Galloway Hoard’s Anglo-Saxon ‘owner’ identified?

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Further investigation into the contents of one of the most significant Viking-Age hoards found in Scotland has revealed a man’s name etched onto one of the objects. Discovered in Galloway in 2014 (see CA 297), the cache was buried at the start of the 10th century and consists of over 100 objects of silver, gold, and other material. Much of the hoard is made up of silver jewellery and ingots, although it also includes a gold pin in the shape of a bird, a rare gold ingot, glass beads, an enamelled cross, and a silver-gilt vessel of Continental or Byzantine origin.

Items from the Galloway hoard, laid out on a table
The Galloway Hoard [Image: National Museums Scotland]

Among the items of silver jewellery are several arm rings, five of which have runic inscriptions scratched into them. Thanks to the work of Dr David Parsons of the University of Wales, the runes on one of these arm rings have now been deciphered, revealing the name Ecgbeorht (or ‘Egbert’ in its more modern form), a common Anglo-Saxon male name. Although nothing else is yet known about this individual, it is hoped that further analysis of other objects in the hoard will make it possible to date the collection more precisely, allowing scholars to identify some possible candidates from surviving historical records.

All five of the runic inscriptions on silver arm rings in the hoard are distinctly Anglo-Saxon in style, rather than the Scandinavian type that is more commonly found in this region, and it has been suggested that the individual or group who owned the hoard may possibly have been English-speaking, and possibly from the local area. Hoards of this type are often assumed to be the product of Scandinavian raiders, so this could suggest that we may need to alter the way that we think about the ‘Viking Age’ in Scotland.

The hoard’s significance has been clear since its discovery because of its variety of material and geographical scope: the objects come from a range of locations, from Frankia, to Central Europe, to Britain. This new information sparking new theories about the hoard’s possible owner further contributes to our understanding of early medieval Scotland as a multicultural and diverse place, where identities and cultural boundaries were more complex than was previously thought.

This news article appears in issue 357 of Current Archaeology. To find out more about subscribing to CA magazine, click here.

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