Silver hoards in Sámi areas


  • Marte Spangen


The Viking and Middle Age silver hoards have often been assumed to be simply hidden economic resources. However, while the silver of the hoards from these periods may previously have circulated in a certain economic sphere, the hoarding practice itself and the content of the hoards show similarities to hoardings of earlier periods that were probably related to an ancient fertility cult. The similarities suggest that the Viking Age and Early Middle Age hoards should be interpreted as ritual deposits too. The late occurrence of silver hoards in northern Fennoscandia may indicate the adoption of a Norse offering tradition in an unsettling time of changes in society and belief systems. The tradition may have been adopted by a previously "hybrid" population living in the interface between Norse and Sámi cultural groups. A hybrid group could have avoided the harsh methods of Christianization by leaning towards Sámi contacts and identity, though at the same time bringing with them certain elements that were characteristic of the old Norse faith.