The Find of the Month, September 2014

02. October 2014 | The Viking Museum Ladby

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A few days ago, a group of volunteer metal detector operators, in cooperation with the museum, started to systematically reconnoitre in fields close to Ladby. They were on the lookout for another settlement site from the time of the Ladby king, who was buried in the early 900's.

Michael Nielsen's detector beeped, and shortly after, he stood with a silver coin in his hand. It is an Arabian dirhem, covered with lettering on both sides - because of the law against pictures from the 600's. On both sides, there are horizontal lines in the middle, and a line of lettering around the edge. Most of the writing is religious in character. On the middle of the front of the coin, it says "No God except God, the one and only, no one can compare to him." In the middle of the back, the text says, "God is One, God the eternal, he has no children and is no one's child, no one is his equal." Along the edge on the back, it says "The power belongs to God first and last, and on that day, the true believers will be glad for God's help". The text around the edge on the front side is especially interesting, since it tells precisely where and when the coin was minted: "In God's name, this dirhem is struck in Wasit in year 4 and 20 and 100."

The Arabic calendar started in 622 AD when Mohammed left Mecca. This calendar follows a moon-year, which is a bit shorter than the sun-year used by the Christian calendar. It can be reckoned as follows: 124 after Hidjrah + 622 A.D = 742 AD. The location of the mint, Wasit, is in present-day Iraq; it was the first capital of the caliphate.

How exactly the coin wound up in Ladby, we will never know. But its voyage probably followed a Russian river to Poland or to one of the Baltic countries, then took it across the Baltic Sea to Denmark. How many hands it passed through, how many sales it clinched or how many trips it was taken on, the reader can only wonder about.

At the end of its journey, it reached a place where it was no longer used as currency. At a spot along the edge, there is, namely, a triangular hole where the point of a knife was stuck through the coin. Maybe it was a test, to see if it was made of silver, but it is more likely that the coin hung from a chain or a string of beads around the neck of a Viking maiden. After an accident - or because of a burial, perhaps - the coin went missing for more than 1000 years, until the metal detector beeped, and Michael was allowed to be the first one to touch it again.

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