Two amateur British treasure-hunters are in jail. They stole millions of dollars of 1,100-year-old Anglo-Saxon coins and jewelry. Experts say the hoard—much of which is still missing—could shed new light on a period when Saxons were battling the Vikings for control of England.
Metal detectorists George Powell and Layton Davies dug up a collection of jewelry and coins in 2015 on English farmland. Historians believe a Viking army probably buried the trove in the late ninth century—probably while English Saxon forces chased them across England.
Last week, a court convicted the men of failing to report their find. Instead, they tried to sell some of it through antiquities (ancient objects) dealers. Authorities have found some of the jewelry and only about 30 coins. The two men still haven’t revealed where they stashed the missing items.
Prosecutor Kevin Hegarty says the hoard’s value is between $3.9 and $15.4 million. He calls the find “a nationally important assemblage created at the very point England was forming and becoming a nation . . . under the vision of [King] Alfred the Great.” Hegarty adds that a find of “immense archaeological, historical, and academic value” has been lost to the nation.
Powell and Davies received multi-year jail sentences. Had they reported their find to authorities, the treasure-hunters would have been in line for a reward of a third to half of its value.
“You could not have done worse than 500,000 [dollars] each,” Judge Nicholas Cartwright said at trial. “But you wanted more.”
Powell’s lawyer, James Tucker, says his client now “wishes he had never found the treasure.” He says, “It became a temptation—and for him, a curse.”
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. — 1 Timothy 6:10
(A gold ring from the ninth century, part of a Viking hoard stolen by amateur British treasure-hunters. British Museum via AP)