An interesting find from Uppland in Sweden where archaeologist working for Arkeologikonsult have uncovered a hoard of 163 Islamic coins. Fashioned out of silver, the coins contain Arabic script and the majority were minted in Samarkand, an Islamic state which was located in modern day Uzbekistan and Iran. They date from the mid-10th century AD and were discovered in a much older, prehistoric mound that was erected during the Swedish Bronze Age. This is not overly surprising as such monuments were often reused during the Viking age for votive offerings.
Of the 163 coins uncovered, fifty were complete, while the remainder had been snipped and chopped for use as silver bullion. A number had also been modified with holes or loops so that they could be worn as pendants.
The presence of Islamic coins in Sweden is not unusual and to-date nearly 70,000 have been uncovered. This reflects the extensive long distance trade routes which once existed between the Viking world and the orient. These were mainly focused on the Volga River and saw items such as furs, slaves and leather being exported southwards, while silver coins and exotic goods returned northwards.
Why the hoard was buried in the first place remains uncertain, although according to archaeologists Anna Moore:
‘In the Icelandic sagas we are told that the riches a man buried in his lifetime would benefit the person in the afterlife. Perhaps it was a type of pension after death.’