About 1,000 years ago an unlucky soul apparently buried his treasure—a cache of Viking coins—in a field in Wales and never dug it up again. Perhaps the medieval person died before retrieving it or forgot exactly where it was buried. The treasure may also have been part of a burial. Whatever the case, the apparent bad luck of the medieval hoarder turned out to be good luck for a Welshman with a metal detector.
The hoard includes coins and coin fragment and ingots going back to the time of King Cnut the Great. Treasure hunter Walter Hanks of Llanllyfni was using a metal detector in Llandwrog in March when he got a hit, reports Wales Online.
Llandrwrog is in Gwynedd, which was a Welsh kingdom around the time the coins were buried. The find will help scholars build a better picture of the 11th century economy of Gwynedd, said Dr. Mark Redknap of the Department of History and Archaeology at the National Museum Wales.
“Canute Reproving His Courtiers,” an etching by R.E. Pine, depicts a legend told about Canute that says he thought he could stop the tide from rising, but when he could not he hung his crown on a crucifix and never wore it again. (Wikimedia Commons)Found among the collection of coins were fragments of three or four pennies with the visage of Cnut, all likely from the Chester mint. Cnut or Canute was king of England from 1016 to 1035. He also ruled over Denmark, Norway and part of Sweden from 985 to 1035.
Redknap told Wales Online:
‘There are three complete finger-shaped ingots and one fragmentary finger-shaped metal ingot. Nicking on the sides of the ingots is an intervention sometimes undertaken in ancient times to test purity, and evidence that they had been used in commercial transactions before burial. At least four hoards on the Isle of Man indicate that bullion retained an active role in the Manx economy from the 1030s to 1060s, and the mixed nature of the Llandwrog hoard falls into the same category. As such it amplifies the picture we are building up of the wealth and economy operating in the kingdom of Gwynedd in the 11th century.’The hoard includes 14 silver pennies minted in Dublin under the Irish-Scandinavian king Sihtric Anlafsson, who ruled from 989 to 1036. Archaeologists say such Irish coins are rarely unearthed on the British mainland. Eight of these coins were dated 995 AD and six were thought to be from 1018.
The treasure found by a Welshman with a metal detector includes silver pennies and coin fragments from the time of King Cnut of England and Scandinavia. (Wales Online photo)Researchers told Wales Online they think the coins were deliberately buried. The Wales Online story does not mention any human bones or remains found near the coin hoard.
The cache has been declared treasure by northwest Wales Coroner Dewi Pritchard-Jones. The National Museum Wales did not give a value for the coins, but the museum wants to buy them with financing from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The coins and ingots will be taken to the British Museum for safekeeping in the meantime.
“The independent Treasure Valuation Committee, will commission an expert valuer to offer their view on current market/collector value and the committee will consider this, before making their recommendation,” said a museum spokesman. “Finders and landowners are consulted and are able to offer comment or commission their own valuations, if they wish. Usually what happens is that the value is split equally between the finder and the landowner with each getting 50% of the current market value.”
Featured image: The treasure found by a Welshman with a metal detector includes silver pennies and coin fragments from the time of King Cnut of England and Scandinavia. Credit: Robin Maggs
By Mark Miller