When you think of a hoard, you probably think first of something like the main image on this post. A dragon hoard. Or maybe you watch almost as much “reality” TV as I do and so think of people who hoard things.
The Silverdale Hoard, however, is neither of those things. It’s something better. It’s a Viking hoard!
A hoard is a collection of valuable items, generally precious metal and/or objects used for payment, which is hidden or stored somewhere. The implication is that a hoard was intended to be retrieved later, but due to an unknown reason remained unclaimed.
The Silverdale hoard is the third largest hoard ever found in Britain. It was found on the 14th of September 2011 by a metal detectorist called Darren Webster, in a field to the north of Silverdale, a Lancashire village in Britain’s smallest area of outstanding natural beauty. It was buried in approximately 905 AD.
The hoard is made up of 201 individual items. As you can see from the representative picture, the items found were silver coins (27), silver ingots (14), intact silver arm rings (10), rings (2), brooch fragments (6) a delicate silver chain and 141 items called “hacksilver”. Just like the name suggests, hacksilver is simply a silver item, such as an ingot or an arm ring, which has been hacked into smaller pieces. These were used as currency in areas which the Vikings travelled to which did not have coinage, or did not have a very widespread coinage system. Most of the Silverdale hoard is made up of hacksilver, so it was probably seen at the time as a large amount of currency rather than of jewellery. Talk about hiding your savings under the mattress …
There are many interesting factors about the Silverdale hoard as well as just its size.
- Most of the hoard was found in a lead pouch, with the intact arm rings buried just underneath. This strongly suggests that the hoard was buried all in one go, with the intention to return for it. (It also explains the excellently preserved quality of the artefacts).
- If you thought that the Vikings just came from Scandinavia to invade us and Iceland, you will be amazed to find out about the coins in this hoard. Vikings could go virtually wherever there was running water, and they travelled everywhere from Canada to Istanbul, to Russia and even North Africa. So the coins in this hoard are diverse too: they are Anglo-Saxon, yes, but also Anglo-Viking from Northumbria, along with Frankish coins from France and even Arabic dirhams. One of the dirhams came from Baghdad, in Iraq!
- Unusually for a Viking hoard, there is a fake coin in this hoard. It’s a fake Frankish coin. Vikings were very good at testing their silver, and in fact many of the silver ingots in this hoard show visible nicks from testing. The inclusion of this fake coin may indicate that the hoard was buried in a great hurry, without being thoroughly checked.
- The coin find which most excited the academics was a Northumbrian coin. On one side it has DNS REX in the shape of a cross: this shows the Christianisation of the Northumbrian Vikings. The other side is the interesting one, since it reads
AIRDECONUT which is theorised to be an attempt at representing the Scandinavian name Harthacnut. This would be a northern king that academics previously knew absolutely nothing about. Presumably his reign was short, and uneventful!
Hope you enjoyed this post and found at least some of it interesting!