Last September, this hobbyist grabbed his metal detector and headed out for an ordinary day of searching, not knowing that he would stumble upon the mother load – a huge Viking treasure. That’s right – McLennan discovered treasure dating all the way back to the 10th century. And now he's rich.
Thanks to his metal detector, McLennan uncovered a hoard of jewelry and Viking artifacts worth millions, and he proved that you should never give up on your dreams of finding buried treasure. He immediately contacted Scotland’s National Museum about his find, and they paid him 1.98 million pounds for the haul. Not a shabby chunk of change to make off your hobby.
McLennan’s find was unprecedented. The National Museum of Scotland’s Stuart Campbell said, “This is a hugely significant find, nothing like this has been found in Scotland before in terms of the range of material this hoard represents.” The treasure is so massive that it has been given its own name – the Galloway Hoard.
This Viking hoard consists of artifacts from all over Europe. “There’s material from Ireland, from Scandinavia, from various places in central Europe and perhaps ranging over a couple of centuries,” Campbell said. “So this has taken some effort for individuals to collect together.”
On the day that McLennan discovered this Viking treasure, he almost didn’t leave the house because he was a bit under the weather. “I dragged myself out of my sick bed because I had two friends that wanted to detect and I’m a bit of an obsessive," he said. So he and his friends (pictured above) headed out to detect.
Sidebar: Good to know that there’s an actual term for the act of searching grounds with metal detectors – “detect”.
McLennan and his friends got permission to detect on church property Dumfriesshire, and after an hour of wandering the field with his metal detector, something magical happened – he found a silver object.
“I unearthed the first piece, initially I didn’t understand what I had found because I thought it was a silver spoon," he said. "And then I turned it over and wiped my thumb across it and I saw the Saltire-type of design and instantly knew it was Viking.”
So what does one do when they realize they’ve stumbled upon a real treasure? McLennan says he pretty much freaked out, like any normal human would do. “My senses exploded," he said. "I went into shock, endorphins flooded my system and I went stumbling towards my colleagues waving it in the air."
If I had discovered buried treasure, this would have been my initial thought (above).
Once the trio realized there was Viking treasure on the land, they ramped up their search. Their detecting skills helped unearth one of the most important archeological finds in recent Scottish history.
Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Cultural and External Affairs, explained to the BBC, “It’s clear that these artifacts are of great value in themselves, but their greatest value will be in what they can contribute to our understanding of life in early medieval Scotland, and what they tell us about the interaction between the different peoples in these islands at that time.”
Here's a photo of McLennan and his co-detectorist, Gus Paterson, both of whom now get to enjoy some fame and lots of riches.
So what does the total haul look like? Over 100 items made of silver and gold, such as coins, brooches, and armbands. Say what you will about the Vikings being ruthless barbarians and all that, but these plunderers definitely appreciated the finer things in life.
One of the most valuable items uncovered was an early Christian cross that dates from the 9th or 10th century. The cross is solid silver and features enameled decorations, which is apparently very unusual, according to experts. These experts have also concluded that much of the treasure in this hoard was stolen from various communities by the Vikings.
Olwyn Owen, a Viking specialist living in Scotland, says that this immense treasure reflects that "some Anglo-Saxon monastery or settlement had a very bad day."
Another artifact that has excited archaeologists is a silver Carolingian pot, possibly the largest one ever discovered. The pot’s lid was still in place, and it has yet to be opened. So who knows? There could be even more valuable treasure inside the pot. Or possibly the ashes of some dead Viking king, which is less valuable, but still kind of cool in a weird way.
13. Soon, You'll Be Able To See These Treasures In Museums
The Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (QLTR) has decided that these items shall be sent to National Museums Scotland. Isn’t it a bit odd? One day, these items are sitting in a field, covered in dirt and moss, and the next day they’re being cleanend, polished and put on display at a national museum.
14. Does The Property Owner Get A Share Of The Spoils?
So what about the person who owned the land that McLennan detected on that day? Does he get a share of the two mill? Nope.
Scotland laws of discoveries pretty much say “finders keepers.” So McLennan gets to keep all the profits, and the landowner gets zilch. So if you have a piece of land where there might be some buried treasure, you better get your own damn metal detector.
Even though none of us found Viking booty that turned us into millionaires over night, I think we can all agree that this discovery is a win for everyone. At least for everyone who once had the hope of discovering buried treasure when they were kids. Now that we know our dream of finding buried treasure is still possible, all we have to do is get ourselves some metal detectors.