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A piece of the Viking silver treasure hoardbeing cleaned by a conservator.      Source: Acta Konserveringscentrum AB

Highly Unusual Glistening Hoard Of Viking Silver Discovered In Sweden

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A hoard of Viking silver has been discovered in an ancient building in Sweden, and the discovery is being described as “highly unusual.” The trove of silver necklaces, bracelets and coins was unearthed in Viggbyholm, Greater Stockholm at an ancient farm discovered in 2019. Evidence of a prehistoric farm dating back thousands years was discovered at the site, and in August 2020 Archaeology News Network announced that researchers had unearthed “utensils dating back to 400–550 AD.” At that time, the researchers said the discovery “might shed new light on how the area looked during the Late Iron Age.” However, recently they found a rare hoard of ancient Viking silver artifacts and coins “exceeding all expectations.”

A portion of the Viking silver treasure hoard found just outside Stockholm, Sweden. (Acta Konserveringscentrum AB)

A portion of the Viking silver treasure hoard found just outside Stockholm, Sweden. ( Acta Konserveringscentrum AB )

Swedish Viking Silver Hoard: A Once-In-A-Lifetime Discovery

The 8,000-square meter (86,000 square foot) site is located in a remote coastal bay and is currently being excavated in preparation for urban construction. Back in the Iron Age , however, the site was a “prehistoric Viking farm .” Researchers have unearthed layers of ancient dwellings from different historical eras, according to an August 2020 DW article.

Iron Age Viking house excavation at the site where the Viking silver hoard was found. (The Archaeologists)

Iron Age Viking house excavation at the site where the Viking silver hoard was found. ( The Archaeologists )

Earlier this year archaeologists excavated the foundations of over twenty ancient longhouses and pit houses dating back to the Late Iron Age and the early Middle Ages. According to Archaeology News Network , archaeologist Magnus Lindberg told the Swedish press that while they were investigating the homes “In one place, the metal detector went off the charts.” This was the moment they made what he describes as a “once-in-a-lifetime” discovery.

This Hoard Made Painted Treasures Come To Life

A clay urn was found buried within one of the houses, which was relatively predictable at a domestic dig. However, further analysis of its contents revealed the urn held a rare treasure hoard of Viking silver bracelets, necklaces, and silver coins from several different countries. The researchers say it is highly unusual to find such silver treasures in a residential building, which they say adds significantly to the rarity of the find.

The hoard contained five Arab silver coins called “dirhemes.” And one of the silver European coins had been minted in the French city of Rouen, and this too was described as “very unusual.” According to Professor Jens Christian Moesgaard of Stockholm University , this French coin stands out as it dates back to the 10th century, and until now, it had only been seen by specialists in two old drawings.

The rare French Rouen coin that only existed in old drawings. (Acta Konserveringscentrum AB)

The rare French Rouen coin that only existed in old drawings. ( Acta Konserveringscentrum AB )

A Discovery Demanding A Non-traditional Interpretation

The researchers said the “classic interpretation” of how this silver hoard, and similar finds, came to be buried is that people stashed their valuables quickly in times of trouble. However, this theory is questionable at this site, muses John Hamilton, archaeologist and project manager at the site. Furthermore, according to Dr Lindberg, while the treasure was most likely first buried in the 11th century AD, there are “telltale signs that the trove was buried and dug up again.”

Viking silver comes to light at Iron Age Swedish farm. (The Archaeologists)

Viking silver comes to light at Iron Age Swedish farm. ( The Archaeologists )

During the Viking Age, Nordic warriors, conquistadors, traders and diplomats travelled widely across Europe. However, it must be remembered that a vast majority of the population were farmers and could only dream of affording a sword. According to Natmus, silver was “the real currency of the Viking Age” and goods were paid for in silver, by weight. In a trade negotiation the required amount of silver was simply chopped off a bar. But this new discovery includes beautifully crafted Viking silver necklaces. Many other Viking sites, similar to this one, have also yielded important votive offerings.

The evidence of the Vikings’ activities abroad is largely substantiated by the discovery of silver hoards from faraway places, which increases the mystery of why foreign coins were found at an ancient Swedish farm site. Perhaps someone who had travelled abroad paid the farmers for their wares in silver, but it might be the case that the famers at Viggbyholm dropped their hoes and lifted swords, and then ventured abroad on summer raiding missions.

Top image: A piece of the Viking silver treasure hoardbeing cleaned by a conservator.      Source: Acta Konserveringscentrum AB

By Ashley Cowie

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