An amateur treasure hunter and former police officer, Kath Giles, came upon a pretty significant discovery when she used a metal detector and found a “piggy bank” hoard dating back to the Viking Age on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. According to a statement provided by Manx National Heritage, the hoard included 87 silver coins, 13 pieces of cut silver arm-rings (also called “hack silver”), and several other ancient artifacts.
It is believed that during ancient transactions, the hack silver would have been weighed and its purity analyzed in order to determine how much it would have been worth (the coins and hack silver were believed to have had a silver content of more than 90%). It was probably used in international trades as “it was practical for any size transaction and was decentralized, a currency without borders or political affiliation,” explained Kristin Bornholdt Collins who is an independent researcher and numismatist based in New Hampshire and who studies the Viking Age economy of the Irish Sea region which includes the Isle of Man. She went on to say in the statement, “In this sense, it was a modern-day equivalent to a cryptocurrency – we might even say it was something like the original ‘Bitcoin’.”
Also included in the hoard were pennies that were minted on the Isle of Man as well as Ireland, England, and Germany. And they contained the faces of monarchs, like the Irish and Manx coins had the face of King Sihtric Silkbeard (the Norse king of Dublin) from around 989 to 1036. Additional coins included the faces of King Cnut of England, Denmark and Norway, as well as King Aethelred II of England, and a Holy Roman emperor named Otto of Saxony. Furthermore, some coins contained a “long cross” that the ancients would have used as a cutting guide when they had half-pennies.
The coins date back to the early part of the 11th century as Bornholdt Collins stated, “Though, for the most part, it is a direct reflection of what was circulating in and around [the Isle of] Man in the late 1020s [and around] 1030.”
The hoard is considered a “treasure” based on analysis by the Isle of Man coroner of inquests, Jayne Hughes. It is currently on display at the new Viking gallery at the Manx Museum on the Isle of Man and will be reviewed by the Treasure Valuation Committee at the British Museum in the near future.
Pictures of the hoard and a video of the discovery can be seen here.