Friday, September 14, 2007

The Solheim Cup Comes to Sweden but Vikings Still Dominate My Thoughts

I love sports, sometimes I’ll even pay attention to golf and the Solheim Cup in Sweden is going on right now. But I am also a history nerd. I’ve already told you about the Viking class I’m taking so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Lately Vikings have been dominating my thoughts. So just as a warning this definitely has a history nerd twist. Consider it a learning experience as you continue to read. Yesterday in class we were talking about coins and Viking hoards. Nearly 300,000 Viking Age coins have been discovered in Sweden in about 3000 finds. Most of them on the island of Gotland off the eastern coast of Sweden. Timing is everything and a news article came out today about another hoard being found on Gotland just a while back. Very cool, plus I like writing the word hoard.

Viking age coins have a little bit of a different time period than the actual Vikings. It is generally accepted that the Viking Age lasted from 800-1100 give or take 50 years here and there depending on who you ask. When it comes to coins though, according to Kenneth Jonsson at Stockholm University, the Viking age lasts from about 800-1140, and apparently that extra 40 years make a difference. Most of the hoards consist of coins from all over Europe at the time. However, the majority of the coins come from Germany, England, and Islamic lands at the time. Coins from other areas like the Nordic lands can be found but are not nearly as common. The coins vary in craftsmanship and some are pretty impressive considering they are over 1000 years old.

Anyway, the Swedes have a law dating back hundreds of years that says that you must turn over any historical finds (like Viking hoards) to the state. They ensure that people do this by paying market value for the find. So while the coins from this era were about 95% silver which by itself would end up being a decent amount of money for a good sized find the government wants to be sure that you turn over everything and don’t decide to melt some of the silver down. This is where market value comes in.

We’re talking market value as a historical and archeological find. A farmer on Gotland a few years back found a hoard with about 65 kilos worth of silver. He was paid 2.2 million kronor which is a little more than $300,000 at today’s exchange. Imagine just hanging out tilling your land on a little island off the coast of Sweden and all of a sudden you are $300,000 richer. Not bad at all. As a history nerd though I’d think I would have to pocket one or two of the coins. Just as proof that it really happened. A keepsake if you will. I mean it’s not too often you come across thousand year old artifacts in your backyard. I never found any hoards in the US!

I love this Swedish law though. It really ensures that the museums in Stockholm, and throughout Sweden, are stocked with some very impressive artifacts. Plus, it’s compensates the finder, and avoids just swooping in and taking it from them. That concludes my foray into historical blogging. Hope you made it through ok! And just in case you care, it looks like the US is up by one early on in the Solheim Cup.


  1. Clearly, Shakira and I are meant to be together:

  2. I also heard of a story of two boys finding some old coins in a farm in Gotland. Have you been there? It will really be a great destination for a history buff like yourself. I was there once and all the traces of the Hanseatic period is very much preserved there. The walls, ruins, cobbled stones, alleys, houses...the whole place is a museum! There is also this place like a Viking camp, where you dress and live like a viking for a day. Really cool activities!

  3. I have been there... it's awesome! I think I might have to make another trip though since it's been a while.