Viking Period Scandinavians had a funny custom where they would bury silver hoards and not dig them out again. On Gotland, the hoards are so common that the local paper has been known to note tersely that “this year’s hoard has been found”. But not all Swedish provinces are similarly endowed. My native area around Lake Mälaren has far fewer hoards.
Most silver hoards are found by farmers when they till their fields. Once in a very long while, archaeologists get lucky and find a hoard in situ. Of course, they tend to find the commonest kind of hoard, i.e., pretty small ones. This happened at one of the Helgö cemeteries in the 1970s. But just recently, my colleagues at the National Heritage Board’s excavation unit got really, really lucky and found a big whopping hoard of about 450 coins on their dig. It’s the early type of Viking Period hoard, dominated by Caliphate issues including such from Baghdad and Damascus, with the latest coin struck about AD 850.
The dig was expected to be a humdrum affair, concerning a late-Last Millennium BC grave in which you might hope to find a little burnt bone and some iron fragments — if very lucky. As it turned out, local wealthies had messed around with the site a thousand years after the original funeral and stuck a silver hoard into the monument.
The site was dug in advance of development for housing and is located in Uppland, not far from Arlanda international airport. Those ancient people are everywhere!
Thanks to LL and Tegumai for the heads-up.
Update 7 April: Several good pix here.