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03.05.2021

Spillings Hoard

IN 1999, a film crew accompanied archaeologist Jonas Ström and numismatist Kenneth Jonsson to a humble farm on Gotland, Sweden's largest island. After the farmer discovered a Viking coin, some 150 coins and artifacts were discovered. The team got the footage they needed and left the scene, but Strem and Jonsson stayed behind, continuing their unofficial search with a metal detector. In less than half an hour they discovered two huge caches of Viking treasure.

They immediately requested permission to excavate officially, and reportedly more than 2,000 people visited the farm the first weekend after the dig was made public. A third cache was soon discovered, and by the end of the dig, 67 kilograms (148 pounds) of silver and 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of bronze artifacts had been unearthed. 

The treasure, believed to have been buried under a ninth-century outbuilding, consisted of coins, bullion and jewelry such as rings, bracelets and necklaces. Of the 14,295 coins found here, 14,200 of them were centuries-old Islamic dirhams. The remaining 95 were a set of Nordic, Byzantine and Persian coins. Some of these were modern forgeries.

Perhaps most compelling was the discovery of the "Moses Coin. Minted in the Khazar kingdom around 800, the coin mimics the design of a silver dirham, but the inscription mentions Moses rather than Mohammed, offering some archaeological evidence for the popular but unconfirmed claim that Khazar rulers converted to Judaism.

The spill treasure is the largest Viking hoard ever discovered. Its treasures are now on display in Sweden's Gotland Museum.

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