Treasure Hunters Sent to Prison for Stealing Viking Hoard Worth $15 Million

Viking relics
West Mercia Police

Two amateur treasure hunters in the United Kingdom were sentenced to prison Friday after illegally selling Viking relics they found in 2015.

George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, used metal detectors to uncover nearly 300 silver coins buried in a field in Eye, near Leominster, Herefordshire, according to the BBC.

The stash also included “a 9th Century gold ring, a dragon’s head bracelet, a silver ingot and a crystal rock pendant,” the report said.

However, Powell and Davies failed to declare the findings to authorities, which is required by British law. “Instead, they tried to sell some of the bounty through antiquities dealers,” according to the Japan Times.

The treasure is more than 1,000 years old and has great historical value, although some of it is still missing. Authorities estimated it to be worth nearly $15 million.

However, the coins may still provide fresh insight into previously unknown facts about the unification of England.

The Weather Channel reported:

Experts say the relics, thought to have been buried in the late 9th century by a member of a Viking army that was being pushed east across England by an alliance of Saxon forces, could lead to a better understanding of the fight between the Saxons and the Vikings for control of England.

Prosecutor Kevin Hegarty noted that the treasure hoard “represents a nationally important assemblage created at the very point England was forming and becoming a nation with a single identity under the vision of (King) Alfred the Great.”

Authorities said they believe the two men know where the rest of the treasure is located but have yet to disclose that information.

Powell’s lawyer, James Tucker, said for his client “It became a temptation — and for him, a curse,” adding that he “wishes he had never found the treasure.”

In Worcester Crown Court Friday, Powell was sentenced to ten years in prison and Davies to eight-and-a-half years.

A victim impact statement signed by Herefordshire officials said if the treasure had been properly recorded and displayed, it could have brought much-needed tourism to the county.

“As a direct result of these actions we may never be able to ascertain the precise sequence of events which relates to the burial or the relationship between the individual artefacts to the hoard,” the statement read, adding that the two men had caused “significant and irreversible harm” to the historical site.

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