Reasons for hiding Viking Age hack silver hoards
By Mateusz Bogucki
XIII Congreso Internacional de Numismática, Madrid, 2003: actas-proceedings-actes / coord. por Carmen Alfaro Asins, Carmen Marcos Alonso, Paloma Otero Morán, Vol. 2, 2005
Introduction: Different motives are indicated by researchers as the reasons for hiding treasures by our ancestors in prehistory. One is danger, another lack or excess of some sort of goods, still others are specific believes, or many other. The Viking Age was the period of extremely intensive deposition of metals in the history of Europe. The hoards deposited at that time contain in most cases hacked silver scraps. The researchers indicate various reasons for both hiding such hoards and for cutting up coins and jewellery.
However, in the recent numismatic literature the economic interpretations dominate. A long discussion was more about the significance of contents of this deposits, and the conclusions drawn from it, because of the presupposition, that independently on motives, which make man to hide a hoard, the silver was taken from markets, and reflects the economy of a given region. Lately, this stable strong opinion has been changed by a few archaeologists, who have gone back to old, almost forgotten interpretations.
It’s necessary to point out, that those archaeologists indicate that there are two, opposite camps impossible to cross –confessors of economic rationalism and the followers of great role of irrational behaviours in every part of human life. This point of view is of course a misunderstanding, and none of modern numismatists puts these two ideas in such opposition. On the contrary, almost all of them divide hoards into three main groups. In the first one we have the finds, which were the “economic” hoards – hidden into the ground as a thesaurization of money. Those hoards contain to a large extent whole coins, but also hacked coins, ornaments, and amorfic forms of silver. The metal had the character of mean of payment or of accumulation of value.
In the second group we find the hoards which contain mainly the uncut ornaments, which were the accumulation of value, and the preservation of prestigious items – symbols of power and richness. The third and last, group is composed of the hoards of cult, with a religious character. The significance of this group lies not in the content of the hoard, but its context. A “cult deposit” is a hoard which was hidden in a place from where it couldn’t have been undertaken – like rivers, lakes and swamps.