A significant collection of coins from the period just after the end of the Viking Age has been discovered on the island of Visingsö in Sweden, as announced by the Jönköping County Museum

The coins were uncovered during an excavation of a known archeological site on the island and are believed to date back to the 12th century. 

New discoveries 

The dig was initially commissioned as part of a geothermal installation project at Brahekyrkan Church, where several hearths were also discovered in 2005 that were dated to 50-400 CE. 

Led by Anna Ödéen and Kristina Jansson from the Jönköping County Museum, the current team has unearthed not only several further fireplaces but also unexpectedly found an organized set of 20 graves just outside the main churchyard. 

Even more surprisingly, the team has also discovered approximately 170 silver coins buried in one of the graves. 

In a Jönköping County Museum statement, Ödéen described the moment of the find: "On the very first day, my colleague Kristina Jansson and I found two skeletons in the shaft where the wires were to be laid." 

"We were cleaning the bones from the burial site to get an idea of what the graves looked like, and all of a sudden, three silver coins appeared!" 

Archaeologists from the Jönköping County Museum clean out a prehistoric hearth adjacent to a grave site, uncovering intriguing links between ancient rituals and burial practices. Photo: Jönköping County Museum

Uncommon practice 

The team swiftly enlisted Kenneth Jonsson, professor emeritus of numismatics at Stockholm University, to help provide an initial analysis of the collection. 

His first findings, as detailed in an article on the museum's website, suggest that the coins belong to the 12th century and would have been minted between 1150 and 1180. 

Many of the coins are silver bracteates – flat coins that only have an imprint on one side. 

The most common motif in the collection is that of a cross with four points. 

Though many feature other familiar motifs, some appear to contain previously unknown designs. The collection also includes a small number of double-sided coins from Gotland, the influential island to the east of Visingsö that grew to prominence in the Viking era. 

While the most recurring motif on the bracteates is a four-pointed cross, this unique bracteate type exhibits a previously unseen design. Photo: Jönköping County Museum

Intriguing anomalies 

Visingsö, which is located in the southern section of Lake Vättern in Sweden, is rich in archeological history, with finds from both the Iron Age and the Palaeolithic and Neolithic eras. 

Although the island was inhabited during the Viking Age, it truly grew to prominence in the 12th and 13th centuries, when Näs Castle was a residence for the Swedish monarchy and became the final resting place for four Swedish kings. 

The discovery of a coin collection in a grave in 12th-century Sweden is particularly unusual. 

Although it was common practice to bury the dead with their worldly possessions in the pre-Christian era, most evidence shows that the rise of the church dramatically altered burial practices throughout Sweden and Scandinavia as a whole.

The fact that the collection contains several coins from Gotland is also notable, and raises some new questions about how money circulated during this period. 

As the initial analysis concludes, the museum prepares for cleaning and preservation efforts in a laboratory, and conducting further analysis of the graves and hearths. Photo: Åsa Rosén / Jönköping County Museum

The search goes on 

Now that the initial analysis has been completed, the museum reports that the finds will be transferred to a laboratory for cleaning and preservation work. 

Among other things, the team will attempt to separate some of the coins that have become fused together over the centuries. 

Further analysis is also planned of the graves and hearths. 

In particular, osteologists and other experts will attempt to analyze the bodies found on site in order to try and determine the characteristics of the people buried there, while there will also be an attempt to determine the age of the newly discovered hearths. 

The work is expected to take several months to complete.

To follow the developments in this story, please check the website of the Jönköping County Museum.

We get to provide readers with original coverage thanks to our loyal supporters. Do you enjoy our work? You can become a PATRON here or via our Patreon page. You'll get access to exclusive content and early access.

Do you have a tip that you would like to share with The Viking Herald?
Feel free to reach out to discuss potential stories that may be in the public interest. You can reach us via email at hello@thevikingherald.com with the understanding that the information you provide might be used in our reporting and stories.