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No.71 March 2004

Monthly Newsletter

A Viking boat burial in England?

Viking experts are anticipating one of the most important archaeological excavations in Britain following the discovery of what may turn out to be the site of a 9th century boat burial. It follows the uncovering of a range of artefacts by metal detector enthusiasts. Archaeologist Simon Holmes said: “If this is indeed the case, it will be the first to be discovered in England and therefore one of the most important Viking discoveries ever made in the British Isles. This find, which is being kept secret and under guard, is extremely significant and will increase our understanding of what the Vikings were doing here in Yorkshire in the late 9th century.”

The collection of items discovered, which includes silver coins, fragments of two swords, weights, a belt buckle and strap ends, has gone on display for the first time at the Yorkshire Museum, York, during the city's Viking Festival.

The metal detector enthusiasts found the trove in a ploughed riverside field in December 2003 and, following the regulations designed to protect archaeological sites, reported it immediately to Mr Holmes.

Treasure Trove

Last month the 130 items were reported to the national Portable Antiquities Scheme and so to the British Museum, who designated them as treasure trove. This means the finders, who are remaining anonymous, will be paid full compensation. The hoard dates to the 9th century, when burying leading figures in their longships was a high caste ritual. The finds are typical of the personal treasures for use in the afterlife found in Scotland, Ireland and mainland Europe but not previously in England. The hoard includes two silver pennies minted by Alfred the Great, seven other silver pennies, part of a silver dirham coin from Baghdad, swords, two sets of scales with weights, and a pile of small silver ingots. A collection of clinch nails, used on Viking longships, is the strongest clue to a ship burial. Mr Holmes said: “I believe this is a burial of a trader-warrior who, when he wasn't fighting, was involved in commercial activities across the Viking world.”

More Roman Road

Mark Hayward, our intrepid field researcher has been out and about again, and has once more come up with some interesting sites for us to investigate. 

Miller’s Lane

Miller's Lane.jpg (62161 bytes)At Miller’s Lane in Atherton, the Roman Road is shown quite prominently on the 1849 6” OS map crossing the lane at 90 degrees about half way down. Mark has spotted a slight hump in the road at this point and also a distinctive bank in the field on the east side. This extends for about 20m or so before disappearing under a mound of colliery pit waste. However, this field appears not to have been cultivated for a good number of years, so maybe is an ideal candidate for a resistivity survey or even excavation.

Shakerley overlay.gif (137955 bytes)


Further east of this, just to the north of Tyldesley, the Road is shown on the OS map crossing an old lane just south of Shakerley Old Hall. Sibson, writing in the early 19th century, says “…it is very visible, where it crosses the narrow slip of Little Shakerley Common. A short length of ridge and materials of Road, is here very perfect.

Again to the east of this lane the fields appear to be free of any development, providing more scope for research.

Cleworth Hall

As we go further east, the Road appears to rise slightly northwards apparently avoiding the hill to the east of Cleworth Hall, before turning south-east towards Moseley Common as it makes its way to Manchester. Sibson describes the road here as “.. been covered with a thick and broad coat of Blue Shale; which has become a belt of Blue Clay, about a foot in thickness, and twelve yards in breath.”

This area north of Cleworth Hall, again appears untouched by recent development, although 19th century mining operations may have caused some disturbance.
For those who are interest in pursuing the investigations further, a site visit will be arranged at the next meeting.

Next Meeting (WAS)

Wednesday 3rd March at the BP Centre (Scout HQ) in Greenough Street, at 7.30 pm as usual. This month’s speaker is Dr Robert Philpot from Liverpool Museum who will be giving us a talk on Ancient Meols, a Sea-port on the Wirral.
Hope to see you there. B