Father and son David and Andrew Whelan always dreamt of finding treasure, but never dreamt it would be on this scale: in 2007 they came across a lead container buried in a field in which there were 617 coins and 67 other valuable objects.

Most of them were contained within a gilt silver cup, probably looted from a French monastery. The items of jewelry came from as far away as Russia and Afghanistan as well as Ireland and, naturally, Scandinavia.

They are thought to date back to the year 927, around the time King Athelstan defeated Vikings in Northumbria, where they had settle for nearly 60 years.

The cup alone is worth £200,000. Another piece of jewelry is an arm ring, of the kind a Viking leader would give out to favoured warriors.

The coins relate to Christianity and Islam, as well as the Vikings' own religious beliefs.

The Vale of York hoard, as it has become known, has now been purchased for the British Museum and York Museum Trust. The money used to meet the £1,082,000 came from a combination of sources, especially the National Heritage Memorial Fund which offered half of it.

The find is the greatest of its kind since 1840, when the Cuerdale hoard was found near the river Ribble in Lancaster. That involved over 8,000 items.

The collection will be on show in the Yorkshire Museum from September 17 to November 1 and then move to the British Museum.  ____________________________________________________________

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