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Ulster Archaeological Society

A Lost Hoard of Viking-Age Silver from Magheralagan, County Down Author(s): C. S. Briggs and J. A. Graham-Campbell Reviewed work(s): Source: Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Third Series, Vol. 39 (1976), pp. 20-24 Published by: Ulster Archaeological Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20567766 . Accessed: 28/02/2012 15:54
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Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 39, 1976.


by C. S. BRIGGS and J. A. GRAHAM-CAMPBELL (Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments inWales and University College, London) SUMMARY
References not known, to an 1835 but find of silver artifacts of and coins from near Downpatrick mint, and an are noted illustration from of an

antiquarian papers of themid-nineteenth century. The present whereabouts of the discovery are
the precise ascription a coin to a Baghdad

arm-ring, demonstrate that thiswas amixed Viking-Age silver hoard - thefirston recordfrom Co. Down. Nineteenth-century sources The following is a transcript of one of several letters from Thomas Benn of Belfast to John Lindsay, the Cork antiquary and numismatist, which have been brought to our notice by Pro fessor Michael Dolley.1 It is dated 'Belfast, 18 June 1845'. 'My dear Sir, I received your much esteemed letter of 14th enclosing the 16th plate of the Scotch Work,
and the 4 coins mentioned, for which I am very much obliged to you, and return you my best to have it in my power to recip thanks, hoping

more recent date, than that expressed, how

ever, itmay be a rare coin, it seems to have been barely

thickly plated or the die imperfectly con

structed, the name to the left of the head

legible isKirk; perhaps it is some of the Town pieces referred to by Simon whs book I have
now at the moment No. 3 is probably before me. one of the ecclesiastical

coins of the continent of the eleventh or thir teenth century.

I remain, My Dear Sir,

Yours Very Truly, Thomas H. Benn. Addressing Lindsay in a later letter on 23 December, Benn related how he had just received
a letter from Martin

rocate your kindness. I visited Downpatrick yesterday and availed myself of the opportunity to reinspectMr Jas. Martin's Collection; he has some good coins, and other valuable Antiquities, but of the former none of peculiar rarity; however, I took impressions of 4 coins, which I beg to enclose
herein (and of which I have also retained

'in whose possession the Cufic coin is; and I have thismorning recd his replywhich is inter
esting, terms and I beg to enclose it for your perusal. not I

think it probable Mr Sainthill will not find his

unreasonable, as Mr M. says he will

impressions), which do appear tome somewhat

to 3 of them at least are strangers remarkable, me, No. 4 1 presume is a Styca of Ethelred [I and of no value. 1 is a description No. of Coinage new to me, at least I do not at this moment recollect having

be particular about rarity'. The subsequent fate of the kufic coin would be
uncertain ters in if itwere the C. of not for the recent discovery of Denmark, to the Danish as of of

a number of nineteenth-century antiquarian let

National These Copenhagen. antiquary Chancellor Museum were written

seen anything precisely like it, at first I thought it resembled some Eastern /page 2/ or other foreign coinage, especially from its having a very antique appearance, and from having a single hole perforated through it,Mr Martin
however assures me that it was found some called Magheralaggan years ago at a place from Down,2 some about 3 miles along with others, of the same kind (but in a very mutilated

and his successor, J. Thomsen the Museum of the Society

Northern Antiquaries, J. J.A. Worsaae. Among Worsaae's Irish correspondents were Carruthers, Clibborn Todd, Petrie, Lindsay and Sainthill. Three of the letters are from Sainthill. The first,
dated whilst 5th December Worsaae was 1846, staying is addressed with the Rev. to Dr J. H.

(Aquilla) Smith, and was presumably written Todd, inTrinity College Dublin, during his study tour of the British Isles, 1846-47.4 The letter lists the three kufic coins then inSainthill's possession,
though recording none of their find-spots. In a

and decayed condition), also some silver rings, of very rude workmanship and some ingots of
silver. No. have 2 is a coin which supposed to be on first view or I should of

a medal,



postscript, Sainthill directed Smith to tell Worsaae that he (Sainthill) was negotiating the acquisition
of a kufic coin from the north of Ireland. The

kufic many were

coins (one fragments,

at least perforated) cut into halves

and 'a great and quarters'.

There is no suggestion that Anglo-Saxon


postscript runs:
'Tell Mr Wthat a Dirheim of Al Mahdi Marsden' Plate 3 Coin 31 - coined at Baghdad AH 168 A.D. 784 - was found in the North of - which, Ireland I am endeavouring to get

in the hoard. present 'some silver rings, of very rude work Benn's manship and some ingots of silver' do not equate

exactly with Sainthilrs 'aquantity of fragments of silver rings, and one ring perfect' unless the sup
posed contents ingots of are in fact fragments as follows: of one rings. It is,

throughMr Lindsay.' Sainthill's next letter (dated 7th January 1847,

this coin more Cork) not only connects specifically with the discovery outlined by Benn, but also gives to this non-local an account of his attitude coin age: (page 2)

however, reasonable to list the non-numismatic

the hoard complete

writing to you, as Iwas in treaty for a of one of the early Khalifs, Dirheim of the race of Al Abbas, which was found about 12 years since at Magheralaggan, about 3 miles west of - with another of Down Downpatrick, County similar coin and a great many cut fragments, - and also a quantity into halves and quarters of of silver rings, and one ring perfect fragments

'I delayed

silver ring, some fragments of others, and possibly some ingots. This combination of kufic coins with a complete silver ornament, hacksilver and ?ingots is well known in Scandinavian hoards of Viking-Age
date, but the information available on the coin and arm-ring enables a closer Magheralagan estimate of the deposition-date of this hoard to be

made. The coin Sainthill identifies the Magheralagan kufic coin by reference to'Marsden Plate 3 Coin 31'.Marsden'" copied his original inaccurately and the coin
should be dated A.H. 162 and not 168 as Sainthill

Iyesterday received thisDirheim forwhich I

4 Saxon gave Pennies /page 3/ (Eadmund, Eadred, and Cnut) and I enclose you an Eadgar, impression of it - as also another Dirheim of the

Saffianian Dynasty, which I received lastweek,

but I do not know its history.6

These Cufic coins in Ireland and England

turn up, with Saxon generally I am not coins, aware of any being found with sub coins, - There sequent to William the Conqueror are too few to indicate Trade, as to and yet so many,

believed. Mr Nicholas Lowick (Dept of Coins and Medals, British Museum) has kindly provided the following correct description: Xbbasid dirham of al-Mahdt_(A.H. 158
69/A.D. 775-85), minted at Madinat al-Salam

(Baghdad), year 162/778-9.

The perforation to have had Scandinavian that it is likely of the coin suggests a period of use as a pendant by a owner.

seem to prove, continued intercoursewith Syria

- I should be more by the English to inclined suppose from the East by they were brought but the subject Pilgrims, inves requires more tigation and research /page 4/ than an unlearned can give it7 - I am glad to hope from Merchant

The arm-ring
in form and is penannular silver arm-ring of a broad band of silver with consists stamped consists on its outer face. This ornament ornament a cir with transverse of vertical lines, executed with a number of fields cular punch, interspersed which are randomly stamped with a punch shaped a triangle - a in the form of a lozenge suritounting The

Mr Hildebrand's publication, that the Cufic

Coins Academy,8 in the North is preserved are likely to be published.' of a silver ring

Amongst the Windele papers, in theRoyal Irish

a drawing

(P1.VII), described as'Found at Downpatrick in

In the cabinet 1835. of James Carruthers Esq Glen Down'. Co. Given Sainthill's Cregagh account in 1847 that the hoard was found'about twelve years since' (i.e. c. 1835), 'about 3 miles west of Downpatrick', there can be little doubt that this drawing is of the 'one ring perfect' attri buted by him to the hoard. This is identification in part by the fact that no other supported

well-known pattern on Scandinavian Viking-Age silver (Stenberger 1958, fig. 72).

The form and ornament of the Magheralagan

ring establish that it belongs to the recently defined Hiberno-Viking arm-ring type of c. 850
950 (Graham-Campbell for 1976, 51-2). Parallels are numerous of the ornament the lay-out (e.g. whilst the 1915, pl. xxv, Armstrong 2-7),

Viking-Age silver ring is known from Co. Down (Graham-Campbell 1976, Appendices C and D).9 Contents of hoard
The above sources hoard demonstrate contained two that the Magheralagan complete

lozenge-on-triangle stamp also occurs on other Hiberno-Viking arm-rings, including an example

hoard from the Roosky, Co. Donegal, (Raftery from the Cushalo 1969, fig. 1, 21) and another hoard (Hall 1973, fig. 1,963/986). gurt, Co. Mayo, from It is the only known find of such an arm-ring Co. Down.


* O A A * O


only) provenance FCo.




o S





of provenanced




of Scandinavian




Deposition date All other known coin-hoards containing kufic coins from Britain and Irelandwere deposited in
the period c. 875-c. 975, with the majority depo


The discovery of mid-nineteenth-century

referring enabled some from lost Magheralagan the partial reconstruction to the


~~~~~~~>~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~50 kms sited during the thirty-five years between 900 and
Campbell 1976, Appendix C).

hoard has of a find of

935 (Dolley 1966, 26-7, 48-51). Mr Lowick

kufic coin is of a that the Magheralagan comments in hoards until the early tenth cen type common

It is only the fifth coin-hoard importance. to have contained Ireland known ornaments It is a valuable

and/or hack-silver, other than ingots (Graham addition to the growing number of kufic coin hoards known from Ireland (Appendix) and, as Professor Dolley has commented (personal com munication), 'there seems no formal reason why
one this should not be a ninth-century of the earliest from Ireland'. hoard, and so

tury, but which then becomes markedly scarcer. hoards containing All known coin-dated Hiberno-Viking arm-rings fallwithin the bracket
c. 875-c. On 930. these grounds, a deposition date in the late

ninth/early tenth century may reasonably be established for theMagheralagan hoard. 22

Little other Viking-Age

silver is known from



the only




that of


Kufkc coin-hoards 1966; Hall

from Ireland 1973-4; Graham-Campbell

Hiberno-Norse coins from Scrabo Hill, deposited

c. 1130 (Dolley Magheralagan such finds down 1966, 81-4; Hall 1973-4, 81). The hoard to fill what helps was a the east coast of Ireland (Fig. 1)." l

(after Dolley

Drogheda, Co. Louth Co. Dublin Glasnevin, Dunmore Cave, Co. Kilkenny Co. Kildare Co. Meath Magheralagan, Co. Down Co. Derry c. 905 c. 927 c. 929 c. 935 c. 970 late 9th/early 10th C. late 9th/10th C.

somewhat surprising gap in the distribution of The only other recorded findsof silver fromCo. Down are two ingots in theNational Museum of Ireland. These are described respectively as hav ingbeen 'Found in the county Down' (Armstrong 1915, 290:W.1), and 'Procured from the county Down. (Dawson Collection)' (ibid., 291:W.4); no further information is available.'2 Either ingot
could have derived from the Magheralagan hoard, as might have the ring and armlet of silver exhi in Belfast bited in 1852 of by James Martin

The authors are most grateful to Professor Michael Dol ley (Queen's University, Belfast) and Mr Nicholas Low ick (British Museum) for their advice and comments. We also wish to thank for their assistance Mr George Boon (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff), Mrs Brigid Dolan (Royal Irish Academy, Dublin), Mr John Hop kins (Society of Antiquaries, London), and Fru Fritze Lindahl (National Museum of Antiquities of Denmark, Copenhagen). P1. VII is reproduced by permission of the Royal Irish and was taken by Mr Albert Glaholm Academy, (Uni versity College, Dublin). The map was drawn by Mrs Eva Wilson.

Downpatrick,'3 who had the various coins listed

by Benn. Further researches amongst the many

nineteenth-century letters and papers, preserved in the Royal IrishAcademy and elsewhere, will undoubtedly bring to lightother such'new' finds if not further information on the Magheralagan hoard.

NOTES 1. The originals form part of a run of Lindsay cor from Sainthill and Windele, respondence, mostly now in the possession of Hunter of Hunterston, and to Professor Dolley made available through the good offices of Col. and Mrs J. K. R. Murray of are in his pos A set of photostats Cheltenham. session and full publication is planned over the next few years. townland (which appears in the cor Magheralagan as Magheralaggan) lies some 3 miles respondence SSW. of Downpatrick (grid r?f. J 4343/4). Professor Dolley points out that the piece is almost coin certainly one of the mid-eighteenth-century weights put out by the London maker John Kirk who frequently signed his products (1724-1776), KIRK below the busts copied from the coins associ ated with the weights in question. to January Worsaae was in Dublin from November in his published letters, En 1846-7, as recorded (ed. V. Hermansen, Erindringer Oldgrandskers 1934), 317-44. Copenhagen, W. Marsden's great work, which was privately printed in two parts, is entitled Numismata Orien talia Illustrata. The oriental coins, ancient and mod em in his collection, described and historically illus trated. With numerous plates, from drawings made under his inspection (London, 1823, 1825). 6. There is now no enclosure with this letter, nor is the in the Department of Coins and coin identifiable of Denmark. Medals, National Museum was a Cork wine 7. Richard Sainthili (1787-1869) the formal education beyond shipper without grammar-school. 135. 8. R.I.A. ms. 12.C.l,p. 9. This arm-ring is that listed previously by Graham Campbell (1976, Appendix D) as a single-find from Downpatrick. 10. Op. cit. in note 5. 11. This new map is based on Graham-Campbell 1976, maps 2 and 3, with the addition of two recent finds of coinless hoards from Co. Cavan and Co. Meath. that there 12. Dr A. T. Lucas has kindty confirmed for these appears to be no further documentation pieces in the National Museum of Ireland. 13. Descriptive of Anti Catalogue of the Collection . . . exhibited in the quities and other objects Museum (Belfast, 1852), at a meeting of the British Association.






BIBLIOGRAPHY E. C. R. (1915). Armstrong, 'Catalogue of the silver and ecclesiastical antiquities in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy', Proc. Roy. Irish Acad., 32C (1915), 287-312. Coins in the Dolley, M. (1966). The Hiberno-Norse British Museum (British Museum, London, 1966). J. A. The Viking-Age Graham-Campbell, (1976). hoards of Ireland', in ed. B. Almquist and D. silver Greene, Proceedings of the Seventh Viking Con gress (Dublin, 1976), 39-74. ' Hall, R. (1973). A hoard of Viking silver bracelets from Co. Mayo', J. Roy. Soc Antiq. Ire Cushalogurt, land, 103 (1973), 78-85. ' coin finds Hall, R. (1973-4). A check list of Viking-Age from Ireland', Ulster J. ArchaeoL, 36-7 (1973-4), 71-86. Marsden, W. (1823, 1825). Numismata Orientalia Illus trata, 2 vols (London, 1823 and 1825). Raftery, J. (1969). 'A hoard of Viking silver bracelets from Co. Donegal',7. Roy. Soc. Antiq. Ireland, 99 (1969), 133-6. Stenberger, M. (1958). Die Schatzfunde gotlands der vol. 1 (Stockholm, 1958). Wikingerzeit,


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