This article was originally published on our website: yourdailyharbour.com
Sometimes if you want to get to the sparkly treasure, you need to dig deep into the muddy ground. Derek McLennan knows this from his own experience! Working with a metal detector is no walk in the park, but once you get into it, you just want to keep on going forever.
What’s so addicting about it? It’s the thrill of a treasure hunt, of course. You never know what wonders lie hidden in the blackness of the ground, or maybe none whatsoever!
When one of his friends offered to search the grounds of a church in Scotland, Derek McLennan was reluctant to do it at first. But much to his surprise, that trip to the Church of Scotland’s grounds brought him immense recognition. He found a treasure that became truly legendary!
The Passion of His Life
Derek McLennan hasn’t always been a metal detectorist. Before he made this occupation his full-time job, he used to have an ordinary job just like everyone else. History and finding historic artifacts have always been a big passion of his.
Derek has been dreaming of becoming a treasure hunter all his life, imagining all the coins, jewellery, books, and ancient insignia buried deep underground, just waiting to be found.
He never thought finding anything would be a piece of cake, on the contrary, it seemed like the toughest job in the world. But when you hear that special sound and you dig deep in the ground, uncovering something precious – it’s a feeling like no other! Derek knew he wanted to make a living out of it.
Pieces of History
It wasn’t until the year 2011, when Derek McLennan from Ayr, Scotland, decided to follow his dream and became a detector or a ‘Hoard Hunter’. It was like a dream come true!
Finally, he could combine his love for ancient artefacts and archaeological discoveries with the actual work he could do and support himself. Of course, he didn’t leave his old job as a businessman behind right away.
It took some time to establish himself as a metal detectorist and gain recognition. But in the end, Derek managed to turn his biggest passion in life into a full-time job. He knew he was meant to discover something big, and eventually, he did!
Not only did Derek’s love for metal detecting change his work life for good, but it influenced his relationships as well. He found lots of new friends who were just as passionate about history and ancient treasure as he was, but he also met the love of his life, Sharon.
Sharon grew up in Western Australia and has been hunting for gold coins and ancient memorabilia for as long as she can remember herself. Having lots of amazing historic finds under her belt, she regards Derek as her biggest discovery ever.
They were drawn to each other during one excavation in Scotland that changed their lives forever. So, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that she was the first one Derek called when he stumbled upon the most unusual discovery in his career as a detectorist.
It’s Easier than People Think
Detecting might seem like a tough job to do, and it is in many ways, but most people believe that only professionals with super expensive equipment can do it. That’s not true!
What about all those amateur metal detectorists roaming the beaches in hopes of finding some lost treasures, coins, or golden rings? They aren’t pros and you don’t have to be one if you want to get at a taste of what it’s like to be a treasure hunter.
Derek himself was starting small with a very simple metal detector and basic knowledge about how to do this. As he was gaining more experience, he started making truly remarkable finds that allowed him to learn more and buy better equipment. It seemed that everything in his life was preparing him for a very special day that changed his life forever.
One Lucky Man
Derek McLennan has never considered himself especially lucky, but his career as a metal detectorist was unfolding quite fast.
Immediately after Derek turned his hobby into a full-time job, he started making amazing discoveries one after the other. He wasn’t a famous treasure hunter yet, but he was slowly building a career for himself, finding ancient relics in the depth of the Earth.
During his last search, he stumbled upon a trove full of Medieval silver coins in a village named Twynholm – something he has seen only in movies before! This amazing find established him as a hoard hunter, opening new opportunities and new lands to organise search parties. That’s when his old friend contacted him with a proposal he couldn’t refuse.
The Church of Scotland
Derek has known Reverent Dr David Bartholomew for quite some time now. He was the one that contacted Derek and invited him to search the premises of the Church of Scotland, located in Dumfries and Galloway, one more time.
Derek wasn’t too eager to renew the search as he has been inspecting this location for over a year now. There comes a time when one needs to accept defeat and go look elsewhere.
Still, Reverent Bartholomew insisted and deep down inside Derek felt that he wasn’t ready to give up so easily. He gathered up all his strength and confidence and decided to give it another go. He never regretted the choice he made that day!
A Day like Any Other
It was a gloomy morning and Derek had been feeling sick for quite some time now. Still, he got himself out of the bed, gathered all the necessary equipment, and headed out into the field.
His two friends, Pastor Mike Smith and Rev Dr David Bartholomew were already waiting for him to start the search, so he didn’t want to let them down. Apart from that, Derek wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic, but it was about to change very soon.
Derek arrived at the field and greeted his fellow metal detectorists. They haven’t been doing it for a living but rather enjoyed it as a type of adventurous hobby to brighten up the day. They were eager to start the search, and Derek himself was starting to feel the excitement. Yes, the treasure was important, but that’s not why they were doing it!
The Hoard Hunter’s Philosophy
If you get into metal detecting, you will soon realize that it’s not about the result, but rather about the whole process of looking for treasure. Yes, it’s nice when you find something of value, but even if you don’t – it’s still worth all the effort!
And sometimes you just find an old piece of metal or a rusty old coin and still feel like the luckiest person in the world. It all depends on the person’s luck, but for Derek, it was also about persistence and confidence. If you believe the treasure is there with all your heart – chances are you’ll find it sooner or later!
This time was no different and Derek soon felt the familiar surge of excitement fuelling his every move. He was on top of the world! And he felt that something great would soon happen to him and his fellow metal detectorists.
The Beginning of the Search
The sun was already high up in the sky, shedding warm light all over the place. The land owned by the Church of Scotland was huge and this time Derek and his companions chose a part of it they haven’t yet looked at.
It seemed unlikely they would find something there, but they had to check anyway. Sometimes you find the treasure in the most unexpected places! Covered by layers of ground and remnants of old buildings, precious trinkets, coins, and ancient jewellery can lie underground for hundreds of years.
Derek was covering the ground inch by inch, carefully holding the metal detector over the ground long enough for it to check whether there were metals underneath or not. It was a delicate process that required lots of focus as even the slightest beep could indicate something was hiding underground. Finally, Derek heard something!
The Blessed Sound
Derek McLennan froze as he heard the familiar beeping sound loud and clear. He moved the metal detector back and forth a few times to make sure it was the right spot. It was too early to celebrate because the sound was only pointing to some kind of metal in the ground.
It could be a stack of old coins, an ancient treasure, or just some old cans that have been lying in the ground for a few years. You could never know!
Derek took out a shovel and started digging, carefully removing upper layers of ground with grass and plants on it. Whatever was hiding underground, he didn’t want to damage it. Whether it was an old bucket or a precious ancient bracelet, the hoard hunter wanted to get it out of the ground intact. He felt he was about to uncover something really big.
The First Find
Derek went with his hunch and started digging in the spot where the metal detector’s beep was the strongest. There was something precious there, he could already tell!
He had to dig for at least 15 minutes before he reached the first object all covered in dirt. He couldn’t tell what it was by the shape of it – there was too much ground stuck to it! He started cleaning up the item as carefully as he could, realising it could be something precious.
When he scraped off the first layer of dirt, the object turned out to be made of something shiny. It looked like silver! The shape reminded Derek of a spoon and he felt his spirits drop. Was his long-awaited treasure only a bunch of cutlery pieces?
A Stunning Discovery
Derek continued cleaning up the heavy piece of silver, trying not to damage anything, and a peculiar detail revealed itself. The metal detectorist held his breath, looking at the peculiar design of the silver item. This was definitely not a spoon!
On the darkened silver surface of the object, Derek McLennan could clearly see a very specific saltire-like pattern. This only meant one thing – this item belonged to the Vikings!
Derek couldn’t hold his excitement as he ran towards his friends with a spectacular find in hand. At first, they couldn’t understand what it was, but as he pointed at the clean surface, shouting ‘Look, it’s Viking!’ they both gasped in surprise.
The Viking Treasure
It was a rare find indeed! And it was definitely not cutlery Derek stumbled upon after a mere hour of search. He’s been roaming the grounds of the Church of Scotland for over a year now and finally, all his efforts paid off!
They kept on digging in the very spot they found a Viking item – it was a silver armband with a beautiful embellishment that left no doubt as to its origin. But was there more treasure or was it just a single item that resurfaced after hundreds of years spent deep underground?
Now Derek and his companions didn’t need to use the metal detectors because the treasure was unfolding right in front of their eyes as they kept on cleaning layers upon layers of earth. It turned out that one silver armband was only the tip of the iceberg!
A Peculiar Cross
As they dug deeper into the earth’s surface, more precious items emerged. Derek couldn’t believe his eyes! He was very lucky to stumble upon such a great hoard of treasures that dated back hundreds of years.
Uncovering pieces of history was his childhood dream and now he was living it to the fullest. Moments like this allowed him to literally touch history and connect with the days long gone.
Finally, they unearthed a pile of heavy silver arm-rings with beautiful decorations and a bunch of silver ingots. Right on top of that pile, there was a rusty cross that didn’t seem peculiar at first, but as Derek took it in his hands, his eyes widened.
This beautiful silver cross was all rusty, but in great condition considering it has been lying underground for hundreds of years. Paired with a thick silver chain, it contained intricate designs that looked very unusual.
It was definitely not something a common man would wear, but a man of power that was respected by his peers. Did it belong to some kind of lord or a religious person?
Historians were at a loss when they saw the beautiful decorations on the cross – they have hardly seen anything like it before! The cross was presumably from the Ninth or Tenth century, making it a one-of-a-kind discovery not only for Derek McLennan but for the whole of Scotland as well!
The Tip of the Iceberg
Derek and his companions spent the whole day digging up all kinds of treasures from the ground, large and small. They still couldn’t believe their luck! After just one hour of search, Derek managed to make a discovery that would change his life.
They went as deep as two feet below the surface – no one thought that metal detectors even reached that far! It seemed like a miracle for Derek and his fellow metal detectorists.
They uncovered numerous silver arm-rings with gorgeous decorations, unusual-looking brooches, golden pins, decorative glass beads, some precious textiles, and numerous ingots made of silver. Derek realized they hit the jackpot, and this was not a regular treasure hoard. They had to call in a historian!
Archaeologist Takes Over
Derek understood that they were in above their heads – they needed expertise from a historian to assess the treasures they’ve found. He felt that more things were hiding beneath the hoard they’ve already uncovered – something was still in the ground!
Derek was used to following his hunch with things like this, so he was eager to continue the excavation as soon as possible. Still, these were valuable relics, and they needed an expert on the field that could tell them what exactly they were looking at.
They had to report their find to the authorities, so it was only natural that they would send a historian to check up on the treasure they’ve uncovered. That’s when Andrew Nicholson, a county archaeologist, took over, shedding more light on their incredible find.
A One-of-a-Kind Find
Andrew Nicholson was just as surprised to see this Viking Hoard as Derek and his companions were earlier that day. It was a find like no other! It’s true that separate precious pieces are found all over Scotland all the time, but never put together like this.
This treasure was unique due to the sheer number of amazing ancient items collected in one place. No one really knew what they were meant for, but it was probably a valuable stash of precious objects that was hidden there for safekeeping.
Whoever created that Viking Hoard didn’t come back to reclaim it. Given the fact that they were stored on the church’s grounds, the items probably had some connection to Christianity. The archaeologist had yet another idea as to why they were buried here.
The Viking History
It’s not unusual to see Viking memorabilia and historic artefacts buried in the ground of Scotland, after all, Viking raids were quite frequent in the 9th-10th centuries. They were probably attracted to these lands as churches, cathedrals, and monasteries often contained valuable relics, gold, silver, and precious stones.
It was like heaven on earth for the Viking raiders! Still, this hoard of treasures revealed a different story. It seemed that the people who owned these Viking relics were living on this land!
They weren’t just occasional raiders – these Norsemen came to the shores of Scotland and stayed, building a community of their own. But what would make them do this?
One More Discovery
As savage and brutal as they were, some Norsemen chose to adopt Christianity and a different way of living that involved less looting and more trading. Some of the items found by Derek contained inscriptions made in the Anglo-Saxon language, an Old English language that was spoken in Scotland during the early Middle Ages.
Despite the relics being of clear Viking origin, they also contained engravings in the local language. This find revealed a part of Scottish history that was unknown to historians!
Derek McLennan and Andrew Nicholson dug out dozens of small ancient artefacts, but there was something else hiding beneath that hoard. Derek gasped in surprise as they uncovered one more layer or precious relics lying even deeper in the ground!
The Silver Pot
As they dug even deeper into the earth, they uncovered something absolutely epic – a huge pot made of silver with beautiful engravings on its sides. According to historians, there are only three such pots in the world, including the newly found one!
The pot looked unbelievable, lying there in the ground, covered in the remnants of a cloth. Its lid was fully intact, hiding more unexpected treasures inside.
According to the National Museum of Scotland, the pot belonged to the Carolingian Dynasty and was already around 100 years old when it was buried in the ground. Derek and his fellow metal detectorists couldn’t wait to see what was inside!
A Sudden Setback
Derek was dying to see what was hidden inside this huge silver pot, but the archaeologist firmly forbade to open it up – not yet. The pot had to be examined carefully with an X-Ray and only then it could be opened.
Depending on what was inside and in what condition were the items, they would figure out the best climate to open up the pot so they wouldn’t cause any damage to the treasures hidden there. It was like torture for Derek!
All in all, they have uncovered more than 100 precious objects from the site near the Church of Scotland, each of great historic value that would change the way everyone viewed the Middle Ages and the relationship with the Vikings at that time. Still, the insides of that silver pot were everything Derek McLennan could think about!
The Big Reveal
The truth about the items hidden in the pot was revealed only two months later when it was carefully examined and went through an X-Ray to determine what kind of material was hidden inside. They were precious items, indeed!
Derek couldn’t believe his eyes as he was looking at the objects that came from the Carolingian pot. There was a beautiful ingot made of gold, a collection of precious crystals, an Irish silver brooch, and a dozen Anglo-Saxon disc brooches all made of silver.
Another wondrous object was a roll of Byzantine silk that was preserved by the pot’s silver – it was almost as good as new! The silk came from an area around Constantinople, which made the historians almost certain that the family that owned the pot were some wealthy traders that could get their hands on various precious things from around the world.
According to the law of Scotland, metal detectorists can’t leave the treasures they find all to themselves – they have to report each find to the Treasure Trove Unit that later decides where the relics will be placed.
But it’s not all in vain! Even though Derek McLennan had to give up all the relics he spent so much time locating, he didn’t do it for free.
More than 100 objects of the Dumfries Hoard were estimated to cost around £1.9 million ($2.3 million). That’s one impressive refund for all the work done in the field! The National Museum of Scotland was all set to raise the money so they could get all those beautiful items and turn them into amazing exhibitions.
The Finder’s Fee
What does it feel like making one of the biggest Viking Hoard discoveries in the history of Scotland? Derek was on cloud nine, and not only because of the reward he would get for the relics – it was like a childhood dream come true!
All metal detectorists dream to make a discovery of such proportions, and it was just as important for Derek McLennan. The Galloway Viking Hoard became the biggest find of his life and may very well be unmatched in the future.
Still, Derek’s passion for detecting didn’t dwindle at all – in fact, he got even more enthusiastic about it! He sincerely believes that endless treasures are hiding in the grounds of Scotland, waiting to be discovered by someone wielding a metal detector. And that someone could be anyone, a professional metal detectorist or a mere beginner!
But What About the Church of Scotland?
The law of the UK states that the finder of treasure must share the reward with the landowner, whose property contained the treasure in question. But that’s not the same for Scotland!
According to the Scottish laws, only the finder gets the reward and he owes nothing to the landowner, however unfair it may sound. That means that Derek McLennan, being the official finder of the Viking Hoard, could leave the reward all to himself!
But it turned out that the Church of Scotland permitted Derek McLennan to look for relics on its land only after signing the contract that he would share the reward for all the finds with the church. That being said, Derek never came through on that promise! Currently, the Church of Scotland is taking legal action to retrieve part of the reward he got for finding the Viking Hoard.