Category: Archive

Viking jewels discovered in Kilkenny cave

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A 1,000-year-old treasure hoard of silver and bronze found in a Kilkenny cave includes items of jewelry never been seen before by arch’ologists, including buttons from a cloak which would have been an expensive Viking "Versace" fashion item of the period.

The trove was found by chance by a tour guide cleaning up litter in the huge Dunmore Cave seven miles from Kilkenny last year. Details were not released at the time because of fears that treasure hunters might raid the cave.

The cave, which is a national monument, was the scene of a massacre by Vikings in 928. About 1,000 people — mostly women and children of the local Osraigh tribe — were killed.

Victor Buckley, senior arch’ologist with Duchas, the heritage service, said it has never come across anything like the elaborately woven silver jewelry found among the 43 items.

"They are conical items which appear to be buttons from a cloak and nothing like them has been found in Scandinavia, either," Buckley said. "It is very, very fine stuff. A silversmith today couldn’t make anything better."

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There are 16 buttons in three sizes and Buckley said the cloak would have been a costly Viking "Versace" creation that would have belonged to a wealthy person.

The find also includes Viking silver coins minted in Chester and York in Britain around 970 AD and silver and bronze ingots.

"This hoard dates from about 40 years after the massacre in the cave but, obviously, here was another tragedy because the person who hid it never came back.

"I think the cloak may have been traded or stolen by the Vikings from within what is now the Russian Federation," Buckley said. "I would suspect that its origin was the Byzantine world and it may have ended up with the Vikings via the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea."

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