An archeological excavation on the Danish island of Bornholm

By Sif Goodale

An archeological excavation on the Danish island of Bornholm, south-east of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, has unearthed a cache of 152 Persian coins. The coins are primarily from the Abbasid period but the find also includes Umayyad, Tahrid, and Sasanian coins. Because cutting coins to make payment by weight was a common practice in the Viking Age and because the coins were found in a field and may have been damaged by plows, many of the coins are fragmented. Some twenty coins including the Sasanian coins shown here, are nearly intact. According to Dr. Michael Alram, Director of the Münzkabinett at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the pictured Sasanian coin is a drachm from the reign of Khusro II (590-682 CE) and was minted in Shiraz in 612. A shard of the coin is missing near the edge. Archeologists believe that the coin was once worn in a chain as a necklace and that perhaps the first hole which was drilled in the coin broke upon which a second hole was drilled. The Abbasid coins were minted between 750-861 CE in Bagdad or Tehran for Harun al-Rashid. One coin was minted in Tabaristan in 778 CE. The Tabaristan coin is a so-called Tabaristan drahma and is similar in style to Sasanian coins. In addition the treasure included two Tahrid coins, which were minted in Herat. The treasure was buried under the floor of a Viking house from the early Viking Age ca. 793-850 CE. Similar finds have been made in Sweden, Poland, and northern Germany, Russia and it attests to Bornholm’s involvement in the trade network which extended from the Baltic to the Persian Empire along the Volga River. The excavation was initiated after amateur archeologist Klaus Thorsen came across the first of the coins with a metal detector.