Metal detectorist finds Britain's biggest ever haul of Viking treasure - with hundreds of artefacts including an ancient silver cross
Location searched by enthusiast Derek McLennan for a year without success
Locale is not being identified by the Church of Scotland which owns land
Derek McLennan speechless when he made discovery in early September
Hoard includes possibly the largest silver pot from Carolingian dynasty discovered and could be up to 1,200-years-old
PUBLISHED: 15:49 EST, 12 October 2014 | UPDATED: 01:36 EST, 13 October 2014
The largest haul of Viking treasure ever found in Britain has been unearthed by a metal detector enthusiast, it was revealed today.
The discovery was found on Church of Scotland land after the detectorist painstakingly searched the unidentified area in Dumfries and Galloway for more than a year.
The hoard, which consists of more than a hundred artefacts, many of which are historically unique, is now under the care of the Treasure Trove Unit and is regarded as being of significant international importance.
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An early medieval cross is among the largest hoard of Viking treasure found in the United Kingdom at an undisclosed location on land owned by the Church of Scotland. The cross is engraved with decorations that, experts say, are highly unusual, which finder Derek McLennan believes may represent the four Gospels
The hoard also includes a complete metal vessel containing more objects. It has not yet been emptied and the first step will be to examine its contents by X-ray
Finder Derek McLennan, 47, was left speechless when he made the discovery in early September and was so emotional that when he called his wife she thought that he had been in a car accident.
Within the find is an early Christian solid silver cross, thought to date from the Ninth or Tenth centuries.
The treasure hoard includes possibly the largest silver pot from the Carolingian dynasty discovered and could be up to 1,200-years-old.
The cross is engraved with decorations that, experts say, are highly unusual, which Mr McLennan believes may represent the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Mr McLennan said: 'I believe they resemble the carvings you can see on the remnants of St Cuthbert's coffin in Durham Cathedral.
'For me, the cross opens up the possibility of an intriguing connection with Lindisfarne and Iona.'
It was found amongst dozens of silver arm-rings and ingots two feet below the surface, deeper than his detector was thought to reach.
Metal detector enthusiast Derek McLennan has helped to uncover a hoard of medieval and Viking treasures including this golden pin, which has lain buried for centuries in a Scottish churchyard
The excavation was undertaken by Andrew Nicholson, the county archaeologist, and, shortly after, Mr McLennan found a second signal at its base.
Further investigations uncovered a second level trove which is of considerably higher quality than the first.
It includes possibly the largest silver pot from the Carolingian dynasty discovered and could be up to 1,200-years-old.
The oval shape of this gold ring suggests it had been worn. It was found by Derek McLennan at an unnamed area in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
The pot appears to have been at least a hundred years old when it was first buried in the mid-Ninth or Tenth centuries.
Mr McLennan said: 'We still don't know exactly what is in the pot, but I hope it could reveal who these artefacts belonged to, or at least where they came from.'
He made the discovery in early September while out with two local ministers who are also keen detectorists, Rev Dr David Bartholomew, a Church of Scotland minister of a rural Galloway charge, and Mike Smith, the pastor of an Elim Pentecostal Church in Galloway.
Rev Dr Bartholomew said: 'We were searching elsewhere when Derek initially thought he'd discovered a Viking gaming piece.
'A short time later he ran over to us waving a silver arm-ring and shouting 'Viking'.
'It was tremendously exciting, especially when we noticed the silver cross lying face-downwards.
'It was poking out from under the pile of silver ingots and decorated arm-rings, with a finely wound silver chain still attached to it.How to use a metal detector to uncover a hidden bounty
An archaeologist prepares the top level hoard for removal. The historically significant find was made by Derek McLennan, a committed metal detector enthusiast who has been searching around the area in Dumfries and Galloway for the last year
'It was a heart-stopping moment when the local archaeologist turned it over to reveal rich decoration on the other side.'
Mr McLennan is no stranger to finding treasure, having been part of a group which discovered more than 300 medieval silver coins shortly before Christmas last year.
Scotland's Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said of the latest find: 'The Vikings were well known for having raided these shores in the past, but today we can appreciate what they have left behind, with this wonderful addition to Scotland's cultural heritage.
'It's clear that these artefacts are of great value in themselves, but their greatest value will be in what they can contribute to our understanding of life in early medieval Scotland, and what they tell us about the interaction between the different peoples in these islands at that time.
'The Dumfries hoard opens a fascinating window on a formative period in the story of Scotland and just goes to show how important our archaeological heritage in Scotland continues to be.'
Under Scots common law for rediscovered relics the hoard is currently in the care of the Treasure Trove Unit.
Treasure hunter Derek McLennan who spent a year searching the unidentified location in Dumfries and Galloway before stumbling on the treasure trove in September
An agreement between the landowners - the Church of Scotland General Trustees – and Mr McLennan - has been reached for an appropriate finder's fee.
One of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland
Secretary to the General Trustees, David Robertson, said: 'We are very excited to have been part of such an historic find and we commend Derek for the spirit in which he has worked with us and the other agencies involved in making sure everything is properly registered and accounted for.
'Any money arising from this will first and foremost be used for the good of the local parish. We recognise Derek is very responsible in pursuing his interest, but we do not encourage metal detecting on Church land unless detailed arrangements have been agreed beforehand with the General Trustees.'
The exact location of the find is being kept secret, and the Scottish Government, Treasure Trove Unit, and Historic Scotland are all working to preserve the site while its full significance is being determined.
Experts at the unit described the find as 'one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland'.
Stuart Campbell, the head of the Treasure Trove Unit, who is overseeing assessment of the hoard, said: 'This is a very important and significant find and has required the close cooperation of Historic Scotland with Treasure Trove Unit and National Museums Scotland staff to recover the fascinating items it contains.
'Due to the quantity and variety of the objects, and the importance of the find overall, it will take some time for experts to assess the hoard as a whole so that we can appreciate its true significance. We look forward to learning more.'
All the objects will now undergo extensive conservation work in order to determine more about their individual historical significance.