Detectorists stole Viking hoard that 'rewrites history'" width="976" height="549">
Most of the estimated 300 coins believed to be in the hoard are still missing
Two metal detectorists stole a George Powell and Layton Davies dug up about 300 coins in a field in Eye, near Leominster, Herefordshire, in 2015.They did not declare the 1,100-year-old find, said to be one of the biggest to date, and instead sold it to dealers.They were convicted of theft and concealing their find. Coin sellers Simon Wicks and Paul Wells were also convicted on the concealment charge.The hoard included a 9th Century gold ring, a dragon's head bracelet, a silver ingot and a crystal rock pendant. Just 31 coins - worth between ?10,000 and ?50,000 - and some pieces of jewellery have been recovered, but the majority is still missing.
"It’s one of the most important, if not the most important, finds," Gareth Williams said
During their trial at Worcester Crown Court, Powell, 38, of Newport, and Davies, 51, of Pontypridd, had denied deliberately ignoring the Treasure Act, which demands significant finds be declared.Experts say the coins, which are Saxon and believed to have been hidden by a Viking, provide fresh information about the unification of England and show there was an alliance previously not thought to exist between the kings of Mercia and Wessex."These coins enable us to re-interpret our history at a key moment in the creation of England as a single kingdom," according to Gareth Williams, curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum.
Among the hoard was a crystal pendant that dates to around 600 AD
When Powell and Davies made their discovery in June 2015, they did not inform the farmer who owned the field and instead contacted dealers to find out the worth of the items.A month later, they contacted the National Museum of Wales but only declared one coin each and three items of jewellery. Both men claimed talk of a 300-coin hoard had been a rumour, but suspicions were aroused and police began to investigate. They recovered deleted photos on Davies's phone which showed the hoard intact in a freshly dug hole.The court heard the detectorists had been meeting Wicks and Wells to release the coins on to the market.Wells told the court he knew the coins should be declared, but was himself found to have hidden five in a magnifying glass handle.
What is the significance of the hoard?
The recovered coins were issued by two separate, but neighbouring, kingdoms in the late 9th Century: Wessex and Mercia.Wessex at the time was ruled by the famous Alfred the Great and Mercia by the lesser known Ceolwulf II, who "just disappears from history without a trace" when the hoard was buried around the year 879, Mr Williams said.
Alfred the Great is the most famous Anglo Saxon king and ruled Wessex from 871 and 899
"What the coins show, beyond any possible doubt, is that there was actually an alliance between Alfred and Ceolwulf," Mr Williams continued, as they were sharing a coin design."And yet a few years later, Ceowulf is dismissed by historians at Alfred's court. He's written out of history, but the coins show a different picture."
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