July 20, 2007
3:07 AM   Subscribe

In 1840, the Cuerdale Hoard - the greatest Viking silver treasure trove ever found outside Russia - is found in Lancashire. 2007: a father and son find an amazing Viking hoard while metal detecting in in Harrogate. The most important find of its type in Britain for over 150 years, it reveals a remarkable diversity of cultural contacts in the medieval world, with objects coming from as far apart as Afghanistan in the East and Ireland in the West, as well as Russia, Scandinavia and continental Europe.
posted by chuckdarwin (20 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Related: the Helgö Buddha, a 600 AD figurine which was found in the ruins of a Viking settlement in Sweden in 1954.
posted by elgilito at 3:33 AM on July 20, 2007

Frakin' Vikings rocked Afghanistan! Man! They probably carried the boats there, and still kicked ass!

Awesome post!
Vikings freakin RULE!
posted by From Bklyn at 3:36 AM on July 20, 2007

Treasure trove my arse, get the stuff on eBay.
posted by fire&wings at 4:02 AM on July 20, 2007

Obligatory link to the Viking Ship Museum. An absolute must-see if you're ever in Oslo (and it's right by the Thor Heyerdahl museum too!) Just look at the pictures.

Sigh. In my dreams, I'm a Viking!
posted by Brittanie at 4:04 AM on July 20, 2007

Amazing when you considered that their ships were constructed entirely from popsicle sticks.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 4:08 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

The most spectacular single object is the gilt silver vessel, made in what is now France in the first half of the ninth century. It was apparently intended for use in church services, and was probably either looted from a monastery by Vikings, or given to them in tribute.

Not even close. The most spectacular objects the Vikings collected - and which can still be seen today - are the stunningly beautiful women I see walking down the street in Stockholm. Those Vikings had an eye for something more than silver trinkets.
posted by three blind mice at 4:22 AM on July 20, 2007

Definitely not metaphorical vikings! Also, from the BBC link I learned the term "metal detectorist". The weekend is off to a good start.
posted by TedW at 5:41 AM on July 20, 2007

Bloody hell, I've been looking for that for more than a thousand years! For the life of me I couldn't remember where I'd left it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:51 AM on July 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is so cool, thanks for the post.

Related (but Roman): the Mildenhall Treasure.
posted by saladin at 6:09 AM on July 20, 2007

I'll race you too it F.O.B: There Can Be Only One and I left my best brooch in that hoard.
posted by freebird at 7:39 AM on July 20, 2007

Take 2: "to", too!
posted by freebird at 8:03 AM on July 20, 2007

This is so cool. Imagine digging up Viking treasure instead of an old Bud can or two; what an awesome find.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:17 AM on July 20, 2007

Amazing, thank you so much for posting this! And to all the others who put links to more. Oh Joy!
posted by Wilder at 9:57 AM on July 20, 2007

Sutton Hoo Helmet Cake, from last night's Ace of Cakes on Food Network
posted by mdonley at 10:56 AM on July 20, 2007

Discoveries like this battle a widely held notion in Europe, specifically that pagan Europe was "barbarian".

In fact, pagan Europe was much more cosmopolitan than Medieval Christian Europe. There have been Buddhas found in Viking treasure, but this should be all that surprising as there were temples to Egyptian gods as far away as Britain and France which served both sailors/travelers and local converts. Roman writers sometimes discussed British druids. Consider that Afghanistan to Syria is a short hop and a boat ride can take you to anywhere in the Mediterranean and connect one to Northern and Western Europe, so the trade network is not that hard to fathom. It was medievals who worried about falling off the end of the Earth, turning black if they set foot in Africa, or that bathing would anger God.

White European-descended people have languages derived from ancient Indian languages, so it naturally follows that these contacts to Asia go back to prehistory. If you read Plato alongside some Hindu and Buddhist texts and change some of the names from Hindu to Roman/Greek names you will find something that is oddly familiar - these cultures are much less more foreign to Europe than the monotheists "holy land" and there was nothing evolutionary or natural about the Christianization of Europe - conversion to Christianity was often forced at swordpoint by groups like the Teutonic Knights and then maintained by groups like the inquisition.

Some pagan customs were absorbed by Christianity - Christmas trees for example are a pagan symbol of resurrection (I doubt Jesus had ever seen one), and Easter eggs are a sign of fertility. Other symbols, texts and pagan ideologies such as pentagrams became associated with witches or devils which is something that persists to present day and makes this discussion particularly hard to rationally hold but don't ever be surprised when scholars uncover evidence that shows pagan Europe traded extensively, had vibrant cultures which communicated with each other and where in many ways less superstitious than their Medieval/Christian counterparts.
posted by Deep Dish at 12:03 PM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Deep Dish - very interesting. Can you recommend some books on the subject?
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:37 PM on July 20, 2007

Most of what I mentioned in mainstream history books, you can read any account of Julius Caesar or Mark Antony and find out about their travels to Egypt and romances with Cleopatra - so its not difficult to establish cultural and trade links - these are major historical figures.

There is a link referencing the Buddha find in a Viking treasure above. Any history of the Teutonic Knights should discuss their forced conversions. I am not an expert on Indo-European languages but again this is pretty mainstream history (hell I studied Medieval History at a Jesuit College)

On the religious front, a book I have been reading lately which talks a lot about the spread of cults and religions is called "The Cults of the Roman Empire" and is written by Robert Turacan (it is not exactly bed time reading though). This is where I learned about Egyptian temples in France and Britain. Another which talks a little more in general about the contacts between Britain and Rome which I have just finished reading is called "Celtic Traditions: Druids, Faeries and Wiccan Rituals" - I disagree with a lot of the book and am not Wiccan - the author sympathizes with Celtic culture and takes a persecuted tone when dealing with Rome but its an easy read and doesn't demand a lot of background.

When you are talking pre-Christian Britain, Scandinavia and to a certain degree Germany, you are talking about what is more properly understood to be archeology rather than history. I recommend the atlas of Medieval Man by Colin Platt (it is a medieval book but gives a lot of context) and the The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History (same deal).

There is a huge archive of pagan texts at this link http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/index.htm - keeping in mind that pagan cultures will have no scared text equivalent to the bible. There is a bunch more classical literature here http://classics.mit.edu/. You should be able to find parallels to more "Eastern" traditions. One example I can think of is Plato talking about reincarnation

((sorry for the thread jack))
posted by Deep Dish at 1:38 PM on July 20, 2007

Alright, but the old guys who putz around Louisville's Central Park with metal detectors and little hand shovels are still wasting their time.
posted by davy at 8:54 PM on July 20, 2007

As a Swede, I claim this hoard in the name of them who stole it.
posted by dhartung at 11:22 PM on July 20, 2007

From Bklyn writes "Frakin' Vikings rocked Afghanistan! Man! They probably carried the boats there, and still kicked ass!"

I've got a peso in my pocket, doesn't mean I've been to Mexico.
posted by Mitheral at 10:11 PM on July 21, 2007

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