In around 920 AD, England was divided into two kingdoms: the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom to the south and the Viking kingdom of Northumbria to the north. In 927 AD, the Anglo Saxon king, Athelstan, conquered Northumbria – uniting all of England. Fearing change, an exalted and decorated Viking collected his valuable treasures together and buried them. For reasons unknown, he never returned to reclaim them, leaving them undisturbed for more than 1000 years.
That’s the general consensus among experts regarding the origin of the Vale of York treasure hoard.
Then one dreary day in January 2007, David Whelan and his son Andrew set out with their metal detectors in a muddy field near the town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire. After about 10 minutes of searching, they picked up a big signal and started digging. They turned up nothing but lead scraps. But they didn’t quit and dug even deeper. Still, there was nothing but lead scraps. They were about to give up when suddenly a large bowl fell out of the wall of the hole they had dug. It was completely caked with dirt, but judging from the artwork on the outside, the Whelans knew it was valuable and turned it over to a Finds Liaison Officer. Afterward, the contents of the bowl were carefully excavated and identified by experts and declared to be the largest treasure hoard ever found in England (it was later beaten out by the Staffordshire hoard in 2009).
The treasure is almost entirely silver coins – 617 coins to be exact. All of them were meticulously crammed into a gilded cup, along with about 65 other items, including bits of hacksilver and silver ingots. Because they were packed together so tightly, many of the coins were very well preserved. In addition, they show the breadth of Viking travels, featuring coins from as far away as Russia and Afghanistan. Today, many of the coins contained in the Vale of York hoard are considered extremely rare – making it one the most amazing coin collections in history.