RNS Lecture, 16 Jan: Money and the Viking Great Army

Welcome to 2018! The Society lectures kick off in the new year on Tuesday 16th January at 6pm at the Warburg Institute. This lecture will be given by Andrew Woods of York Museums Trust on the title Money and the Viking Great Army: Interpreting the coinage from Torksey. This lecture is linked to the York Museums Trust exhibition on the Viking winter camp at Torksey (open from 18th May 2017), developed in collaboration with the University of York and the University of Sheffield. Society lectures are open to all and full information about the current lecture schedule can be found here.

Paper Abstract:

Dirham fragments recovered from the Torksey Viking winter camp. Image linked from Archaeology 2013.

Arriving in AD 865, the Viking ‘Great Army’ spent fifteen years campaigning in England. They moved around the various kingdoms, defeating many of the established kings and ultimately settling across much of Eastern England, an area that is often known as the Danelaw. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the movements of the army, noting that each year they made camp in a different place during the winter months. The precise locations of these winter camps have proved elusive but recently metal-detecting has increased their archaeological visibility.

 This paper will consider the evidence from one such camp, Torksey in Lincolnshire. In AD 872/3, the Anglo-Saxon chronicle records that the Great Army spent the winter there. The site at Torksey has been extensively metal-detected over many years, producing a huge number and large range of objects which offer an insight into life within a Viking camp. These have been recorded as a part of multi-disciplinary project to better interpret the Great Army phenomenon. Objects have been plotted alongside extensive survey and limited excavation work.

 Torksey has produced over 300 early medieval coins, as well as many hundreds of other objects which allow a nuanced understanding of the numismatic material. The types of coinage – a mix of Arabic silver, Northumbrian copper and English pennies – mark the site as unusual. This paper will explore the relationships between these coinages, and how they can be understood within the broader assemblages from the site. It will be argued that they are likely to represent a single phase, a narrow window of intense activity. The manner in which coinage was used within the camp will also be discussed with the importance of exchange, metal-working and consumption assessed. Ultimately, the extent to which a number of different ‘economies’ can be detected at Torksey will be considered, with variety of practice stressed.