Viking Age artefacts discovered on the Isle of Man declared Treasure

Video report by Joshua Stokes

A stunning collection of Viking Age artefacts discovered on the Isle of Man was declared Treasure by the Isle of Man Coroner of Inquests, Mrs Jayne Hughes.

The internationally significant find consists of a gold arm-ring, a massive silver brooch, at least one silver armband and other associated finds, buried around 950AD. 

It was discovered in late 2020 by metal detectorist Kath Giles whilst metal detecting on private land. 

Finder Kath Giles pictured with Allison Fox, MNH Curator for Archaeology holding the newly discovered silver “thistle brooch”. Credit: Manx National Heritage

Earlier discoveries of Viking Age gold arm rings from the Island include one found with the Ballaquayle Hoard in Douglas in the 1890s, much simpler in design.  

Three Viking Age gold finger rings have previously been discovered on the Isle of Man and one complete gold ingot. 

These suggest that there may have been some gold-working on the Island during the Viking Age and that the Island was home to some particularly wealthy people back then.  This gold arm-ring reinforces these theories. 

The silver brooch is a type known as a “thistle brooch of ball type”.  It is large – the hoop is c.20cm diameter and the pin is c.50cm long. 

Although bent and broken and with just some small pieces missing, the brooch is complete.  It would have been worn at the shoulder to hold heavy clothing such as a cloak in place, with the point of the pin upwards. 

The brooch is one of the largest examples of its type ever discovered.  It has intricate designs on the pin and terminals and as with the arm-ring, the brooch would have been an immediate visual indicator of the wealth of the owner. 

It may not have been for everyday use.  The type is thought to have originated in the Irish Sea area – it is possible that the brooch was made on the Isle of Man.  

The gold-arm ring is made from three plaited rods of gold. Credit: Manx National Heritage

The hoard also included the remains of at least one decorated silver armband, cut in antiquity.

Both whole and cut items of Viking Age gold and silver jewellery have previously been discovered on the Island.  Most of these have been the result of deliberate deposition of “hoard” material, presumably buried during a time of threat, with the intention by the original owner to reclaim the artefacts at a later stage. 

However, this arm-ring and brooch are the first of their type to be found on the Island and add significantly to the picture of wealth circulating on the Island and around the Irish Sea area in general over one thousand years ago.