Viking silver ingot on Isle of Man declared treasure

A Viking-era silver ingot discovered by a metal detectorist on the Isle of Man has been declared treasure and is now on display at the Manx Museum in Douglas.

Detectorist John Smart came across the cigarillo-shaped bar of metal in the southern part of the island. The exact find location is being kept under wraps to prevent interest from ill-intentioned people, but the area has not had a great deal of Viking material found there, so the ingot is unusually located, even though square mile per square mile, more Viking silver has been found on the Isle of Man than in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Vikings arrived on the Isle of Man in the late 8th century as traders. Its location in the Irish Set at the midpoint between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, made the island an attractive base for the seafaring Vikings. They took the Island in 877 and were entirely in control by 900 A.D. Viking burials have been found on the island, and the influence of Viking culture on Manx culture is still seen throughout the island, even unto its parliament, the Tynwald, whose name derives for the Old Norse word for the meeting place of the assembly.

The newly-discovered ingot weighs 10.53 grams and is intact. The bars were used as currency like coins, the silver cut off by weight for payment, so they are often found in fragmented condition. There is no datable context, but the general range for Viking silver ingots on the Isle of Man is 900-1040 A.D.

Allison Fox, Manx National Heritage Curator for Archaeology said:

“Ingots like this were used in the Viking world for trade. The ingots were weighed and tested to make sure of their silver content and they were used in part or in whole to buy whatever a Viking needed. It was a cross-border currency. During the later Viking Age, ingots were used alongside coinage. This ingot may only be a small artefact, but put into context, it helps illustrate how the Isle of Man was a part of the international Viking trade network 1000 years ago including how the Viking economy operated and where on the island trade was taking place.”

The requirements of the Isle of Man’s Treasure Act 2017 categorizes any artifact as treasure if it is 1) deeply connected with Manx history, 2) of outstanding significance to the study of Manx art or history, 3) that there be no traceable owner, and 4) that it is composed of at least 10% precious metal. University of Liverpool researchers tested the ingot with x-ray fluorescence and a scanning electron microscope. They found its silver content was more than 88%, so it fits all elements of the legal definition. The Coroner of Inquests declared the ingot treasure on May 28th, and it went on display at the museum two days later.

One thought on “Viking silver ingot on Isle of Man declared treasure

  1. Interestingly, the ‘Royal Frankish Annals’ record for 812AD:

    “…Classis etiam Nordmannorum Hiberniam Scottorum insulam adgressa commissoque cum Scottis proelio parte non modica Nordmannorum interfecta turpiter fugiendo domum reversa est…” / “A Viking flotilla attacked the Scottish island of Hibernia (Ireland?) and got with the Scots into a fight, a remarkable part of the Vikings was killed, and they had to flee in disgrace.”

    To attack whole Ireland with a small flotilla is probably not, what had been recorded here. And as it turns out, they did not return home entirely, and later the Isle of Man may have been used as a trading hub for freshly picked slaves from Anglia, Francia or Hibernia.

    Moreover, it is highly likely that one of them was present, when America was discovered a millennium ago. As Adam of Bremen notes in the 11th century:

    “..insulam recitavit a multis in eo repertam oceano, quae dicitur Winland, eo quid ibi vites sponte nascantur, vinum optimum ferentes..”

    Remarkably, this implies at least a notion of winemaking and of what wine actually looks like. Things that e.g. an enslaved monk from the Rhinelands would be acquainted with, but probably no Ice- or Greenlanders ;D

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