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Viking gold unearthed by treasure hunter in County Down

image captionTom Crawford found the ingot in Brickland last year

A treasure hunter armed with a metal detector has unearthed a rare piece of Viking gold that is more than 1,000 years old.

Tom Crawford was sweeping farmland in County Down last year when he found the small ingot which may have been used as currency during the 9th and 10th centuries.

Experts said only a few such nuggets had been found in Ireland.

Close by, he found a tiny silver ring brooch dating from medieval times.

"It is all part of the big jigsaw of the history of this country," he told an inquest in Belfast which was convened to establish if the find was treasure.

Later he added: "You would need hundreds of metal detectors to go over the fields but a lot of stuff could still be lying there."

The sliver of metal, 86% gold but less than three centimetres long, was found at Brickland in County Down, a short distance from Loughbrickland which appeared to be the centre of an early medieval kingdom, the National Museums Northern Ireland said.

Written records say the Vikings plundered Loughbrickland in 833 AD.

An expert told the inquest that the gold may be a direct result of contact between locals and the Scandinavians.

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

"It is exciting when you find something that you think could be old, there is always a lot of history behind the things, especially if you find a coin and see the figure and you can identify what year it is," he said.

The coroner ruled that the brooch and ingot constituted treasure.

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