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Uncovering evidence for Vikings

The Bangor hoard deposited c.925

For an unbiased contemporary picture of Viking Wales, we have to turn to archaeology. The distribution of known hoards of Viking silver in Wales is coastal in character. Two hoards have been found in the immediate vicinity of the site of St Deiniol's monastery at Bangor, one deposited about 925, and a small group of coins deposited c. 970. The later Bryn Maelgwyn hoard of coins near Llandudno was deposited in the mid-1020s, and may be Viking booty rather than local savings.

A remarkable hoard of five complete Viking silver arm-rings of Hiberno-Norse type, now in the collections of the National Museums & Galleries of Wales, was found in the 19th century on the south-eastern side of Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey. This group and the Cuerdale (Lancs.) hoard (c. 905) have both been associated by researchers with events surrounding the expulsion of Ingimund from Dublin.

The silver arm-rings from Red Wharf Bay, Anglesey

Isolated finds are occasionally made in Wales, such as merchants' weights from beaches in Pembrokeshire, and cloak fasteners from the foreshore at Portskewett (Monmouthshire) and Swansea Bay as well as from Lanfair Pwllgwyngyll on Anglesey and Penarthur (Pembrokeshire). A remarkable sword guard discovered by a diver off the Smalls Reef is decorated with beasts and snake-like animals in Urnes style of about 1100-25, and probably came from a vessel of Norse type lost en route between Ireland and Wales.

Fragments of bone comb from Llanbedrgoch

In 1945 the grave of an adult was found on a sandy ridge facing Benllech sands. A number of iron nails and an antler comb found in it pointed to the Viking Age. Was this person one of the first generation pagan Vikings settlers on Anglesey? Only further work will tell. Later Viking fashions within the Christian community on Anglesey can still be traced in the decorative styles appearing on some stonework, such as the 10th-century cross at Penmon. This reflects a trend recorded elsewhere of peaceful integration during the 10th century with native populations.