Why The Church Of Scotland Sued A Man Who Discovered Ancient Viking Artifacts

Hobbies are a part of our everyday lives and are oftentimes meant to bring us joy, relaxation, or both. In addition to providing a respite from our busy lives, hobbies can also be lucrative at times. One hobby that has grown in popularity in recent years is metal detecting. According to Under Coil, metal detecting is a hobby that people often pick up in hopes of striking it rich by uncovering a long-lost treasure. The fact is, the equipment isn't cheap, and the likelihood of uncovering some sort of buried valuables is very small. However, every once in a while, someone does end up stumbling across the discovery of a lifetime.

In 2014, Derek McLennen, a retiree and amateur detectorist (as metal detector hobbyists are called) unearthed one of the largest Viking treasures ever found in Scotland (per The Guardian). McLennen was exploring land belonging to the Church of Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway when he came across his first find, an object he thought was a spoon. Little did he know that what he had happened upon would be one of many items that would become known as the Galloway Hoard.

The Galloway Hoard

McLennen reported his initial discovery to the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit (TTU), the governmental body in charge of overseeing archaeological finds. which immediately came out to excavate the area (per The Vintage News). As they continued to explore, more and more items began to surface, eventually totaling over 100 artifacts, some dating back to as early as the 9th century. Among the pieces discovered included silver and gold ingots, arm rings, crosses, and an exquisite silver jar.

The concept of a Viking hoard is not a new one, and the Galloway Hoard isn't the first discovery of its kind in Scotland. According to National Museums Scotland, hoard is actually a sort of technical term, described as "multiple objects of the same type or material." Oftentimes Viking hoards were also buried either with the intent of being unearthed later, or to remain buried in order to be used in the afterlife. Additionally they were used to stake a claim on land or seal an oath. Ironically enough, it was an alleged promise that would later provide the basis for a lawsuit against McLennen.

Why he's getting sued

Following McLennen's discovery, the National Museums Scotland raised $2.5 million in order to purchase the Galloway Hoard to share with the public (per CNN). The rules surrounding this type of purchase are different in Scotland versus the rest of the United Kingdom. In Scotland, only the finder of such a treasure is entitled to payment for the items they discovered. Everywhere else in Great Britain, the landowner where a discovery like this is made is also entitled to payment.

Because of the laws in Scotland, the only person who should be getting paid for the Galloway hoard would be Derek McLennen. Though legally that is the case, the Church of Scotland is claiming that McLennen made an agreement with them to split the proceeds. When this alleged agreement was not honored by McLennen, the church sought legal recourse. The Church of Scotland is now suing McLennen for what they believe is their half of the money, and according to an October 2022 report by The Vintage News, their case is now before the court.