More than a thousand years before the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto invented Bitcoin, Vikings and other ancient people were using their own form of cryptocurrency to buy and sell services across national and cultural borders. A treasure trove containing this underground currency was recently found on the Isle of Man, believed to date from the time of Hiberno-Norse king Sihtric Silkbeard. Sihtric was born in the 950s AD, and reigned over the region now known as Dublin from around 989 to 1036 AD.
One of his biggest achievements as King was to introduce a new currency that bore his name and likeness: silver.
The hoard is being held by Manx National Heritage (MNH), an agency that works to preserve the cultural heritage of the Isle of Man.
It said the collection contains many such coins, as well as, “13 pieces of cut, silver arm-rings” or “hack silver,” and “associated artefacts”.
They are thought to date from between 1000 and 1035 AD.
Independent researcher and numismatist Kristin Bornholdt-Collins compared the hoard to a wallet or piggy bank, going on to describe the silver as essentially a physical cryptocurrency.
She helped to identify the provenance and age of the pieces.
Based in New Hampshire, she noted that the contents were diverse both in terms of age and origin.
The coins had been minted in countries around Europe: Ireland, England, Germany, and the Isle of Man itself.
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Kath Giles, a former police officer and metal detectorist, made the discovery in April having previously unearthed similar artefacts.
Her find is the fourth hoard to be found on the Isle of Man in nearly as many decades.
Ms Giles previously made headlines when she discovered a collection of gold and silver Viking jewellery, which was declared treasure in February.
MNH’s curator of archaeology Allison Fox said it was a “wonderful find”.
She added that it would help increase understanding of the “complex Viking Age economy” in the area surrounding the Irish Sea.
Researchers believe the hoard was hidden by the owner for safekeeping.
The collection will be put on display at the Manx Museum in Douglas before being taken to London for valuation at a later date.
Under Manx law, finds of archaeological interest must be reported to MNH and those legally declared treasure at an inquest become the property of the Crown, with the finder rewarded.