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West Cumbrian Norse hoard is hot property for university researchers

The hoard of Norse silver, on permanent display in The Beacon Museum, was discover by detectorists Justin Bell and Daniel Boakes in Beckermet in 2014

A COLLECTION of Norse silver found in Beckermet is the subject of an exciting university study to gather more information about the origins of the hoard.

Scientists from the University of Oxford have gathered at a bespoke facility in Southampton to implement an array of analysis techniques.

Dr Jane Kershaw, Principal Investigator at the University of Oxford, has been working on the project to uncover the silver’s origins. She said: “The Beckermet hoard is a fascinating Viking assemblage of silver ingots and rings, recovered by two local metal-detectorists in 2014.

“It is a vital source for understanding the resources and contacts of the Vikings in Cumbria around the year 900 AD.

“One crucial question is; where did the silver come from? Since the Vikings didn’t mine silver in their Scandinavian homelands, it all had to be imported.

“The Vikings acquired silver through trade routes in the East (modern-day Russia and Ukraine) as well as through raids on Western Europe (England and France) – but were the Vikings who deposited the Beckermet hoard raiders or long-distance traders?

“Lead isotope readings, obtained from the lead that naturally occurs within the silver, can help answer that question. Today we are at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, to get this data through new, laser methods that are minimally destructive – ensuring no damage to the artefacts.”

A laser device scanned the Norse hoard to separate individual isotopes for analysis as part of the study

Elizabeth Kwasnik is Director of the Beacon Museum, and was in attendance as the tests were undertaken. She said: “The silver ingots were discovered in 2014 by local detectorists Justin Bell and Daniel Boakes, and are now permanently displayed at the Beacon Museum.

“Finding buried coins and metal artefacts isn’t unusual in Western Cumbria, but what is significant here is the seldom seen Norse origin of these pieces and the fact that they seem to have been intentionally buried under a rock, which now bears the indents of the silver laid beneath it.

“No doubt, this study will help us tell the story of the Beckermet hoard more fully once a clear scientific picture emerges.”

With a full report due later in the year, early laser sampling has already highlighted a number of clues as to the origins of the hoard.

Dr Kershaw added: “Without a doubt, this hoard is late 9th or early 10th century. It must have been deposited before 925 AD. Most of the silver shows that it has been made from a combination of Carolingian coins and Islamic Dirhams.”

The Carolingian dynasty spanned across much of modern day France and Germany, but there were also traces of silver from much further afield as suggested in the middle eastern Islamic Dirhams. More examples contained elements of local Anglo-Saxon silver also, demonstrating that this material brought together many cultures and localities within a continental trading system.

Real-life Viking characters will be sailing into Whitehaven

The story of the Norse influence will be highlighted in the summer feature exhibition at The Beacon Museum, Discover the Vikings, which launches on Saturday, June 29 with a special day of events and workshops. The Jorvik Group has created the exhibition as a unique merging of two exhibitions especially for the museum.

For further information, visit the Beacon Museum website on www.thebeacon-whitehaven.co.uk or social media pages.

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