The spectacular Galloway Viking Hoard has been acquired by National Museums Scotland after raising almost £2m in just five months.
The hoard consists of more than 100 pieces of gold, silver, ingots and jewellery gathered up from across the Viking world and was found more than 1,000 years later by by a metal detectorist in a field in Dumfries and Galloway.
It is still not known whether it was buried by a Viking or in dread of Viking raids, but the exceptionally rare survival of organic material, including scraps of leather and wood found with the precious objects, will will eventually reveal much more information.
The Galloway Hoard consists of more than 100 pieces of gold and silver. It was found in a Scottish field by a metal detectorist in 2014. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Years of conservation work and research is to come, but the objects remain on display at the museum in Edinburgh until Sunday.
The hoard was found in 2014 by a retired business man, Derek McLennan, who was out with his metal detector on church-owned land, with permission. Initially he was first delighted at the thought that he had found an antique silver spoon, and then turned it over and recognised the Viking patterning.
Recalling the thrill of the moment, he told the BBC: “My senses exploded, I went into shock, endorphins flooded my system and away I went stumbling towards my colleagues waving it in the air.”
The Galloway Viking Hoard was acquired with the help £2m-worth of fundraising. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The hoard is the richest Viking-age collection of precious metal found in the UK or Ireland and is considered by archaeologists to be of international significance. It is unusual for the diversity of the objects and their geographical spread, coming from Ireland, Britain and across the continent as far as Byzantium.
Some of the pieces were already antiques, centuries old when they were buried at the beginning of the 10th century. The hoard includes a beautiful gold bird-shaped pin, a rare solid gold ingot, intricately decorated silver jewellery, pieces with runic inscriptions, and an elaborately decorated silver gilt container that may have been looted from a Byzantine church.
A beautiful gold bird-shaped pin. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The museum raised the money with major grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the Scottish government, but also through more than 1,500 small donations from members of the public who were captivated by the find.
An Anglo Saxon pectoral cross from the Galloway Hoard. Photograph: Neil Hanna/PA
Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museum Scotland, said they had been overwhelmed by the response from the general public. “Now we look forward to starting the work on conserving and researching the hoard to unlock its secrets.”