Updated: Oct 3, 2019
In 2014, a metal detectorist discovered Viking treasure on church property. Now the Church of Scotland is suing him, claiming he promised to split the proceeds.
In 2014, amateur metal detectorist Derek McLennan made world news when he discovered, in just two feet in the soil in Dumfries (near Galloway), Scotland, a trove of over 100 Viking-era bracelets, brooches, armbands, rings, and pins, dating to the mid 10th-century. One of the most significant finds of Viking artifacts ever found in the UK, the treasure was ultimately dubbed the Galloway Hoard.
Even more incredible, in October 2019, some of the runes on the arm rings were found to spell out the names of their owners, including the popular Anglo-Saxon name Egbert. This finding suggests that these Vikings may have lived in the region long enough to consider themselves locals and give their children not Danish but Anglo-Saxon names.
On the hunt with McLennan that day was a number of friends, including David Bartholomew, a church minister. Upon finding the treasure, Bartholomew says that McLennan promised to split any proceeds gained by selling the treasure with the Church, since he found the historic artifacts on church-owned land.
In 2017, the National Museums of Scotland purchased the artifacts from McLennan for $2.5 million. Unlike UK law, which requires that all payments for treasure be split between the finder and the land owner, Scottish law only requires that payment be made to the finder. And ultimately, McLellan decided to keep the funds. After numerous failed attempts to contact him about his initial promise to Bartholomew to split the bounty, in September 2019, the Trustees of the Church of Scotland filed suit against McLellan, for half of the $2.5 million he received as payment from the museum.
While the court case is being adjudicated, the Galloway Hoard can be seen at museums around Scotland, as part of a years-long traveling exhibit.
For exhibit location and dates, visit the National Museums of Scotland website.