Two treasure-hunting enthusiasts in northeastern Poland discovered the medieval coins, made of silver, in a cornfield. The find is considered a mystery, but early speculations on its origins have garnered international attention.
In a recent article, Andrew Higgins of the New York Times rightfully raised the question of how the trove ended up in Poland. After all, the coins were minted over 1100 years ago and nearly 1000 miles away, by the medieval rulers of what is now France.
One archaeologist in Poland has a potential answer. Lukasz Szczepanski, head of archaeology at a regional history museum in Ostroda, Poland, has launched an intriguing theory that the coins could be part of a ransom – of more than two tons of silver – paid to Vikings in the 9th century.
Why would the Vikings need such a monumental ransom? For an equally monumental reason: to prevent the pillaging of Paris.
Endless questions, elusive answers
The Vikings were actors in the brutal slave trade industry, working primarily as middlemen. They often sold European slaves to wealthy, upper-class Muslims in the Middle East. Silver coins (mostly Arab dirhams, used by Muslim traders) previously found in the region may have been linked with this business.
Part of the coins discovered so far are intact, but others are damaged and broken – likely due to the use of agricultural tools on the terrain.
The coins have been sent to Warsaw. There, experts from an archeological laboratory run by the Polish Academy of Sciences will try to find answers to the numerous questions surrounding the find.
"Absolutely incredible" source
Head of the Warsaw lab Mateusz Bogucki stated that he was skeptical, like a number of other experts, of the Viking ransom theory.
But Bogucki emphasized that the coins were still a very significant discovery either way.
He added that the silver coins likely hold limited financial value today, and would fetch less than USD 200 per coin on the open market.
“However, their value as a source of information is absolutely incredible,” Bogucki noted, adding that they are particularly valuable when it comes to illuminating aspects of medieval trade routes.
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