All that glitters …

Poster… isn’t gold – but sometimes it IS!

Christina here. Next week my latest book will be released and the idea for this story was sparked by the Galloway Hoard, a magnificent treasure found in Scotland in 2014. As soon as I heard about it, I was fascinated. I could only imagine how amazing it must feel to discover something like that. Despite having bought myself a metal detector a few years ago, I’ve never found anything other than a few rusty nails and a piece of iron pipe, so I decided I would have to fulfil this dream in my imagination instead. Add to this the fact that the hoard was of Viking origin and it seemed like serendipity! That’s when Hidden in the Mists started to take shape in my mind.

BirdThe hoard was probably buried around 900 AD and consists of various gold and silver items, as well as other more ordinary things. It’s one of the most incredible treasures ever found in Scotland and the richest one from the Viking age. I read all the articles about it when it was first revealed and couldn’t wait for it to go on display. That took a while as obviously the items had to be conserved and assessed first. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to see it in person, and I was enthralled by the many precious objects. My absolute favourite was a little gold pin in the shape of a bird which I had already used in another story, Whispers of the Runes. The hero of that book is a silversmith/jeweller and I had him make a pin just like this. I saw it as a bird of prey or a raven judging by its curved beak, but archaeologists felt it more resembled a flamingo. Most probably it’s a fantasy bird but either way, I just love how intricate it is, despite being so small!

ArmbandsWhenever something like the Galloway Hoard is found, it is ‘treasure trove’ and in Scotland it’s considered the property of the Crown. However, the person who discovers it (and also usually the landowner) is legally entitled to a reward so there is always the problem of who is going to pay for it. In this case, National Museums Scotland managed to raise the enormous sum needed to save these amazing items for the nation, and now anyone can have the privilege of seeing them. I think it was worth every penny!

The hoard had been buried in two layers with a sort of ‘decoy’ layer on top, presumably to fool anyone into thinking that was all there was. This contained armbands and ingots of silver. Underneath, however, was gravel that hid a lot more, both silver and gold. Very clever! Without modern metal detectors anyone digging there might have missed the best items.

VesselSome of the objects had been buried in a tightly packed vessel with a lid. This was too fragile to go on display, but there was a 3D replica in the exhibition showing what it looked like. The outside was decorated with tigers and leopards and is of Central Asian metalwork. It was probably trade goods brought to Scotland from far very away. The vessel was not very big and it’s incredible how much had been crammed inside it. It contained items wrapped in leather, linen, wool and silk, fragments of which have been preserved enough for archaeologists to study them. That’s very rare but in this case, the metals had corroded and the copper leaching out created an environment that preserved the textiles where they touched the metal.

GoldOn the whole, the contents of the hoard are very unusual and although the treasure was hidden in the Viking era, the items themselves are a mixture of styles and look like they’ve been collected over many years. Apart from gold and silver, it also included more ordinary things made of glass or stone and even dirt. (No one knows why that was in there but it was definitely deliberate). Everything was wrapped as if precious to the owners and to them it must have been special. Heirlooms, or perhaps seen as magical or of sentimental value?

PunchworkMost of the hoard was made up of silver armbands and ingots, and some of gold. The largest collection of armbands were of the broad band type, hammered into shape and decorated with punchwork in various patterns. Each design is different. Most of them had been flattened and/or folded and are of a type usually found around the Irish Sea dated to between 880-930 AD. When archaeologists studied them, they found that they were made out of carefully measured amounts of silver, eg. exactly two or three ounces in some cases. A standard weight, multiples of 26.6g (roughly one ounce) was known from the Viking age settlement in Dublin and this seems to have been used for the items in the hoard.

TilSome of the armbands had already been used as hacksilver – a piece was cut off as payment whenever necessary – so they were not merely for ornamentation. What fascinated me the most was that they appeared to have been divided into groups and marked as if they belonged to four different people. Four of the armbands had runic inscriptions and associated with each one was a distinct group of similarly folded or flattened armbands. One can only assume that ownership of the hoard had been shared and whoever hid it wanted everyone to remember what belonged to whom. Sadly, none of them ever came back for it.

EgbertThe runes inscribed are all Anglo-Saxon, which was surprising for a Viking hoard. Anglo-Saxon runes were similar to Viking ones but had developed into its own style. It is thought that they signify parts of names, also of Anglo-Saxon origin. There was also an inscription on a different piece of hacksilver that was found close to the hoard – the Old English name EGGBREHT (Egbert). The Vikings controlled a lot of the territory around the Irish Sea and up the west coast and islands of Scotland in the 9th century. Galloway was sort of in between that and Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, but still connected to the sea. There was a lot of trade and settlement, as well as raiding.

Round ingotsThe ingots too were of the standard weight and weighed six ounces each. These would have been easy to carry; it made sense to melt down silver objects that weren’t wanted or needed. The hoard includes two types – large bar-shaped ones and smaller finger-shaped ingots. They could have either been made into more armbands or cut and used as hacksilver.

PendantThere were other curious objects such as Anglo-Saxon brooches, glass beads, and this beautiful pendant made of gold filigree that encases a black stone. It is not a gemstone or special in any way, and yet it must have had specific meaning for the owner. Again, magic perhaps?

A rock carved crystal jar with gold on top – this was a beautiful object, not made locally but rather somewhere very far away like in the Middle East. It’s even possible that it was from the Roman Empire, in which case it would have been passed down the generations. Either way, it must have travelled quite a long way on one of the Viking trade routes. If only it could tell us about its journey!

CrossAn Anglo-Saxon cross was also part of the hoard. It could be that it had been stolen and was just going to be melted down. It had been beautifully restored by the conservator and showed decorations in the shape of symbols representing the four evangelists.

Conservation work on the treasure is still ongoing and there is much left to learn and discover about each individual item. It’s going to take years before everything has been studied in detail, but this unusual hoard has given archaeologists a lot to think about and it’s all very exciting. For me, it’s the human aspect that catches my imagination – why would someone hide all this treasure and why did they never return to claim it? What calamity befell them? We can only speculate and it made me want to come up with a story of my own about a similar hoard. Hidden in the Mists is the result.

Have you ever looked for treasure? If you found one, what type would you most like to come across?

90 thoughts on “All that glitters …”

  1. Fascinating Christina. I am now living in Scotland so will try and see them ‘live’. The skill is astonishing. I am looking forward to reading Hidden in the Mists

    Reply
  2. Fascinating Christina. I am now living in Scotland so will try and see them ‘live’. The skill is astonishing. I am looking forward to reading Hidden in the Mists

    Reply
  3. Fascinating Christina. I am now living in Scotland so will try and see them ‘live’. The skill is astonishing. I am looking forward to reading Hidden in the Mists

    Reply
  4. Fascinating Christina. I am now living in Scotland so will try and see them ‘live’. The skill is astonishing. I am looking forward to reading Hidden in the Mists

    Reply
  5. Fascinating Christina. I am now living in Scotland so will try and see them ‘live’. The skill is astonishing. I am looking forward to reading Hidden in the Mists

    Reply
  6. Thank you so much Alice, I hope you enjoy it! I think the Hoard is in Aberdeen at the moment, then I’m guessing it will go back to Edinburgh. Hope you get to see it!

    Reply
  7. Thank you so much Alice, I hope you enjoy it! I think the Hoard is in Aberdeen at the moment, then I’m guessing it will go back to Edinburgh. Hope you get to see it!

    Reply
  8. Thank you so much Alice, I hope you enjoy it! I think the Hoard is in Aberdeen at the moment, then I’m guessing it will go back to Edinburgh. Hope you get to see it!

    Reply
  9. Thank you so much Alice, I hope you enjoy it! I think the Hoard is in Aberdeen at the moment, then I’m guessing it will go back to Edinburgh. Hope you get to see it!

    Reply
  10. Thank you so much Alice, I hope you enjoy it! I think the Hoard is in Aberdeen at the moment, then I’m guessing it will go back to Edinburgh. Hope you get to see it!

    Reply
  11. Wow, Christina, who doesn’t love a good hoard, and this one is FASCINATING! Thanks so much for showing it to us. (A FLAMINGO??!!!) And that vessel from Central Asia. So much here speaks to those long ancient trade routes. Wonderful!

    Reply
  12. Wow, Christina, who doesn’t love a good hoard, and this one is FASCINATING! Thanks so much for showing it to us. (A FLAMINGO??!!!) And that vessel from Central Asia. So much here speaks to those long ancient trade routes. Wonderful!

    Reply
  13. Wow, Christina, who doesn’t love a good hoard, and this one is FASCINATING! Thanks so much for showing it to us. (A FLAMINGO??!!!) And that vessel from Central Asia. So much here speaks to those long ancient trade routes. Wonderful!

    Reply
  14. Wow, Christina, who doesn’t love a good hoard, and this one is FASCINATING! Thanks so much for showing it to us. (A FLAMINGO??!!!) And that vessel from Central Asia. So much here speaks to those long ancient trade routes. Wonderful!

    Reply
  15. Wow, Christina, who doesn’t love a good hoard, and this one is FASCINATING! Thanks so much for showing it to us. (A FLAMINGO??!!!) And that vessel from Central Asia. So much here speaks to those long ancient trade routes. Wonderful!

    Reply
  16. So glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, flamingo seemed a bit farfetched but apparently they live around the Mediterranean so not that far to come. I’d prefer to think it’s a bird of prey 🙂 Either way, it’s gorgeous!

    Reply
  17. So glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, flamingo seemed a bit farfetched but apparently they live around the Mediterranean so not that far to come. I’d prefer to think it’s a bird of prey 🙂 Either way, it’s gorgeous!

    Reply
  18. So glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, flamingo seemed a bit farfetched but apparently they live around the Mediterranean so not that far to come. I’d prefer to think it’s a bird of prey 🙂 Either way, it’s gorgeous!

    Reply
  19. So glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, flamingo seemed a bit farfetched but apparently they live around the Mediterranean so not that far to come. I’d prefer to think it’s a bird of prey 🙂 Either way, it’s gorgeous!

    Reply
  20. So glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, flamingo seemed a bit farfetched but apparently they live around the Mediterranean so not that far to come. I’d prefer to think it’s a bird of prey 🙂 Either way, it’s gorgeous!

    Reply
  21. Christina, thank you for a fascinating post and the wonderful pictures. It’s exciting to think that there are likely many hidden hoards still waiting to be discovered!

    Reply
  22. Christina, thank you for a fascinating post and the wonderful pictures. It’s exciting to think that there are likely many hidden hoards still waiting to be discovered!

    Reply
  23. Christina, thank you for a fascinating post and the wonderful pictures. It’s exciting to think that there are likely many hidden hoards still waiting to be discovered!

    Reply
  24. Christina, thank you for a fascinating post and the wonderful pictures. It’s exciting to think that there are likely many hidden hoards still waiting to be discovered!

    Reply
  25. Christina, thank you for a fascinating post and the wonderful pictures. It’s exciting to think that there are likely many hidden hoards still waiting to be discovered!

    Reply
  26. Yes I really hope I find something other than rusty nails at some point:-). So glad you enjoyed the post, thank you!

    Reply
  27. Yes I really hope I find something other than rusty nails at some point:-). So glad you enjoyed the post, thank you!

    Reply
  28. Yes I really hope I find something other than rusty nails at some point:-). So glad you enjoyed the post, thank you!

    Reply
  29. Yes I really hope I find something other than rusty nails at some point:-). So glad you enjoyed the post, thank you!

    Reply
  30. Yes I really hope I find something other than rusty nails at some point:-). So glad you enjoyed the post, thank you!

    Reply
  31. Christina, I’m the mysterious?.., and I have NO idea who Typepad didn’t know who I was. I suppose flamingos were rare and fascinating in those days, and it does look like a flamingo, but I agree that a bird of prey would be cooler.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  32. Christina, I’m the mysterious?.., and I have NO idea who Typepad didn’t know who I was. I suppose flamingos were rare and fascinating in those days, and it does look like a flamingo, but I agree that a bird of prey would be cooler.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  33. Christina, I’m the mysterious?.., and I have NO idea who Typepad didn’t know who I was. I suppose flamingos were rare and fascinating in those days, and it does look like a flamingo, but I agree that a bird of prey would be cooler.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  34. Christina, I’m the mysterious?.., and I have NO idea who Typepad didn’t know who I was. I suppose flamingos were rare and fascinating in those days, and it does look like a flamingo, but I agree that a bird of prey would be cooler.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  35. Christina, I’m the mysterious?.., and I have NO idea who Typepad didn’t know who I was. I suppose flamingos were rare and fascinating in those days, and it does look like a flamingo, but I agree that a bird of prey would be cooler.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  36. These are beautiful, I don’t suppose the hoard will ever come to Australia, but I would happily buy reproductions of some of that jewellery — the flamingo brooch, perhaps. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch for it to be a flamingo. The vikings did travel amazing distances, didn’t they?

    Reply
  37. These are beautiful, I don’t suppose the hoard will ever come to Australia, but I would happily buy reproductions of some of that jewellery — the flamingo brooch, perhaps. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch for it to be a flamingo. The vikings did travel amazing distances, didn’t they?

    Reply
  38. These are beautiful, I don’t suppose the hoard will ever come to Australia, but I would happily buy reproductions of some of that jewellery — the flamingo brooch, perhaps. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch for it to be a flamingo. The vikings did travel amazing distances, didn’t they?

    Reply
  39. These are beautiful, I don’t suppose the hoard will ever come to Australia, but I would happily buy reproductions of some of that jewellery — the flamingo brooch, perhaps. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch for it to be a flamingo. The vikings did travel amazing distances, didn’t they?

    Reply
  40. These are beautiful, I don’t suppose the hoard will ever come to Australia, but I would happily buy reproductions of some of that jewellery — the flamingo brooch, perhaps. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch for it to be a flamingo. The vikings did travel amazing distances, didn’t they?

    Reply
  41. Thank you! No you’ll probably have to travel to Scotland although you never know – these things do go on tour sometimes! They had a gift shop with tiny replicas of the bird pin but sadly not made of real gold – I’d love that too! And you’re right, there were Vikings who made it to the Mediterranean.

    Reply
  42. Thank you! No you’ll probably have to travel to Scotland although you never know – these things do go on tour sometimes! They had a gift shop with tiny replicas of the bird pin but sadly not made of real gold – I’d love that too! And you’re right, there were Vikings who made it to the Mediterranean.

    Reply
  43. Thank you! No you’ll probably have to travel to Scotland although you never know – these things do go on tour sometimes! They had a gift shop with tiny replicas of the bird pin but sadly not made of real gold – I’d love that too! And you’re right, there were Vikings who made it to the Mediterranean.

    Reply
  44. Thank you! No you’ll probably have to travel to Scotland although you never know – these things do go on tour sometimes! They had a gift shop with tiny replicas of the bird pin but sadly not made of real gold – I’d love that too! And you’re right, there were Vikings who made it to the Mediterranean.

    Reply
  45. Thank you! No you’ll probably have to travel to Scotland although you never know – these things do go on tour sometimes! They had a gift shop with tiny replicas of the bird pin but sadly not made of real gold – I’d love that too! And you’re right, there were Vikings who made it to the Mediterranean.

    Reply
  46. I haven’t searched for treasure, but I did visit Mel Fisher’s treasure museum in Key West, Florida. He found a 1622 wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a Spanish Galleon, with 40 tons of gold and silver, Colombian emeralds and many artifacts. Unbelievably, this is believed to be only about half of what the ship was carrying, they are still searching for the other half. Since this was only one ship, the total amount of riches that was taken from the New World to Spain is mind-boggling!
    I often see people with metal detectors walking along the beach in New Jersey, but I think they mainly find money or other items lost by beachgoers!

    Reply
  47. I haven’t searched for treasure, but I did visit Mel Fisher’s treasure museum in Key West, Florida. He found a 1622 wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a Spanish Galleon, with 40 tons of gold and silver, Colombian emeralds and many artifacts. Unbelievably, this is believed to be only about half of what the ship was carrying, they are still searching for the other half. Since this was only one ship, the total amount of riches that was taken from the New World to Spain is mind-boggling!
    I often see people with metal detectors walking along the beach in New Jersey, but I think they mainly find money or other items lost by beachgoers!

    Reply
  48. I haven’t searched for treasure, but I did visit Mel Fisher’s treasure museum in Key West, Florida. He found a 1622 wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a Spanish Galleon, with 40 tons of gold and silver, Colombian emeralds and many artifacts. Unbelievably, this is believed to be only about half of what the ship was carrying, they are still searching for the other half. Since this was only one ship, the total amount of riches that was taken from the New World to Spain is mind-boggling!
    I often see people with metal detectors walking along the beach in New Jersey, but I think they mainly find money or other items lost by beachgoers!

    Reply
  49. I haven’t searched for treasure, but I did visit Mel Fisher’s treasure museum in Key West, Florida. He found a 1622 wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a Spanish Galleon, with 40 tons of gold and silver, Colombian emeralds and many artifacts. Unbelievably, this is believed to be only about half of what the ship was carrying, they are still searching for the other half. Since this was only one ship, the total amount of riches that was taken from the New World to Spain is mind-boggling!
    I often see people with metal detectors walking along the beach in New Jersey, but I think they mainly find money or other items lost by beachgoers!

    Reply
  50. I haven’t searched for treasure, but I did visit Mel Fisher’s treasure museum in Key West, Florida. He found a 1622 wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a Spanish Galleon, with 40 tons of gold and silver, Colombian emeralds and many artifacts. Unbelievably, this is believed to be only about half of what the ship was carrying, they are still searching for the other half. Since this was only one ship, the total amount of riches that was taken from the New World to Spain is mind-boggling!
    I often see people with metal detectors walking along the beach in New Jersey, but I think they mainly find money or other items lost by beachgoers!

    Reply
  51. Thank you for the terrific post….most of all thank you for the photos which show the artistry and talent of those people from the past.
    I have never found a treasure, but I am not the fortunate kind of person who would find treasure. Now, the hole it was in….I would find that for sure.
    I am in awe of the capabilities of those long ago artists. I think the bird looks like a crane or egret of some kind.
    Hope everyone is cool and safe.

    Reply
  52. Thank you for the terrific post….most of all thank you for the photos which show the artistry and talent of those people from the past.
    I have never found a treasure, but I am not the fortunate kind of person who would find treasure. Now, the hole it was in….I would find that for sure.
    I am in awe of the capabilities of those long ago artists. I think the bird looks like a crane or egret of some kind.
    Hope everyone is cool and safe.

    Reply
  53. Thank you for the terrific post….most of all thank you for the photos which show the artistry and talent of those people from the past.
    I have never found a treasure, but I am not the fortunate kind of person who would find treasure. Now, the hole it was in….I would find that for sure.
    I am in awe of the capabilities of those long ago artists. I think the bird looks like a crane or egret of some kind.
    Hope everyone is cool and safe.

    Reply
  54. Thank you for the terrific post….most of all thank you for the photos which show the artistry and talent of those people from the past.
    I have never found a treasure, but I am not the fortunate kind of person who would find treasure. Now, the hole it was in….I would find that for sure.
    I am in awe of the capabilities of those long ago artists. I think the bird looks like a crane or egret of some kind.
    Hope everyone is cool and safe.

    Reply
  55. Thank you for the terrific post….most of all thank you for the photos which show the artistry and talent of those people from the past.
    I have never found a treasure, but I am not the fortunate kind of person who would find treasure. Now, the hole it was in….I would find that for sure.
    I am in awe of the capabilities of those long ago artists. I think the bird looks like a crane or egret of some kind.
    Hope everyone is cool and safe.

    Reply
  56. Thank you Annette, I’m really pleased you enjoyed it! I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to find anything either but it’s fun to try.

    Reply
  57. Thank you Annette, I’m really pleased you enjoyed it! I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to find anything either but it’s fun to try.

    Reply
  58. Thank you Annette, I’m really pleased you enjoyed it! I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to find anything either but it’s fun to try.

    Reply
  59. Thank you Annette, I’m really pleased you enjoyed it! I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to find anything either but it’s fun to try.

    Reply
  60. Thank you Annette, I’m really pleased you enjoyed it! I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to find anything either but it’s fun to try.

    Reply

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