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Viking treasure found with metal detector

A RARE piece of Viking gold dating back more than 1,000 years was discovered by an amateur with a metal detector in Co Down, it was revealed.

Tom Crawford was pursuing his hobby in farmland in Brickland last year when he found the small but precious ingot, which may have been used as currency during the 9th and 10th centuries. It is one of only a few nuggets known from Ireland, experts said.

Mr Crawford also uncovered a tiny silver ring brooch with floral imprints, probably used for decoration by a man or woman during the Medieval period, a short distance away.

"It's all part of the big jigsaw of the history of this country," he told a Belfast inquest, convened to establish if the find was treasure.

The sliver of metal, 86pc gold but less than three centimetres long, was found a short distance from Loughbrickland which appeared to be the centre of an early Medieval kingdom, National Museums Northern Ireland said. Written records say the Vikings plundered Loughbrickland in 833 AD.

An expert told the inquest the gold may be a direct result of contact between locals and the Scandinavians and noted the nearby regions of Strangford and Carlingford loughs were areas of intense Viking activity.

Mr Crawford said when he uncovered the ingot he initially thought it was a piece of metal from soldering.

"I found a scrap piece of metal, I later found out it was a gold piece," he explained.

He told coroner Suzanne Anderson how he had hunted for metal as a part-time hobby after retiring.

The coroner ruled that the brooch and ingot constituted treasure.