ahrc-logo-forwebox brandDirhams for Slaves
Dirham hoards from Northern Europe, trade in Slavic slaves, and the emergence of Medieval Europe (800-1000)

Silver Landscapes in Viking-Age Gotland: From Hoards to Settlements

26 Mar 2015 - A workshop to be held in the School of Archaeology, Oxford.

Programme and registration details


The Swedish island of Gotland is central not only to the Baltic Sea, but also to discussions on the early medieval economies and long-distance connections. This is mainly due to the unparalleled record of over 700 finds of Viking Age precious metal, not counting stray coins, with new discoveries being made almost every year.

The study of this exceptional material is, however, impaired by several difficulties. It is difficult to obtain a global perspective on this material, the only comprehensive catalogue by M. Stenberger (Die Schatzfunde Gotlands der Wikingerzeit, 1947-58) being rather dated. Many discoveries, especially recent ones, remain unpublished. Their archaeological contexts are known only in exceptional cases, given that the majority of the hoards was found either before the advent of modern archaeological procedures or during recent rescue operations. Their de-contextualisation is aggravated by our insufficient knowledge of the settlement patters, social structures and, consequently, of the impact that this exceptional wealth exerted on Gotlandic society.

But even faced with a dearth of large-surface excavations and with the notorious ‘invisibility’ of Viking-Age settlements, Gotlandic archaeologists are able to reconstruct a picture of a remarkable continuity of settlement patterns from such elements as seventeenth-century cadastral maps, finds of non-precious metals or burial grounds. How to reconcile this picture with that of a dynamic society engaged in the long-distance trade remains the subject of a debate.

We would like to bring this debate to Oxford. The aim of the proposed workshop is, therefore, not only to acquaint the Oxford audience with the current state of the Gotlandic Viking-Age archaeology, but also to discuss the place of silver hoards in the landscape and their association with contemporary settlement patterns and social structures. These questions are vital not only for our understanding of the Viking Age, the ‘age of silver’: Gotland is an ideal test-case to reflect on the mechanisms and implications of massive hoarding of precious metals.