Bedford Museum Acquires Rare Viking Silver Ingot

By Tara Booth | 25 September 2008
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The ingot is a curved oblong shape and sits on a white surface at the bottom of the picture. It is a dark metalic colour and gleams in the light. Above it is a piece of paper which puts the ingot to scale. It is 4.5 cm long.

The ingot will be on display in the archaeology gallery at The Bedford Museum. © The Bedford Museum

Bedford Museum has acquired a rare find in the form of a Viking silver ingot that dates back to 850-1000 AD.

The bar of precious metal was found in Stagsden, a small village located in northwest Bedfordshire, and is the only example of its kind to have been discovered in the county.

The ingot is thought to have been lost before 915 AD when the Saxon kingdom based in Wessex recaptured the area around Bedford.

It was discovered on Dropshort Farm last year during a rally of metal detector enthusiasts and it is now on display in the archaeology gallery among other historic gems from the area.

In the early medieval period, the Vikings used ingots and pieces of broken or cut-up jewellery as currency.

The weight of the metal was the most important factor, and this ingot weighing 20g and measuring 45mm long was worth about 18 pennies - enough to buy the owner two cows.

The ingot will join other artefacts at Bedford Museum, including grave goods from a burial in Harrold, a brooch from Felmersham and items from a homestead at Willington.

A close up of the ingot. It is in the centre of the picture and gleams. It is a dark metallic colour.

The ingot measures 45mm long and weighs 20g. © The Bedford Museum

From January next year, the ingot will form part of an exhibition to celebrate the opening of the new temporary exhibition suite at the Museum and Gallery complex at Bedford.

Provisionally titled Treasures from the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum, the display will feature many of the gems from both collections.

As the ingot is over 300 years old and has a precious metal content over 10%, it qualifies as treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act.

The Act requires anyone who discovers a gold or silver object over that age to report it to their local coroner and deposit it with their local museum, archaeological officer or Finds Liaison Officer.

The treasure then goes to the British Museum to be valued and a local museum is then able to buy the treasure. The money acquired gets split between the finder and the owner of the land where it was found.

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