happened.
It was like any other day in the field until McLennan's metal detector began to beep. And, as he did any time the machine went off, the treasure hunter became very excited. Little did he or his friends know, but they were about to unearth something extraordinary.
Nearly Didn't Go
Ironically, McLennan woke up that September morning in 2014 feeling a bit under the weather. Because of this, he was very close to calling off the little metal detecting expedition with his two friends.
But he felt guilty, as he had already promised his two friends, Pentecostal pastor Mike Smith, and Rev. Dr. David Bartholomew, that he would join them in the field. So, he mustered up all of the energy he had and went treasure hunting.
Medieval Coins Found The Year Before
It's not overly surprising that McLennan got out of bed that morning, as he already had a pretty solid track record of finding treasure. In 2013, along with his friend Gus Paterson, McLennan uncovered a trove of 300 medieval silver coins!
While he wasn't near Twynholm, Scotland, where he had unearthed the coins, there is always a possibility of discovering something amazing. Just one year later, that is exactly what happened to McLennan and his two other friends.
So, McLennan got himself ready, and the three men set off to their destination. That September morning, they headed toward a field that was owned by the Church of Scotland in the county of Kirkcudbrightshire in Dumfries and Galloway.
Once there, the three friends began to quarter out the land, deciding where they were going to search for treasure. It wasn't too long after they arrived that McLennan's metal detector began beeping. He'd found something! He began to dig.
Simply Just A Spoon
McLennan had no idea what he was in for when he began searching for the object picked up by his metal detector. With how expeditions typically go, it was probably a piece of foil or an old soda can.
To his surprise, McLennan unearthed what looked like an old silver spoon. In his mind, it wasn't anything to get overly excited about. That is, until he looked at the object more closely.
Made By Vikings
One he had the object in his hand, McLennan began looking at it more closely. During an interview with BBC, he said, "I unearthed the first piece [and] initially I didn't understand what I had found because I thought it was a silver spoon."
"And then I turned it over and wiped my thumb across it, and I saw the Saltire-type of design and knew instantly it was Viking." Obviously, things were starting to get interesting for the treasure hunters.
His Emotions Were All Over The Place
The treasure hunter's emotions went from sad to elated in no time at all. Once McLennan realized what the object was, he called his friends over to take a look. Obviously, he couldn't keep his discovery to himself for very long!
During an interview with BBC, McLennan said, "My senses exploded, I went into shock, endorphins flooded my system, and away I went stumbling towards my colleagues waving it in the air." And that was just the beginning.
There Was A Trove Of Viking Relics Under His Feet
McLennan had actually stumbled upon a trove of Viking relics, objects that have been lost and buried for over 1,000 years! With the number of items he pulled from the earth, it might be the largest find ever.
Among the relics were gold and silver ingots, arm bands, and brooches. But there was one object in particular that caught the attention of McLennan and his two friends. Among the treasures was an early medieval Christian cross.
The Treasure Trove Was Guarded Around The Clock
After a lot of celebrating, the three friends finally calmed down as much as possible. There was still one more thing they had to do, and that was to call the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit to report their findings.
The unit went through great lengths to make sure the treasure was guarded around the clock. A local farmer even volunteered his largest bull to stand guard in the field, just to deter any curious wanderers.
Nothing Like This Hoard Has Ever Been Found In Scotland
The head of the National Museum of Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit, Stuart Campbell, discussed the importance of the fund with BBC. During his interview with the network, Campbell said, "Nothing like this has been found in Scotland before in terms of the range of material this hoard represents.
"There's material from Ireland, from Scandinavia, from various places in central Europe and perhaps ranging over a couple of centuries." With the few items the men had already found, it was time to do a full-on excavation.
In Total, There Were 100 Artifacts
The artifacts McLennan dug up were truly amazing. And before long, a huge archaeological dig was happening in the field. To think, he might have only scratched the surface on what was there!
As it turned out, there were distinct layers of objects in the ground. First, it was the items McLennan and his two friends dug up. Then, other precious treasures, such as a gold pin in the shape of a bird. All in all, there were 100 artifacts.
There Was An Interesting Pot Among The Artifacts
Aside from the arm rings, pins, and other various jewelry, the excavation crew was very intrigued by one particular item. Among the lower-layer artifacts was a large silver alloy pot with a matching lid.
The pot was wrapped in old and decaying fabric but was still intact. The researchers suspected the pot was already at least one century old when it was buried in the ninth or tenth century!
They Decided To X-Ray The Pot
Now, it was just a matter of figuring out what was inside the old pot. Before opening the lid, though, the archaeologists opted to do an x-ray of the item, just in case there was something inside that could harm them in some way.
The thing is, what the x-ray revealed ended up being beyond the excavation crew's wildest dreams. And, no, it wasn't just another pin shaped like a bird.
A Team Of X-Ray Technicians Got To Work
So, with the x-ray scheduled, the crew brought the pot to a nearby hospital in Melrose, Scotland, Borders General Hospital. Of course, the x-ray team at the hospital was a bit more used to catering to human patients than centuries-old artifacts that were dug out of the ground!
Nevertheless, they got to work. And what they wound up finding while examining the x-ray was more than anyone could have possibly imagined.
There Were A Minimum Of 20 Artifacts Inside The Pot
Inside the pot wasn't an ancient curse or anything that was going to hurt McLennan or the rest of the team. In fact, there were at least 20 more artifacts enclosed inside the old pot!
It took a while to examine, record, and clean all of the findings. So, it wasn't until years later that the artifacts were actually shared with the general public. But let us tell you, it was worth the wait!
There Was Byzantine Silk, A Gold Ingot, And Six Silver Brooches
Among the 20 artifacts that were shown to the public were Byzantine silk, a gold ingot, and six silver Anglo-Saxon brooches. The former was very impressive because that type of silk dates back to the fourth century and Constantinople.
With such rare findings, it begs one large question, how much are the Viking artifacts worth today? Considering how many items McLennan found in the field, he's sure to have a significant payday!
The Hoard Is Estimated To Be Worth Up To $1.2 Million
After valuing all of the artifacts, what is now known as the Galloway Hoard has an estimated value between $630,000 and $1.2 million. Not too bad for a man who had to talk himself into getting out of bed that fateful morning!
Now, the bounty is being held by the Treasure Trove Unit, who, in collaboration with the Office of Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer, will decide what is best for the hoard.
Museums Will Bid For The Artifacts
As ends up happening with many treasure discoveries, the Galloway Hoard will eventually go out to auction for museums to bid on, with all of the proceeds going to the finders of the artifacts. So, it looks like McLennan and his friends will get a very nice payout from their findings!
But now it begs the question: why did the Vikings leave the artifacts in the ground and never return for them? Unfortunately, those questions are most likely going to remain unanswered.
The Treasure Is Important In Understanding Viking History
At least one day, people will be able to appreciate the history in a museum, as it plays a large part in understanding Viking interactions with Scotland. Olwyn Owen, a Viking specialist, said, "This hoard will add hugely to our understanding of Viking movements around the landscape, their interactions with other people [and] their craftsmanship."
For now, people can only assume that whoever laid the artifacts in the ground had a very good reason for doing so.
McLennan Believes It Was Buried By A Warlord
According to McLennan, there is an old legend in Galloway that speaks of a battle between the Scots and Vikings. In the end, the Scots triumphed over the Vikings. So, perhaps the treasure is that of a Viking warlord not wanting the prized artifacts to fall into enemy hands!
Today, the Galloway Hoard has found a permanent home at The National Museum of Scotland, after the museum raised over two million dollars worth of funds to acquire the relics.