Belfast Telegraph

Uncovered by a plough: silver ring the Vikings used for cash 1,000 years ago

BY JACK BRENNAN

To the average eye, it looks like a piece of scrap metal.

Thankfully David Taylor recognised some potential in the dirt encrusted object and decided to have a closer look.

And his instinct turned out to be correct when the lump turned out to be a valuable silver Viking arm ring.

Details of the rare discovery emerged at Belfast Coroner's Court – which deals with treasure trove finds – yesterday. The court heard that two brothers-in-law made the discovery when they were collecting stones after ploughing a field on the Ards Peninsula in April last year.

Mr Taylor and brother-in-law Andrew Coulter, both from Inishargy, near Kircubbin, found the 10th century silver 'arm-ring' as they were working on the land lifting stones.

And now the precious artefact, which could so easily have been thrown away as rubbish, is on its way to the British Museum for further examination and valuation after it was officially declared treasure.

Mr Taylor said that he saw the bracelet-shaped object sitting on the top of stones and thought that it might have been a piece of machinery at first. He told the court that after further examination he said to his brother-in-law he thought it could be valuable.

"We left it at that and continued to work," he added. "I just knew by the shape of it, it was something."

Mr Taylor said he was glad he ignored the advice of wife Lynda who, thinking it was a bull ring, said to "throw that in the bin".

Instead, he gave it a clean-up and phoned his nearest museum.

The Vikings used silver not only as jewellery but as a form of currency, with rich Vikings often investing their wealth in their jewellery.

A silver ring, arm-ring or coins would be weighed during a transaction, and would be used to buy anything from sheep to slaves.

For this reason, these kinds of artefacts are also known as 'ring-money'. Around one-tenth of an ounce of silver would be enough to buy a sheep. The weight of the silver was extremely important, if the Viking had too much silver then they would chop it up until they got the weight required.

FACTFILE

Arm-rings were used by the Vikings as both jewellery and as a form of currency in the 10th and 11th centuries. The bracelet-shaped artefact discovered in Co Down, dating back to between 950-1100AD, will now go for valuation by experts at the UK Treasure Valuation Committee. Thought to have originated in Shetland or the Orkney Isles – which were ruled by Viking leaders including the sinisterly-named Thorfinn the Skull Splitter – such finds are rare in Ireland. As well as a piece of jewellery, experts believe it was also used as an early form of currency before Vikings introduced coinage.

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