Silver, Butter, Cloth – Economies in the Viking Age

Silver, coins, pendants, and jewellery were not the only types of valuables in the Viking Age. Butter and cloth were also significant elements in the Viking economy

Silver, Butter, Cloth: Monetary and Social Economies in the Viking Age
Series: Medieval History and Archaeology
By Jane Kershaw, Gareth Williams, Søren Sindbæk, and James Graham-Campbell


Silver, Butter, Cloth advances current debates about the nature and complexity of Viking economic systems. It explores how silver and other commodities were used in monetary and social economies across the Scandinavian world of the Viking Age (c. 800-1100 AD) before and alongside the wide-scale introduction of coinage. Taking a multi-disciplinary approach that unites archaeological, numismatic, and metallurgical analyses, Kershaw and Williams examine the uses and sources of silver in both monetary and social transactions, addressing topics such as silver fragmentation, hoarding, and coin production and re-use. Uniquely, it also goes beyond silver, giving the first detailed consideration of the monetary role of butter, cloth, and gold in the Viking economy. Indeed, it is instrumental in developing methodologies to identify such commodity monies in the archaeological record.

The use of silver and other commodities within Viking economies is a dynamic field of study, fuelled by important recent discoveries across the Viking world. The 14 contributions to this book, by a truly international group of scholars, draw on newly available archaeological data from eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the North Atlantic, and the British Isles and Ireland, to present the latest original research. Together, they deepen understanding of Viking monetary and social economies and advance new definitions of ‘economy’, ‘currency’, and ‘value’ in the ninth to eleventh centuries.


Introduction, Jane Kershaw
1: Silver Fragmentation: Reinterpreting the Evidence of the Hoards, Marek Jankowiak
2: As Long as it Glitters. A Re-evaluation of the Mixed Silver Hoards of Bornholm, Denmark, Gitte Tarnow Ingvardson
3: On Silver Fragmentation: How Reliable is Metrological Data? A Case Study Based on the Mózgowo Hoard, Poland (tpq 1009), Mateusz Bogucki
4: Royalty and Renewal in Viking-Age Ireland, Andrew R. Woods
5: The Rise of Spiritual Economies in late Viking and Early Medieval Scandinavia, Svein H. Gullbekk
6: Reflections on Kingship, the Church and Viking-Age Silver in Ireland, John Sheehan
7: Beyond Economics: The Use of Coins as Pendants in Viking Age Scandinavia, Florent Audy
8: A Viking-Age Gold Hoard from Essu, Estonia: Context, Function and Meaning, Ester Oras, Ivar Leimus, and Lauri Joosu
9: The Importance of Containers for the Deposition and Non-Retrieval of Silver Hoards – a comparison between Gotland and Pomerania, Jacek Gruszczynski
10: From Local Supply to Long-Distance Trade Networks: Fingerprinting Early Medieval Silver, Guillaume Sarah
11: Provenancing Viking-age Silver: Methodological and Theoretical Considerations and a Case Study, Stephen Merkel
12: Gold as a Means of Exchange in Scandinavian England (c. 850-1050 AD), Jane Kershaw
13: Vaðmál and Cloth Currency in Viking and Medieval Iceland, Michele Hayeur-Smith
14: Tracing the Late Viking-Age and Medieval Butter Economy: The View from Quoygrew, Orkney, Aaron J. Critch, Jennifer F. Harland, and James H. Barrett



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