Saturday, July 15, 2017

Michelle Styles: Roman and Viking buried treasure

Treasure remains in Britain’s earth. 
So far over the past week or so, I have learned about the Galloway or Dumfriesshire hoard and the 25 tablets which were just dug up at Vindolanda.
Gold bird pin from Galloway hoard wikipedia
The Galloway hoard was dug up in 2014 but the National Museums of Scotland needs to raise £1.98 million to save the hoard for the nation and so have made a public appeal for the funds. The hoard compromises more than 100 objects, many probably looted from churches. It appears to be buried by Vikings in the early 10 century (900’s) and also includes silk textiles from Byzantium and several large and exotic seeds (why they were buried is anyone’s guess!). It offers a glimpse in the Scottish Viking experience.
As my current Harlequin Historicals explore some of the Vikings in Scotland learning about the hoard was thoroughly fascinating. However, the objects do need to be studied and analysed. So even after 18 months or so, we are at the very early stages of understanding the how and why. Apparently some of the less valuable objects were buried above  the large silver pot which contained the most valuable items – sort of an insurance measure but the owner never returned to claim it. There is certainly a story or three there. It is currently the largest Viking hoard to have been discovered in the British Isles.
The whole Viking experience in the British Isles is intriguing. The Vikings are there when Scotland becomes one kingdom.  The word Galloway comes from the word meaning half Gaelic, half-Norse. It is a part of Scotland which was linguistically and culturally Norse during this period. The Vikings were not just raiding, they were living and working. However because they were not really a literate people, they did not leave many writings behind and finding these sorts of hoards can give insight into the every day workings from that period. And it is entirely possible that there are more about, but mostly metal dectorists only find ring pulls…

Then a few days ago Vindolanda which is a few miles from Hadrian’s Wall (and reasonably close to where I live) announced they had found25 more tablets on 22 June 2017. Earlier tablets were pronounced Britain's most valuable treasure some years ago so it is really exciting that they have found more. Some of these new tablets are so well preserved that they could be read straight away (without having to do the usual infrared technology). 
One tablet is from a soldier called Masclus who wrote to his commanding officer requesting leave. He is already known because a previously discovered tablet had him requesting more beer. It is possible once these tablets are properly deciphered, other names will turn up. But these letters which are about the size of a postcard are truly windows into the past. The excavations at Vindolanda are going and they have recently secured more funding so that various bits of wood (including Roman toilet seats) can be displayed.
I think it is terribly exciting that new things are being dug up and we are learning more about the past and the people who live there.

In other news:
I have finished revising my latest Harlequin Historical The Warrior’s Viking Bride. It has been titled but not scheduled. Set in Scotland at the end of the ninth century, it is about a Viking Shield Maiden and the Celtic Warrior who has to forcibly return her to her estranged father. It is always good when a story works and even more exciting when it  is sold. The hero appeared as a secondary character in Sold to the Viking Warrior. 

Michelle Styles writes witty, warm and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods including Viking. Her latest Sold to the Viking Warrior was published in February 2017. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on 

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