A VIKING treasure pendant, which has laid buried for more than 1,000 years, has been unearthed by an amateur archaeologist.
The silver pendant, known as Thor's Hammer, has been declared treasure at an inquest in Harrogate.
It had been found near Coprove in September last year, by metal detectorist Michael Smith, who, not knowing what it was, had dismissed it as worthless.
"I've been going to this spot for quite a few years," he told the coroner. "I didn't know what it was, I thought it was a bit of rubbish.
"I put it on a forum when I got home, but it was a couple of months later that someone said 'isn't that a Thor's Viking Hammer?'"
Only two or three have ever been found in the UK; the pendant is believed to date back to between the 9th and 11th centuries.
In Norse mythology, Thor was the god of thunder and his distinctively shaped hammer Mjolner is depicted as one of the most fearsome weapons, capable of levelling mountains.
To find a remaining pendant of this Norse symbol, is something of a "coup", said Mr Smith, who, despite many years of experience, was still quite excited by the find.
"You never know what you are going to pick up," he said after the inquest. "Sometimes it's tat, but it's always exciting to see that glint out of the corner of your eye and know that it could be treasure."
The 54-year-old, from Cottingley, has been touring North Yorkshire sites since he bought his first metal detector in the 1970s.
"Now I'm always out doing it," said Mr Smith. "I bought my first one from a second hand shop - paid well over the odds for it, mind. Been metal detecting ever since."
The Viking pendant is not the first of his finds. He has discovered some real rarities over the years, which he shares with members of an internet forum, www.detectorist.co.uk
A fortnight ago, at Tadcaster, he found nine King Edward I coins and one King Edward II coin, and just before Christmas last year he found a Saxon pendant near Northallerton.
"One day at Thorner I picked up a 3,500 year-old flint," he said. "It's better than gold. The last person to touch that was probably sat at his fire, shaping his flint, or he could have shot it at a deer and lost it."
His favourite piece is a Roman brooch. "I've unearthed Roman, Saxon, Viking, everything," he said. "But that's my favourite, I wouldn't sell it for the world. I was chuffed to bits when I found it."
Harrogate museums have expressed an interest in buying the pendant, and it is now with valuers who will decide what it is worth. But for Mr Smith, the money doesn't matter, it is all about the adventure.
"It's about getting out and doing something," he said. "I learn more about history than I ever did at school, I have got to know all the different kings and queens.
"Knowing that you're the first person to touch it, in thousands of years, is quite beautiful. The last person to hold that pendant would have been a real Viking."