Scans of Viking pot reveal hidden brooches, gold ingots, and beads
A hospital X-ray has helped to reveal the contents of a 9th Century bronze pot found in Dumfries and Galloway by an amateur with a metal detector. The sealed vessel was part of a major Viking hoard found at an undisclosed location earlier this year. It was considered too delicate to open so Historic Scotland teamed up with Borders General Hospital.
The £485,000 unit, normally used on patients, revealed brooches, ingots and beads inside. Richard Welander, head of collections with Historic Scotland, said: “When I saw the results I was reminded of the words of Sir Howard Carter when Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened in 1922 – “I see wonderful things”.
“We are all so grateful to the Borders General Hospital for allowing us to forensically examine one of the key objects of the hoard. “As with human patients, we need to investigate in a non-invasive way before moving onto delicate surgery.
“In this case, that will be the careful removal of the contents and the all-important conservation of these items.” Retired businessman Derek McLennan, 47, discovered the vessel among more than 100 artefacts on Church of Scotland land at an undisclosed site in Dumfries and Galloway.
When the find was made public by Scotland’s Treasure Trove Unit last month, it was described as “one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland”. But the small pot with a sealed lid fascinated experts who believed it contained more objects.
They knew from its ornate exterior that it hailed from the west European Carolingian period between 780 and 900 AD but had no idea what treasures it contained.
That is when Mr Welander made the call to Dr John Reid, consultant radiographer at Borders General Hospital, a keen amateur archaeologist and chairman of the Trimontium Trust in Melrose.
He had previously used the CT (Computed Tomography) Scanner to supervise the scanning of the remains of a Roman soldier’s head discovered at Trimontium, a former Roman camp near Melrose.
After obtaining permission from hospital chiefs, Dr Reid supervised the scanning of the pot. He said: “The conservationists did not want to guddle about and compromise this precious object.
“I would like to assure people that this work takes place outwith normal hours and in no way impedes the important work we do for our human patients.
“The scanner is both rapid and accurate, with the ability to produce 120 visual slices and is accurate to within half a millimetre.”
A short video of the pot being scanned at the hospital is currently available on YouTube under the title “Scanning Viking Hoard”.
Galloway Viking treasure bids weighed up
An expert panel has met to help decide where a Viking treasure hoard discovered in southern Scotland should be permanently housed. Both Dumfries and Galloway Council and National Museums Scotland are bidding for the artefacts.
The Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel has met to discuss the hoard’s future. It will make a recommendation on where the treasure should go to the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer. The find was made by a metal detectorist in south west Scotland in 2014.
Dumfries and Galloway Council wants to house the hoard in a new art gallery being built in Kirkcudbright.
Their bid has been backed by a local campaign which delivered a 5,000 signature petition to the Scottish Parliament earlier this week. They have both argued that the treasure should be returned to the region where it was found.
Key moments in the hoard’s story
It had been hoped a joint bid could be agreed with NMS but that has proved impossible. NMS said it believed it had put forward a proposal which benefitted both organisations.
It would see some of the hoard go on display permanently in Kirkcudbright and, on occasions, the entire collection hosted in the town. However, no agreement has been reached between the two bodies and it will now be up to the SAFAP to make a recommendation.
It assesses the applications according to a number of criteria with a presumption that they should be allocated locally unless a “convincing argument” for placing it elsewhere can be made.
Other factors taken into account include:
- the national importance of the find
- the need to keep a collection together in one place
- special conservation requirements
- the potential to maximise public access
- research possibilities
- the views of the finder
If an organisation bidding to host a hoard disagrees with the recommendation made by the panel it can make a case for it to be reconsidered.
That would result in the case being deferred for further consideration at a future meeting.