Illegal Viking Coin Hoard Worth £500,000 Threatens To Rewrite English History
A hoard of Viking coins worth at least half a million British pounds has been recovered by police investigating the illegal trade of historic treasures and they tell a completely different story of Alfred the Great's role in English history .
The Recovery of the Viking Coins
Codenamed “Operation Fantail”, the sting was directed by Detective Inspector Lee Gosling of Durham police who said several suspected criminals have been arrested on suspicion of dealing in “culturally tainted objects”.
He told reporters, “We believe the material recovered comes from a hoard of immense historical significance relating to the Vikings and we are delighted to have been able to hand it over to the British Museum.”
The coins (and a silver ingot ) were recovered by police at homes in County Durham and Lancashire earlier this month and would have circulated around 878 AD, at a time when Alfred the Great of Wessex, a powerful Anglo-Saxon warrior king fought a series of battles against Vikings which was to lead to the creation of a unified England under Alfred and his successors.
Alfred the Great is depicted on the Viking coins. (Brobra694 / Public Domain )
The Viking Coins Tell A Different Story
A ‘leading expert’ informed the MailOnline that the Viking coins could “add significantly to our understanding of the political history of England in the 870s AD” as they depict King Alfred of Wessex standing beside King Ceolwulf II of Mercia, who until now was held by historians to be “a puppet of the Vikings - a minor nobleman rather than a proper king”, in his own right.
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Damaged silver Viking coin showing Ceolwulf II of Mercia. (Fæ / CC BY-SA 2.0 )
It was thought that Ceolwulf had ruled for five years before vanishing from history around 879 AD when Alfred took over his kingdom, but the coins challenge this theory by showing the two rulers standing together as allies.
Dr. Gareth Williams, curator of Early Medieval Coins and Viking Collections at the British Museum told reporters the find was "nationally important”.
The depiction suggests an entirely different history and experts now think that the Mercian king might have been "airbrushed out of history” by Alfred’s chroniclers and if these speculation are confirmed, the coins will reshape views on how England was united.
Fake News By Careful Design
Highlighting the importance of Alfred in English history, Barbara Yorke, Professor emerita of early medieval history at the University of Winchester commented to reporters that he was the only Anglo-Saxon ruler “able to prevent his kingdom from falling into the hands of the Vikings.” This, according to Yorke, was achieved by defeating the Viking leader Guthrum at the Battle of Edington in 878 AD and then defending Wessex with a string of forts.
Alfred the Great defeated the Viking leader Guthrum at the Battle of Edington. ( master1305 / Adobe)
The Fake News undermining Ceolwulf’s dynasty appears to have occurred when Alfred declared he was embarrassed by the poor standards of Latin learning in Wessex and had texts translated into English, a process in which he personally participated. The Victorians bought the Anglo-Saxon king’s revised history hook line and sinker, even though many of the important achievements didn’t come from him.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all got to write our own histories?
Top image: Trove of ancient Viking coins recovered. Source: bukhta79 / Adobe Stock.
By Ashley Cowie