World Coins

Metal detectorist finds Viking coin hoard in the Isle of Man

Allison Fox, Manx National Heritage curator for archaeology, left, appears with metal detectorist Kath Giles, who found the hoard that included one depicting King Sihtric Silkbeard, Norse King of Dublin around A.D. 989 to 1036, from 1,000 years ago.

All images courtesy of Manx National Heritage.

A metal detectorist in the Isle of Man has struck treasure, most recently in April when she discovered a Viking treasure hoard.

The hoard was declared treasure by the Isle of Man coroner of inquests, Jayne Hughes, on July 14.

The hoard consists of 87 silver coins, 13 pieces of cut coins, silver arm-rings, “hack silver,” and associated artefacts. It was discovered in April by Kath Giles while metal detecting on private land.

The discovery marks the third major treasure inquest on the island in less than six months and is Giles’ fourth significant discovery since taking up metal detecting three years ago.

Hoard composition

Allison Fox, curator for archaeology at Manx National Heritage, said, “This is a wonderful find which helps further our understanding of the surprisingly complex Viking Age economy in the Isle of Man and around the Irish Sea area.”

Kristin Bornholdt-Collins, an independent researcher and numismatist based in New Hampshire, confirmed that the hoard includes pennies minted in Dublin, England, what is now modern day Germany, and the Isle of Man itself.

According to Fox, the majority of the coins in the hoard were minted in Dublin, with some from the Isle of Man and a few from England and Continental Europe.

“We are still identifying the coins more fully,” she told Coin World.

The inclusion of coins from England, Germany, and Dublin illustrate the trade networks that were present during their time.

Like the islands’ modern day coins, many have an image of the contemporaneous monarch.

Further details

On the Irish and Manx coins, the profile of King Sihtric Silkbeard who served as Norse King of Dublin around A.D. 989 to 1036 can be seen.

He is mentioned as a key player in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 when Brian Boru was killed, and Silkbeard notably was responsible for the first mint in Ireland in the 990s.

Other coins show King Cnut, King Aethelred II of England, and also a Holy Roman emperor, Otto of Saxony.

Some of the coins have a design called a “long cross” on the other side. These lines were used to cut the coins when literally only a half-penny was needed.

The cut, or hack-silver pieces found with the coins are part of a flexible system of payment, where the value depended on the weight and purity of silver.

The coins and the hack-silver are believed to have been struck from silver with greater than .900 fine content.

The Isle of Man has a rich and tangible Viking legacy. Other discoveries have held mixed hoards of Viking Age silver coins and hack silver from the Island. All of these have been the result of deliberate deposition and many with the evident intention by the original owner to reclaim the hoard material at a later stage. Very few items of hoard material have been found associated with graves and the same is the case for this latest discovery.

Many of the coins are of a type known as “Hiberno-Manx.” These are the earliest (so far) recorded coins that were minted in the Isle of Man.

It is generally accepted that some of these coins were made using one coin die (or a set) that originated in Dublin but had been brought to the Isle of Man sometime around A.D. 1025, according to the organization. “The die(s) degraded over time and by around AD 1065, production of the Manx coinage had ceased,” according to a press release.

The find represents a medium-sized, discrete hoard of personal wealth, probably built up over a few years, perhaps representing a short-term savings account.

The hoard went on display in the new Viking Gallery at the Manx Museum, but will be sent for review by the Treasure Valuation Committee, an independent committee which meets at the British Museum, to determine a value.

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