British Museum blog

Two hoards and one unknown Viking ruler


Ian Richardson, Portable Antiquities and Treasure,
British Museum

The saying goes that one waits an eternity for a London bus to arrive, only for two to eventually show up at the same time. Dot Boughton, Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for Lancashire and Cumbria, is probably beginning to feel that the same rule applies to Viking silver hoards. It was only in April of this year that a hoard of over 90 coins and hacksilver from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria was reported to Dot. For any FLO, and indeed for the British Museum, which provides expert advice to enable the coroner to hold an inquest into the case (as required under the Treasure Act 1996), this represented a lot of material to work on. Not since the discovery of the Vale of York hoard almost five years ago had so many Viking-age artefacts and coins from one find been reported as Treasure.

But no sooner had the coroner concluded his inquest into the Barrow case than Dot was on the phone to our office again with news of an even larger hoard.

A piece of jewellery from the Silverdale Viking hoard

A piece of jewellery from the Silverdale Viking hoard

When the finder’s photographs were sent through to us, we knew this new hoard from Silverdale in Lancashire, was going to be one of the major enterprises of the year for us and our colleagues. Silver arm-rings, brooch fragments, ingots and coins had all (bar one coin) been found in, or underneath, a lead container. Barry Ager (Department of Prehistory and Europe) and Dr Gareth Williams (Department of Coins and Medals), were duly warned of the arrival of this material and they cleared their schedules.

After a furious few months spent weighing, analyzing, cataloguing and photographing the finds, the report for the coroner was ready.

Among the many stand-out objects is a coin type none of us had seen before. One side of it reads DNS (Dominus) REX, the letters arranged in the form of a cross (many Vikings had converted to Christianity within a generation of settling in Britain). On the other side, the inscription reads AIRDECONUT which appears to be an attempt to represent the Scandinavian name Harthacnut, a ruler not previously known.

A previously unrecorded coin type, probably carrying the name of an otherwise unknown Viking ruler in northern England

A previously unrecorded coin type, probably carrying the name of an otherwise unknown Viking ruler in northern England

The local museum, Lancaster City Museum, had earlier been informed of the find and as they expressed an interest in acquiring the hoard through the Treasure process, Mr Simon Jones, HM Deputy Coroner for Preston and West Lancashire has been asked to hold an inquest into the case. The inquest will be held on Friday the 16 December 2011, and we will find out whether it is ‘Treasure’ according to the criteria set out in the Treasure Act 1996.

The finder and his wife obligingly accepted our invitation to attend the launch of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Treasure Act Annual Reports, held at the British Museum today where they have been able to join us in showing the hoard to Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

The Silverdale Hoard

The Silverdale Hoard

Going forward, it is of course our sincere hope that Lancaster City Museum will be able to acquire the Silverdale hoard for its collection. If the coroner declares it ‘Treasure’, the next step is to have it valued by the independent Treasure Valuation Committee (TVC) who would recommend a market value for the hoard. The museum may very well engage in a fundraising campaign to acquire the hoard, and if they do so we’ll offer our full support.

A selection of objects and coins from the Silverdale Hoard will be on display at the British Museum in Room 2, from Thursday 15 December through the New Year.

If you would like to leave a comment click on the title

Filed under: Archaeology, At the Museum, Portable Antiquities and Treasure, , , ,

23 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. Brian J. says:

    “…not previously known”? it’s not this guy, then: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harthacnut ?

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  2. john oakes says:

    I don’t quite understand this article. Hardicanute/Harthacnut is a name well-known to me, a complete non-specialist, and he googles immediately as a King of “England” from 1040 till his death in 1042…………..
    So to whom is he ” not previously known”?

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  3. Fredrik says:

    Very interesting to read about especially since I’m an archaeologist in Sweden. I presume it has already been checked but is it possible that the coin could be from Scandinavia or done in the period of Knut III Harthacnut 1018-1042 who also ruled in England from 1040?

    A great find and I really hope the hoard is required so it can be properly displayed for the public and research community around the world.

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  4. Prioryman says:

    I’ve written this up on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silverdale_Hoard . A great discovery, and great work by the conservators!

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  5. graemedavis says:

    Now, I’m no expert, but the name Harthacnut rang a bell. If this is the Harthacnut who was the son of Cnut the Great (a.k.a. King Canute) and ruled England from 1040 to 1042, he’s hardly unknown. Perhaps the writer was trying to say that his coins were not previously known?

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  6. Anne Lamb says:

    Harthacnut[2] (“Tough-knot”;[3] Danish: Knud III Hardeknud) (c.1018 to 8 June 1042) was King of Denmark from 1035 to 1042 and King of England from 1040 to 1042.

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  7. @ Brian j; john oakes; Fredrik; graemedavis; Anne lamb

    Thanks for your comments and for pointing out that there was indeed a Viking ruler in both Scandinavia and England with the name Harthacnut. The finds at Silverdale are dated earlier than this well-known ruler – around AD 900-910 – and therefore it’s thought that the Harthacnut recorded on this coin is possibly a previously unknown ruler of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria.

    Ian Richardson, British Museum

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  8. Hear Dot Broughton speak about this hoard along with many other speakers at the International Symposium in Early Medieval Coinage, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Saturday, March 31st, 2012. Admission free. See: http://semc2012.blogspot.com/. Contact t.abramson@ntlworld.com to register.

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  9. Dudley Miles says:

    Press reports refer to coins in the name of Alwaldus, who has been identified with Alfred the Great’s nephew Æthelwold. He is reported by one version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to have been accepted by the Northumbrians as king when he revolted against Edward the Elder after Alfred’s death in 899. However, there is no reference to this in the article above. Is it correct that the hoard includes coins of Alwaldus and what is the source of the press comments?

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  10. Airdeconut might be identical to Hardegon alias Harthacnut mentioned in Adam bremensis , see http://www.europeanhistories.com

    What makes you by the way claim that the coin was minted in York/Northumbria… might it have been minted elsewhere?

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  11. Karol Jozef Gajewski says:

    I saw the Silverdale Hoard yesterday in Room 2 and was very impressed. According to some press reports, the hoard was discovered on the ‘Lancashire-Cumbria border’. Other reports place this find squarely within Lancashire itself. I hope there will not be a struggle between rival museum personnel in Lancaster and Carlisle to acquire this treasure!

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  12. If you don’t mind me saying, I think it is very bad practice to use Greek letters (or other non-Latin characters) to represent glyph variants of Latin characters. A barless A is still an ‘A’, and not a Greek letter Lambda. If you write “ALVVALDVS” as “ΛLVVΛLDVS” it may look more like the word as inscribed on the coin, but it is wrong, and makes it impossible to find if searching for “ALVVALDVS”.

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  13. Bjorn Fodnes says:

    Are we talking about this Hardeknut. I think we are.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harthacnut_I_of_Denmark

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  14. Hugo Falck says:

    Must be Hardegon (Cnut I)

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  15. Royce Shingleton, PhD. says:

    Am most interested in the potential “new ruler” revelation in regard to the find at Silverdale, since am descended from Eadwulf–a nobleman of unknown ancestry who ruled in Northumbria at the time the treasure was buried. Is there a process for making public the historical implications of the find, and what would be a possible timeframe for learning more?

    Royce Shingleton
    Gatlinburg, TN USA

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  16. Russell Poole says:

    I seem to recall that coins bearing a version of the name Cnut are extant from the C10th. They might possibly have been struck in the name of the same C10th Harda-Cnut. This C10th Cnut was perhaps associated with the Dublin-York dynasty. Unfortunately I can’t check any references at present but likely somebody can point to them.

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  17. Troels Brandt says:

    You can find the name Hardacnuth in the Saint Cuthbert legend as the father of king Guthfrith of York, but that was in the end of the 9th century. Around 900-910 coins with the name Cnut Rex are found in York – sometimes together with the name Siefredus. They were probably all members of the same royal family in York at that time – and Cnut may even be identical with your Airdcnut.

    Some Danish chronicles mentioned a Hardeknud as a brother of Gorm, who ruled Denmark until 956 AD, but these chronicles were written much later and they mixed up the early kings. The background of Gorm is unknown, but he is sometimes mentioned as English of birth.

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  18. bella says:

    The name Harthacnut actually refers to a type of knot that was used by sailors at the time, according to my cousing in Denmark, who was also very familiar with the name…

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  19. Sandie says:

    I read somewhere that King Gorm’s father was Harthacnut, born c. 890 – he is mentioned by the Chronicler Adam of Bremen. Legend tells that this Harthacnut was born in ‘Northmannia’ (Norway or Normandy?) and seized Denmark in the early 10th C. He is allegedly the son (or grandson?) of Sigurd Snake in the Eye, son of Ragnar Lodbrok.

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    • Troels Brandt says:

      The problem is that you can find many combinations of the royal names of that time, when you read the sagas, the chronicles and Adam. We can not be sure of their relations, but the coin probably makes it a little more certain that there was a connection between Northhumbria, the name Hardeknud and the Danish royal family.

      An explanation could be that Gorm, who is the ancestor of the present royal family, was the member of a distaint branch of the royal family – maybe the Lothbroch sons. In order to “legalize” their power they may therefore in the 10th century have tried to manipulate the royal lists to get a closer connection to the Danish rulers before the split in the 9th century – just as Cassiodorus/Jordanes earlier did with the Ostrogothic royal lists, and as Saxo later did with the Danish lists.

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  20. Jørgen W. Rasmussen says:

    It is really not that mysterious at all! According to Norse sagas – as also mentioned above by Sandie – the Harthacnut (Hardeknud) in question allegedly was grandson of Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye (Sigurd Orm-i-øje), grand grandson of Ragnar Lodbrok (Regner Lodbrog), and father of Gorm the Old (Gorm den Gamle). Born around year 840, he became king of the eastern part of Denmark in year 891, whereupon he became king of Northumbria in 898 which he ruled for five years, until he died year 903.

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For our final #MuseumInstaSwap post we’re highlighting the 'Make Do and Mend' campaign of the Second World War, as told by our partner @ImperialWarMuseums in their #FashionontheRation exhibition.

The campaign was launched to encourage people to make their existing supplies of clothes last longer. Posters and leaflets were circulated with advice on subjects including how to prevent moth damage to woollens, how to make shoes last longer or how to care for different fabrics. As the war went on, buying new was severely restricted by coupon limits and no longer an option for many people. The ability to repair, renovate and make one's own clothes became increasingly important. Although shoppers would have to hand over coupons for dressmaking fabric as well as readymade clothes, making clothes was often cheaper and saved coupons. ‘Make Do and Mend’ classes took place around the country, teaching skills such as pattern cutting. Dress makers and home sewers often had to be experimental in their choice of fabrics. Despite disliking much of the official rhetoric to Make Do and Mend, many people demonstrated great creativity and adaptability in dealing with rationing. Individual style flourished. Shortages necessitated imaginative use of materials, recycling and renovating of old clothes and innovative use of home-made accessories, which could alter or smarten up an outfit. Many women used furnishing fabrics for dressmaking until these too were rationed. Blackout material, which did not need points, was also sometimes used. Parachute silk was highly prized for underwear, nightclothes and wedding dresses.

We've really enjoyed working with and learning from our friends at @imperialwarmuseums this week. You can catch up on all our posts and discover many more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 4773 For #MuseumInstaSwap we’re discovering the street style of the Second World War in the #FashionontheRation exhibition at @ImperialWarMuseums. In this archive photo a female member of the Air Raid Precautions staff applies her lipstick between emergency calls.

In wartime Britain it was unfashionable to be seen wearing clothes that were obviously showy, yet women were frequently implored not to let 'standards' slip too far. There was genuine concern that a lack of interest in personal appearance could be a sign of low morale, which could have a detrimental impact on the war effort. The government's concern for the morale of women was a major factor in the decision to continue the manufacture of cosmetics, though in much reduced quantities. Make-up was never rationed, but was subject to a luxury tax and was very expensive. Many cosmetics firms switched some of their production to items needed for the war effort. Coty, for example, were known for their face powder and perfumes but also made army foot powder and anti-gas ointment. Make-up and hair styles took on an increased importance and many women went to great lengths to still feel well-dressed and stylish even if their clothes were last season's, their stockings darned and accessories home-made. As with clothing, women found creative ways around shortages, with beetroot juice used for a splash of lip colour and boot polish passing for mascara.

Discover more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap © IWM (D 176) In the @ImperialWarMuseums exhibition ‘Fashion on the Ration: 1940s street style’ we can see how men and women found new ways to dress while clothing was rationed. Displays of original clothes from the era, from military uniforms to utility underwear, reveal what life was really like on the home front in wartime Britain.

Despite the limitations imposed by rationing, clothing retailers sought to retain and even expand their customer base during the Second World War. Britain's high street adapted in response to wartime conditions, and this was reflected in their retail ranges. The government intervened in the mass manufacture of high street fashions with the arrival of the Utility clothing scheme in 1942. Shoppers carefully spent their precious clothing coupons and money on new clothes to make sure their purchases would be suitable across spring, summer and autumn and winter. Despite the restrictions, the war and civilian austerity did not put an end to creative design, commercial opportunism or fashionable trends on the British home front.

#FashionontheRation exhibition runs @imperialwarmuseums until 31 August.

Discover more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap. For our final day of #MuseumInstaSwap we’re learning about the Second World War @ImperialWarMuseums, and discovering the impact of the war on ordinary people. 
Clothes were rationed in Britain from 1 June 1941. This limited the amount of new garments people could buy until 1949, four years after the war's end. The British government needed to reduce production and consumption of civilian clothes to safeguard raw materials and release workers and factory space for war production. As with food rationing, which had been in place since 1940, one of the reasons for introducing civilian clothes rationing was to ensure fairness. Rationing sought to ensure a more equal distribution of clothing and improve the availability of garments in the shops.

As this poster shows, the rationing scheme worked by allocating each type of clothing item a 'points' value which varied according to how much material and labour went into its manufacture. Eleven coupons were needed for a dress, two needed for a pair of stockings, and eight coupons required for a man's shirt or a pair of trousers. Women's shoes meant relinquishing five coupons, and men's footwear cost seven coupons. When buying new clothes, the shopper had to hand over coupons with a 'points' value as well as money. Every adult was initially given an allocation of 66 points to last one year, but this allocation shrank as the war progressed. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 8293) This week on @instagram we’ve joined up with other London museums to highlight our shared stories. Our partner is @imperialwarmuseums, whose incredible collection brings people’s experiences of modern war and conflict to life. Follow #MuseumInstaSwap to discover some of the intriguing historical connections we have found, as well as insights into everyday life during wartime. As part of our #MuseumInstaSwap with @ImperialWarMuseums, we’ve been given special access to the Churchill War Rooms – located deep below the streets of Westminster.
This is Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s bedroom, which includes his private desk, briefcase and papers, his bed and chamber pot and even an original cigar! The bedroom is located close to the Map Room, keeping Churchill as close as possible to the epicentre of Cabinet War Rooms.
Following the surrender of the Japanese Forces the doors to the War Rooms were locked on 16 August 1945 and the complex was left undisturbed until Parliament ensured its preservation as a historic site in 1948. Knowledge of the site and access to it remained highly restricted until the late 1970s when @ImperialWarMuseums began the task of preserving the site and its contents, making them accessible to as wide an audience as possible and opening them to the public in 1984.
Discover more stories from London’s museums with #MuseumInstaSwap
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