December 26, 2015

TO THE VICTOR:

Trove of Viking and Saxon silver found in farmer's field sheds new light on birth of England (JILL LAWLESS, 12/10/15, Associated Press)

The Watlington Hoard, a collection of silver bands, ingots and 186 coins unveiled at the British Museum Thursday, dates from a tumultuous period. The coins were minted during the reign of Alfred the Great, ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, who battled a "great heathen army" of Viking invaders during the 9th century.

By coincidence, discovery of the hoard coincides with the broadcast of "The Last Kingdom," a big-budget BBC drama series that has boosted popular interest in the conflict between Alfred and the Vikings.

Alfred is renowned as the ruler whose victories helped create a unified England, but some of the coins in the hoard also bear the name of the far more obscure King Ceolwulf II of Mercia, a neighboring kingdom to Wessex.

"Poor Ceolwulf gets a very bad press in Anglo Saxon history," said museum coins curator Gareth Williams. What little is known of him was written at Alfred's court and paints Ceolwulf as "a puppet of the Vikings."

Williams said the hoard contains coins that carry images of two Roman emperors side by side -- evidence that the kings were allies against the Scandinavians, but that Ceolwulf was "airbrushed out of history" by the increasingly powerful Alfred.

Posted by at December 26, 2015 9:09 AM

  

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