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Where have the Viking treasures gone?

Written by Kristian Sjøgren - Journalist at
Published on 27 Sep 2017

The Vikings went on raids and stole gold and silver but where are these treasures now. Archaeologists do not find these treasures. Are they hidden so well that we can not find them or did the Vikings trade the treasures out of the country again?

Here in Denmark we find large Viking treasures

Now we do not know how many tons of gold and silver We will be happy to find in the Danish soil. But if you ask a Viking researcher, archaeologists will find approximately the amount of treasures they expect.

Among other things, Denmark's largest Viking gold treasure was found in a field in Southern Jutland last year.

“We have lots of Viking treasures and I think we find what we can expect. Maybe your reader's question is due to the fact that many people have a slightly simplified picture of the Vikings, «says PhD student Gitte Ingvardson, who is currently writing a PhD. at the University of Copenhagen on Bornholm's Viking Age treasures.

However, there are historical accounts from the Viking Age that tell of very large Viking treasures that have not yet been found. This is explained by professor and Viking researcher Else Roesdahl from the Department of Culture and Society at Aarhus University. »A large part of the treasures were collected in the world and have never come home to Denmark, among other places. We know, for example, of protection agreements with the Franks and the English, who paid huge sums of silver to the Vikings in order not to be attacked, and those treasures have only been found in Scandinavia. However, we have found some in England, among other places, "says Else Roesdahl.

The Vikings went on expeditions throughout Europe

Before We grab the metal detector and run out onto the local field in search of the big jackpot in 'Vikingelotto', here's a little tale about the Vikings that might give him inspiration for places he can lead.

When the Vikings went on raids, they took to virtually the entire part of Europe they could get to via waterways. Therefore, Vikings were also feared throughout Britain and along the west coast of Europe as well as up rivers such as the Rhine, the Seine and the Loire River, where there are good written sources about the ravages of the Vikings.
In Eastern Europe, Vikings sailed down the Russian rivers in search of prey or merchandise, and even the mighty city of Byzantium (present-day Istanbul) was visited by men from the north. »That is why we also find treasures in Denmark with things from many places. Among other things, we find treasures with English silver coins and church silver, silver cups and buckles from the Frankish Empire, Slavic jewelery and lots of Arabic coins from present-day Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, "says Gitte Ingvardson.

The outside world paid the Vikings not to attack them

When the Vikings went on expeditions, their forces varied in size from a few ships with thirty to forty men per ship to hundreds of larger ships with correspondingly more men.
The target of their looting could be anything from a single monastery to cities and large markets. If they just had to stock up before moving on, they could also easily empty a village of food and drink.

Often, Vikings did not even have to fight for their booty. For example, they repeatedly went to England around the year 1000, when Ethelred II the bewildered ruled. Here the English king paid the Vikings huge sums in the form of silver coins to make them leave the country again or not to plunder. This payment became known as Dane debt, and Ethelred's inability to do anything to defend the country against the Vikings' greed gave him his nickname.
"The Viking expeditions changed over time from being small 'hit and runs' in the early Viking Age to later becoming more organized expeditions with thousands of men, who were gathered by a king or great man," explains Gitte Ingvardson.

That is why we do not find Viking treasures today

With all these many treasures, one could imagine that one would not be able to stick a shovel in the ground in Denmark without encountering gold and silver, but unfortunately that is not the case. According to Gitte Ingvardson and Else Roesdahl, there are several different reasons why We still have difficulty finding the treasures from the Vikings' heyday. We look at them one at a time. Firstly:
Even though the Vikings came far and wide, it did not necessarily mean that their ships were loaded with treasures when they went home after the summer raids.
The reason is that many times the Vikings did not come home at all with their booty.

Else Roesdahl says that many Vikings settled permanently or for a number of years in the areas they came to on their expeditions, and the taxes from their conquests were therefore spent there. These were mainly England, Scotland, the Shetland and Orkney Islands, Normandy, the Loire region, the Baltic Sea region and parts of Russia. The Vikings also settled in Dublin, for example, and developed it into a large and international trading city. ‘Then they sent messengers for their families if they had one, or married a foreign woman. In this way, we can see in written sources described that Vikings have plundered a monastery for a lot of values, but they still never came north, "says Else Roesdahl.

The Vikings were interested in other treasures

Another reason why there are no more Viking treasures in Denmark, among other places, is that if the Vikings came home with treasures, it was often not exclusively in the form of gold and silver. They grabbed everything that had value, and these values did not necessarily have to be kept in a coffin.

Among other things, the Vikings were interested in silk, furs, wine, salt, slaves and food, and we probably will not find them with its metal detector. He probably will not find them in other ways either, as they have long since disappeared. The Vikings often used the silver and gold treasures to trade for other things that were of great value to them and that they could not get hold of in the Nordic countries. “The Vikings also traded with slaves and bought exotic spices and peacocks, which they took home. Their expeditions were strongly associated with shopping, so even though they have plundered silver and gold, they may have come home with something completely different, "explains Else Roesdahl.

Vikings dug down silver to use it in Valhalla

A third reason why we have a hard time finding Viking treasures is that the Vikings' treasures were very often melted down and rarely dug down.

When the Vikings came home with a large silver treasure, it was many times melted down and made into jewelry in the form of necklaces and bracelets. The jewelry was worn and displayed, so the Vikings must have had a reason to dig them down so that We can find them to this day. And if they have dug them up, at the same time something must have happened to them so that they have not dug them up again. "Of course, there may also be a religious motive for digging down the treasures, because the Vikings thought that if they dug down treasures, they could pick them up again when they came to Valhal," explains Gitte Ingvardson.

Vikings were not pirates from Hollywood

The Viking raids have, on the whole, played a significant role in the entire Viking Age economy. If a Viking fleet returned to, for example, Hedeby, Ribe or one of the other large cities in the Viking Age, the treasures they brought with them could be used in trade, and out in the country they could boost the entire area's prosperity, provided the great man was generous and distributed for services.

In this way, taxes were distributed to society as a natural part of the economy. They were simply used.

If you had to pay for something, you cut a piece of jewelery or paid with a silver coin or a half. The Vikings in Denmark rarely behaved like Hollywood pirates and buried their treasures for posterity, and that is probably the reason why We do not find as much gold and silver as he had hoped.

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