It was September of 2014 when metal detecting enthusiast Derek McLennan journeyed to a field owned by The Church of Scotland with his two friends. A year prior, he had found a trove of medieval coins near Twynholm, and he was hoping to stumble across something just as significant that day.
After talking himself into going on the trip after feeling unwell that morning, McLennan was shocked when his detector started beeping. Little did he know, he was about to unearth something that’d been hidden for over 1,000 years.
Derek McLennan Was Treasure Hunting With Friends
Derek McLennan, from Ayrshire in the southwestern part of Scotland, is a businessman who’s become an avid metal detector enthusiast. He was out in the country with two friends when something amazing happened.
It was like any other day in the field until McLennan’s metal detector began to beep. And, as he did any time the machine went off, the treasure hunter became very excited. Little did he or his friends know, but they were about to unearth something extraordinary.
McLennan Almost Didn’t Go That Day
Ironically, McLennan woke up that September morning in 2014 feeling a bit under the weather. Because of this, he was very close to calling off the little metal detecting expedition with his two friends.
But he felt guilty, as he had already promised his two friends, Pentecostal pastor Mike Smith, and Rev. Dr. David Bartholomew, that he would join them in the field. So, he mustered up all of the energy he had and went treasure hunting.
He Unearthed 300 Silver Medieval Coins In 2013
It’s not overly surprising that McLennan got out of bed that morning, as he already had a pretty solid track record of finding treasure. In 2013, along with his friend Gus Paterson, McLennan uncovered a trove of 300 medieval silver coins!
While he wasn’t near Twynholm, Scotland, where he had unearthed the coins, there is always a possibility of discovering something amazing. Just one year later, that is exactly what happened to McLennan and his two other friends.
Their Destination Was A Scottish Field
So, McLennan got himself ready, and the three men set off to their destination. That September morning, they headed toward a field that was owned by the Church of Scotland in the county of Kirkcudbrightshire in Dumfries and Galloway.
Once there, the three friends began to quarter out the land, deciding where they were going to search for treasure. It wasn’t too long after they arrived that McLennan’s metal detector began beeping. He’d found something! He began to dig.
He Thought He Unearthed An Old Silver Spoon
McLennan had no idea what he was in for when he began searching for the object picked up by his metal detector. With how expeditions typically go, it was probably a piece of foil or an old soda can.
To his surprise, McLennan unearthed what looked like an old silver spoon. In his mind, it wasn’t anything to get overly excited about. That is, until he looked at the object more closely.
McLennan Believed The Object Was Viking-Made
One he had the object in his hand, McLennan began looking at it more closely. During an interview with BBC, he said, “I unearthed the first piece [and] initially I didn’t understand what I had found because I thought it was a silver spoon.”
“And then I turned it over and wiped my thumb across it, and I saw the Saltire-type of design and knew instantly it was Viking.” Obviously, things were starting to get interesting for the treasure hunters.
His Emotions Were All Over The Place
The treasure hunter’s emotions went from sad to elated in no time at all. Once McLennan realized what the object was, he called his friends over to take a look. Obviously, he couldn’t keep his discovery to himself for very long!
During an interview with BBC, McLennan said, “My senses exploded, I went into shock, endorphins flooded my system, and away I went stumbling towards my colleagues waving it in the air.” And that was just the beginning.
There Was A Trove Of Viking Relics Under His Feet
McLennan had actually stumbled upon a trove of Viking relics, objects that have been lost and buried for over 1,000 years! With the number of items he pulled from the earth, it might be the largest find ever.
Among the relics were gold and silver ingots, arm bands, and brooches. But there was one object in particular that caught the attention of McLennan and his two friends. Among the treasures was an early medieval Christian cross.
The Treasure Trove Was Guarded Around The Clock
After a lot of celebrating, the three friends finally calmed down as much as possible. There was still one more thing they had to do, and that was to call the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit to report their findings.
The unit went through great lengths to make sure the treasure was guarded around the clock. A local farmer even volunteered his largest bull to stand guard in the field, just to deter any curious wanderers.
Nothing Like This Hoard Has Ever Been Found In Scotland
The head of the National Museum of Scotland’s Treasure Trove Unit, Stuart Campbell, discussed the importance of the fund with BBC. During his interview with the network, Campbell said, “Nothing like this has been found in Scotland before in terms of the range of material this hoard represents.
“There’s material from Ireland, from Scandinavia, from various places in central Europe and perhaps ranging over a couple of centuries.” With the few items the men had already found, it was time to do a full-on excavation.
In Total, There Were 100 Artifacts
The artifacts McLennan dug up were truly amazing. And before long, a huge archaeological dig was happening in the field. To think, he might have only scratched the surface on what was there!
As it turned out, there were distinct layers of objects in the ground. First, it was the items McLennan and his two friends dug up. Then, other precious treasures, such as a gold pin in the shape of a bird. All in all, there were 100 artifacts.
There Was An Interesting Pot Among The Artifacts
Aside from the arm rings, pins, and other various jewelry, the excavation crew was very intrigued by one particular item. Among the lower-layer artifacts was a large silver alloy pot with a matching lid.
The pot was wrapped in old and decaying fabric but was still intact. The researchers suspected the pot was already at least one century old when it was buried in the ninth or tenth century!
They Decided To X-Ray The Pot
Now, it was just a matter of figuring out what was inside the old pot. Before opening the lid, though, the archaeologists opted to do an x-ray of the item, just in case there was something inside that could harm them in some way.
The thing is, what the x-ray revealed ended up being beyond the excavation crew’s wildest dreams. And, no, it wasn’t just another pin shaped like a bird.
A Team Of X-Ray Technicians Got To Work
So, with the x-ray scheduled, the crew brought the pot to a nearby hospital in Melrose, Scotland, Borders General Hospital. Of course, the x-ray team at the hospital was a bit more used to catering to human patients than centuries-old artifacts that were dug out of the ground!
Nevertheless, they got to work. And what they wound up finding while examining the x-ray was more than anyone could have possibly imagined.
There Were A Minimum Of 20 Artifacts Inside The Pot
Inside the pot wasn’t an ancient curse or anything that was going to hurt McLennan or the rest of the team. In fact, there were at least 20 more artifacts enclosed inside the old pot!
It took a while to examine, record, and clean all of the findings. So, it wasn’t until years later that the artifacts were actually shared with the general public. But let us tell you, it was worth the wait!
There Was Byzantine Silk, A Gold Ingot, And Six Silver Brooches
Among the 20 artifacts that were shown to the public were Byzantine silk, a gold ingot, and six silver Anglo-Saxon brooches. The former was very impressive because that type of silk dates back to the fourth century and Constantinople.
With such rare findings, it begs one large question, how much are the Viking artifacts worth today? Considering how many items McLennan found in the field, he’s sure to have a significant payday!
The Hoard Is Estimated To Be Worth Up To $1.2 Million
After valuing all of the artifacts, what is now known as the Galloway Hoard has an estimated value between $630,000 and $1.2 million. Not too bad for a man who had to talk himself into getting out of bed that fateful morning!
Now, the bounty is being held by the Treasure Trove Unit, who, in collaboration with the Office of Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, will decide what is best for the hoard.
Museums Will Bid For The Artifacts
As ends up happening with many treasure discoveries, the Galloway Hoard will eventually go out to auction for museums to bid on, with all of the proceeds going to the finders of the artifacts. So, it looks like McLennan and his friends will get a very nice payout from their findings!
But now it begs the question: why did the Vikings leave the artifacts in the ground and never return for them? Unfortunately, those questions are most likely going to remain unanswered.
The Treasure Is Important In Understanding Viking History
At least one day, people will be able to appreciate the history in a museum, as it plays a large part in understanding Viking interactions with Scotland. Olwyn Owen, a Viking specialist, said, “This hoard will add hugely to our understanding of Viking movements around the landscape, their interactions with other people [and] their craftsmanship.”
For now, people can only assume that whoever laid the artifacts in the ground had a very good reason for doing so.
McLennan Believes It Was Buried By A Warlord
According to McLennan, there is an old legend in Galloway that speaks of a battle between the Scots and Vikings. In the end, the Scots triumphed over the Vikings. So, perhaps the treasure is that of a Viking warlord not wanting the prized artifacts to fall into enemy hands!
Today, the Galloway Hoard has found a permanent home at The National Museum of Scotland, after the museum raised over two million dollars worth of funds to acquire the relics.
Meet Mike, A Metal Detector Hobbyist
Mike Smith is a metal detecting enthusiast from Pembrokeshire, Wales. So going out to search for buried treasure one rainy day was nothing out of the ordinary. Finding buried gold was a detector hobbyist’s dream, after all!
He never expected to be jolted out of his wandering mind by a loud beep from his machine. Soon, the adrenaline started pumping through his veins as he swiveled his detector back and forth over the wet soil. What was down there?
He Was Curious By Nature
Mike has always been a curious man. So when his mental detector went off that day, Mike knew he was going to see it through to the end. The thing is, he never expected to dig up such monumental treasure.
And he certainly never anticipated ever having to get the authorities involved! But now that he knew something was a few feet down from where he stood, there was no going back. He had to know what set his detector off.
Mike Swept The Rest Of The Field
After the initial beep, Mike decided to sweep the rest of the field. Typically when a person walks away from a find, the beeping will grow fainter and fainter until it stops altogether. That wasn’t the case for Mike!
It was strange, the further he walked away from his original “beep location,” the louder his detector sounded. Could it be a machine malfunction? Or was there something down there that was taking up the entire underbelly of the field?
Time To Start Digging!
When Mike’s detector started going off all around the field, he knew that there was nothing left to do but trust his instincts. And his instincts were telling him to start digging for treasure!
Grabbing his handy dandy shovel, Mike set to work on the damp soil. Starting with a hole about a foot wide and two feet deep, Mike had no idea what he was about to stumble upon.
The First Artifact He Found Was Small And Round
Mike had used his metal detector in this spot before, digging up a few old pennies that weren’t worth much. This time, he had dug up something that wasn’t an animal bone, or even a type of coin.
Very carefully, Mike lifted the small round object out of the dirt. Was he positive it wasn’t a coin? It sure looked like one. But after rubbing some of the earth off the surface, an engraving began to appear.
He Didn’t Dwell On The First Artifact For Too Long
Puzzled, Mike flipped the object this way and that, trying to figure out what it could possibly be. There was a figure etched into one side while the other held some kind of message.
What made Mike certain it wasn’t a coin was the fact that there was a ring attached to the top of the object. Almost as if it was attached to a chain or clip at some point in time. But he didn’t analyze the artifact for too long because he had just spotted another object in the dirt.
The Object Wouldn’t Move
Unlike the first object, this one was completely stuck in the mud. Mike decided to put down his shovel and start digging with his hands, hoping that his fingers would be able to gain some leverage on the mysterious item.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t budge, even when Mike sat back on his heels to get a better grip. Whatever it was, it sure was happy to stay in its suctioned place in the mud. But Mike wasn’t giving up.
The Ground Was Putting Up Quite The Fight!
No matter how hard Mike pulled, the object wouldn’t give way. It was puzzling, though, because the rusty old piece of metal didn’t look all that heavy. Mike was stumped, so he decided to change his plan of attack.
He got back down on his knees and moved the soil around the artifact. Jiggling the earth this way at that, hypothetically, should loosen the object enough for Mike to be able to pull it out of the ground. Well, some things in life aren’t that simple.
The Object Seemed To Be Connected To Something
During his second go at shifting the soil, Mike started to see signs that the mysterious object was connected to something. What that ‘something’ could be, he had no idea. But the fact that another mystery was unfolded just piqued his interest even higher.
With more questions than answers, he continued to dig. What else could possibly be down there? And why was this particular object so heavy? What he was about to uncover sent chills down his spine.
Mike Uncovered What Looked Like Links
As any good treasure hunter would do, Mike continued to dig around the stubborn object. Eventually, he came across a second object and then a third. Finally, a light bulb went on in his head, and he realized that the mysterious round objects were, in fact, links!
Goosebumps crept up his body as he came to terms with what he just discovered. What on earth could these chains have been used for?
The Links Went On Forever
As Mike dug up more and more of the mysterious links, he realized that they seemed to go on forever. That is until he came to the end of the ancient chain. But coming to an end begged the question, what did this chain used to be attached to?
As the afternoon sun began to set, Mike began to pack up. Whatever was buried beneath him was going to have to wait until sunrise.
Mike’s Mind Wandered To Pembrokeshire Burial Chambers
As Mike lay in bed that night, his mind wandered. What if he had just uncovered something truly terrible, and there was a reason the links were buried? He had recently read about old burial sites underneath Pembrokeshire. Not a comforting thought while lying in a dark room.
Could his discovery be one of those ancient burial chambers? As frightening as that thought was, Mike was eager to get back to the farm and uncover more of the mystery.
The Next Morning, Mike Rose With The Sun
As soon as the sun crept above the horizon, Mike was out the door, heading straight for the site he left the previous evening. The mysterious chain was nagging at him the entire night. He needed to find out what was on the other end and why it was so heavy.
What Mike didn’t realize was that his find was about to become known to the authorities. And that they would be on his digging site later that day.
The Ground Opened Up Beneath Mike’s Feet
Thankfully, Mike found the location in the exact shape he left it. So it’s safe to say no one had been snooping around his treasure trove. With that peace of mind, he once again began to dig.
As more of the strange links popped out of the ground, Mike noticed something weird. A hole was beneath the chain. Not thinking twice, Mike thrust his shovel into the hole, hoping that it would help with leverage. He never imagined that the ground would open up beneath his feet.
The Hole Led To An Underground Cavern
Mike fell straight through the ground, landing a few feet below the surface. Thankfully, he wasn’t injured and was still wearing his backpack that held a flashlight!
Turning the light on, Mike came to the conclusion that he hadn’t fallen into a typical hole but rather a chamber of some kind. As he took a closer look at the floor, walls, and ceiling, fear began to creep into Mike’s chest. What had he accidentally uncovered beneath the farm?
There Were Strange Markings Covering The Walls
As Mike inspected the cavern walls a bit closer, he discovered strange scratches littering almost every surface. But something about the frantically scratched markings felt familiar. Almost as if Mike had seen them somewhere before.
Mike went to the wall with the most vivid markings and ran his fingers over them. As he took in the etchings, he realized that his fingers formed ‘VV.’ It didn’t take long for him to realize the conjoined V’s were repeated over and over dozens of times.
Stuff You Missed In History Class/Pinterest
The haunting ‘VV’ symbol began to make Mike uneasy, as the etchings were all over the cavern walls. Making the find more terrifying was that the symbols seemed to be scratched into the stone by someone with trembling hands.
Mike had no idea what he had come across. Being the treasure hunter that he is, Mike decided to follow the markings. They led him to yet another hold in the ground. But beside the entrance lay something caked in mud.
His New Discovery Warranted The Authorities
Mike couldn’t keep the shock off his face when he finally chalked up the courage to wipe the mud off of the new discovery. Underneath all of the hardened earth was something brown and hard. Mike knew exactly what he was looking at but didn’t want to believe it.
As a metal detecting hobbyist, Mike knew the laws that came with discoveries such as this. He had no choice but to call the authorities and let them know what he had found.
He Uncovered Human Remains
What started as nothing more than a fun afternoon excursion soon became a frightening discovery of human remains. There were so many possible reasons as to why someone would be buried beneath the farm, and each theory was more terrifying than the last.
Coming out of his own thoughts, Mike finally realized that he was still holding the object. More specifically, a human molar. That’s when he finally understood the severity of his situation.
The Authorities Laughed At Him
Mike had to call someone for help. Not only was he down in a dark hole with no way to escape, but he had just stumbled upon human dentures. He dropped everything and scrambled for his cell phone.
He called the officials of the National Museum of Wales, but their response was not what he was expecting. The officials laughed at him, not believing one word he was saying about the discovery!
Mike Mentioned One Detail And The Authorities Stopped Laughing
“What the archaeologists said at the time was that because there had never been a find down here before, they didn’t believe it,” Mike said during an interview. He had to change their minds about the potential burial site, but how?
Then it dawned on him; he forgot to mention that he had found human remains and not just an ancient chain and weird engravings in a cavern. Once he mentioned that detail, the officials at the museum were no longer laughing.
The Authorities Were In Complete Awe
Mike sent them his location and awaited the scientists and rescue party. When the museum officials and archaeologists arrived at the scene, they were in complete awe. In an interview, Mike said, “the look on their faces when they saw it said it all.”
Aside from the authorities taking Mike seriously, he was happy that someone was there to rescue him from the hole! Now, it was time to let the excavation process with the professionals begin!
They Uncovered Two Chariot Wheels
The artifact removal process began in June, four months after Mike’s February discovery. With the proper game plan and excavation instruments, archaeologists were able to uncover two rusted chariot wheels, confirmation that they were about to discover something huge.
Mike couldn’t believe that this all started with him finding what looked like a coin buried underground. He never realized something so monumental could be made out of his find. Treasure hunters usually only dream of this type of discovery!
Mike Finally Could Put A Name To His Initial Discovery
Going back to the initial discovery of the rusted chain, Mike thought he would never figure out what it was used for, let alone what it was attached to. That all changed with the help of the museum professionals. In an interview, Mike said, “My first find was a Celtic horse harness junction piece.”
“When I found it, my friends said I would never top it, but the next day I went back and found the rest.” Talk about proving your friends wrong!
The ‘VV’ Has A Specific Meaning
According to archaeologist Rachel Hall, the connected ‘VV’ is called a witch mark. These marks were meant to keep witches from entering a building. The specific engravings Mike found are known as Marian marks. Believed to be the initials of the Virgin Mary, the mark is meant to protect the site of the symbols.
The cavern markings were different, though. They were scratched into the wall frantically. Not to mention they were all over the place. Something strange happened in Pembrokeshire long ago.
Townsfolk Believe It Was A Gateway To Hell
Archaeologist Alison Fearn believes that the 14th and 18th-century markings were the townspeople’s way of keeping demons from gracing the Earth. Considering they are carved into most of the available surface of the cavern, Mike was inclined to agree.
Townsfolk must have thought the chamber was the entrance to the underworld, a thought that was not taken lightly in 14th century Europe. But that’s not everything Alison detected from the Virgin Mary symbols.
There Was Another Theory Behind VV
Even though the markings tend to symbolize protection against demons and other evil spirits, there was another theory. Some believe that the village of Pembrokeshire was facing an onslaught of famines, disease, or poverty. These are things that very well can be blamed on evil forces.
John Charlesworth, a retired professor of the New Testament Language and Literature, explains that the superstitious nature surrounding the symbols probably engulfed the townspeople. The location of the village, along with the deep cavern, made them fearful of the unknown.
Understanding Old Traditions
Even though the townspeople believed the cavern to be the home of demons, either a queen or chieftain was definitely buried with their chariot at Mike’s site. Mike said,” I knew the importance of them straight away….I’d read all about chariot burials and just wished it could have been me, so finding this has been a privilege.”
Archaeologists believe the chariot is upwards of 2,500 years old. And contrary to what Mike originally believed, there were no human remains.
The Chariot Should Have Been Laid Flat But It Was Buried Upright
The tooth Mike found actually belonged to one of the horses that was buried alongside the queen or chieftain and the chariot. After further research, it was uncovered that high-ranking officials of the Iron age would typically be buried with their weapons, chariot, and their horses.
Mike explained that in a typical burial, the chariot wheels would be laid flat. Of course, this was not the case with his discovery.
The Ground Has Since Leveled Out
Mike believes that instead of the high-ranking official being buried next to the chariot, they were buried within the chariot, sitting straight up. Of course, there should have been a mound of dirt over the chariot, but that has since leveled out.
After learning more about his discovery, Mike was in disbelief that he, alongside his trusty metal detector, was able to uncover such a rich history. And this was only the beginning!
It Was Time To Bring Out The Big Machines!
After museum officials roped off the area to the public, they brought in the big instruments. Considering all of the tiny artifacts Mike has stumbled across, a ground-penetrating radar over the farm was necessary. So, when we say big, we mean something that looks straight out of a National Treasure movie.
If you thought the discoveries Mike found by himself were insane, you’d never guess what geophysical sonar can uncover!
They Uncovered A Ditch Ring
After surveying the land, the archaeologists uncovered what could be described only as a ditch ring! The ring was a 12-meter circle that surrounded the site. The thing is, they found more than one!
Researchers found two more burials, both of which were located in ditch rings. This made them come to the conclusion that Mike had stumbled upon a Celtic settlement that has stayed off of everyone’s radar for quite some time.
What Comes Next For Mike And His Discovery
Aside from the ditch ring burial sites, Mike was able to dig up around 34 other items, including a brooch, tool handles, and bronze bits, to name a few.
“I still can’t believe it,” Mike said. “Obviously, I’ve read other people’s finds. I’ve watched them on the telly, and I’ve always thought, I wouldn’t mind finding that, it’s still surreal, and life-changing.” He didn’t even know the half of it!
The Project Is Going To Take Lots Of Funding
Adam Gwilt, the principal curator of prehistoric archaeology at the National Museum of Wales, explained that the findings were probably “witness to some great historical events of the time, as Iron Age people defended their ways of life and identity from the expansion of the Roman Empire.”
The project is going to take a lot of funding, and Adam and his team have been working with multiple partners to pursue a full investigation of the artifacts.
Question Of The Day: What Was Mike’s Payout?
Keeping his eye on the prize, Mike expects at least a six or seven-figure payout for his discovery. Of course, he has to split his earnings with the landowners, too. Still, not too bad for a hobbyist!
Mike explained that “It’s the biggest ever metal detecting find, as in there’s never been a chariot ever discovered by a metal detectorist. There have been hoards found, but never anything like this.” Here’s to more amazing discoveries for you, Mike!