Viking Silver

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Frequently Asked Questions...

is there any connection between China and the Vikings?

Best Answer...


There have been several hordes of Viking coins found in central Asia and the reverse in Viking settlements. The existence of these multiple dirhems and the contemporary debasement of all Samanid silver currency are two manifestations of the severe silver shortage that began to affect this region in the early tenth century. The cause of this silver shortage had nothing to do with the silver mines which were flourishing but it was instead caused by the massive outflow of silver along the Viking-Khwarezmian trade route in the direct of Scandinavia. The manning of the Viking-Khwarezmian trade route from the Oxus to Scandinavia during the period of [circa] A.H. 270-370 ([circa] 883-981) lead to one of the most massive, if not the most important, translocations of coinage that has occurred.

The proof of a shortage of silver in the Islamic world is not conclusive, but is strongly implied by the debased silver coinage circulating out of Delhi, Gujarat and the Ghaznavid territory in the C10th and C11th, and the absence of silver coinage in Egyptian and Syrian bank accounts, according to the Geniza documents. Perhaps the emergence of a new metalwork industry of beaten bronze vessels occurs because of a lack of precious metals, just as ceramic imitations of metal prototypes provide cheaper wares to the consumer when silver is so scarce it’s price goes through the roof.

The main postulated explanation for this shortage is that the silver output of the Panjhir mines continued unabated, but the coins were being drained out of circulation by trade routes leading to the north-western lands, and hoard evidence from Russia and Scandinavia reveals thousands of Islamic silver coins, of which up to 80% may be Samanid. Originally the number of coins may have been much higher, because the silver content of many Viking silver bracelets and other jewellery is the same as the content of Samanid coins, suggesting that the coins were melted down by the Vikings.

(This subject is, of course, closely related to the great "silver famine" that supposedly affected the entire world economic trading system. For example, because of the debasement of money, many "India Traders" chose to pay for goods with other goods, instead of coinage. China also had it's own silver famine during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.)