The town of Wieringen lies on the most northern tip of the province of North Holland, the Netherlands. The oldest reference to the place is in a document from the monastery of Fulda from the late eighth, early ninth century.1
Viking Age Relevance
At school, they teach Dutch children that Wieringen was an island during the Middle Ages. But it wasn’t all of the time. By the early Viking Age, Wieringen was probably still connected to the mainland. Textual evidence also confirms that people in that time lived in the area, in estuaries or on artificial mounds called terpen.
But the coastline was always subject to the tides and frequent flooding. And between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries (the secondary sources don’t quite seem to overlap), the Wadden islands emerged along the northern coastline, including Wieringen.2
Faint recollections, or rather legends about Vikings are still known in Wieringen to this day. Some are seemingly unrealistic, such as the plaque on the church in Hippolytushoef. It says the church was founded by Count Dirk I of Holland and ‘desecrated by the Heathens’. The thing we know from sources is that around 986 Dirk II actually restored this church. That would be 120 years after his father founded it, which seems too big a time gap.3
Another legend exists about two churches in Wieringen with their low doors in the northern wall. The general explanation suggests Northmen had to use these, and it forced them to bow before the altar. Another explanation is that the locals had to use it to bow to the Viking chief, or to the North…4
A legend with some foundation in history, is the Danish chieftain Rorik of Dorestad. He appears in medieval texts as the ruler of Frisia around 850. There is no archaeological evidence for his presence in the Low Countries, just as there is no evidence to confirm the presence of the Vikings in the region.5 Even the treasure hoards that were discovered in northern provinces did not stand out as something a Viking would have buried in the ground for safekeeping. Until the Westerklief hoards, that is.6
The Westerklief Hoard I
A metal detector enthusiast found the first hoard in Westerklief in 1996. The first to learn and publish about the discovery was the scholar Jan Besteman. He would later also collaborate with international scholars to further analyse the significance of the hoard compared to others found in Europe.
Besteman dated the treasure around 850 based on the Carolingian coins. The rest of the silver is originally Danish, confirming the Scandinavian origin of this hoard. As such, the hoard also confirms Danish Vikings roamed and traded in these parts, and more or less confirms the Danish rule in Frisia between 840 and 885.7
Coins and silver were found in a small Badorf ware pot that was stuffed with grass. An analysis of the grass showed that the jar had been hidden on a spring day, in a relatively open, ungrazed meadow. The style of this jewellery, particularly the decorations on the bracelets and the twisted necklace, indicates that it was made in Denmark.8
The Westerklief Hoard II
In 1999 and 2001 two more hoards were found three meters apart in the soil that are considered part of the same hoard. This, too, is a Viking hoard of Danish origin, but it has a very different mix than the first hoard. The majority of the coins are Arabic and Central Asian and date back to c. 711-c. 870. The Carolingian coins are a minority. Besteman says about this: “In this respect the Westerklief II hoard has certain characteristics in common with most early medieval Islamic coin hoards from outside the territory of the former Islamic empire (the Caliphate).”9 As for the batch of Carolingian coins, Besteman thinks these were acquired locally and not as part of raids on West Francia.10
Another interesting observation is found in a recent work on Viking hoards, explaning how the dating of the coins can show how swiftly a coin travelled from one place to another. For example, the Westerklief hoard dirham minted in 871 was there along with the most recent Carolingian coin dating back to 875. This means that the dirham must have travelled from the Middle East to West Francia in under four years.11
The Hoards Compared
Both hoards were found in Badorf ware pottery.
First hoard (1996): c. 850, Carolingian coins, three Arabic coins, and jewelry. Second hoard (1999, 2001): c. 875–77, Arabic and Carolingian coins and hack silver. 12
Information Centre Vikings on Wieringen: www.vikingen.nl.
- ‘Wieringen,’ Wikipedia. Last updated 20 November 2017. Last accessed 17 August 2019. ↩
- Horst Fuhrmann, Germany in the High Middle Ages: c. 1050–1200. Transl. by Timothy Reuter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995 [reprint]), pp. 6–7.
Egge Knol, ‘Frisia in Carolingian Times,’ In: Viking Trade and Settlement in Continental Western Europe edited by Iben Skibsted Klaesøe (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2010.), pp. 44, 54 [pp. 43–60]. ↩
- Jan–Simon Hoogschagen, ‘6. De Vikingen op Wieringen,’ In Pago Wirense. Last Accessed 16 August 2019. [Translation: 6. The Vikings on Wieringen]. ↩
- Jan–Simon Hoogschagen, ‘Wieringer Legendes – de heidensche kapel en de Noormannenpoortjes,’ In Pago Wirense. Last Accessed 16 August 2019. [Translation: Wieringer Legends – the heathen chapel and the Northmen gates]. ↩
- See ‘Rorik of Dorestad,’ The Viking Archive. Published 25 April 2019. Last accessed 18 August 2019. ↩
- Nelleke L. IJssennagger, Central because Liminal: Frisia in a Viking Age North Sea World. (Groningen: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 2017), pp. 19.
Egge Knol and Nelleke IJssennagger, ‘Palaeogeography and People: Historical Frisians in an archaeological light.’ In: Frisians and their North Sea Neighbours: From the fifth century until the Viking Age edited by John Hines and Nelleke IJssennagger (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2017), pp. 19 [pp. 5–24].
Nelleke IJssennnagger, ‘Medieval Frisia more ‘Viking’ than supposed,’ University of Groningen. Published 15 November 2017. Last Accessed 17 August 2019. ↩
- Jan C. Besteman, ‘De zilveren Vikingschat van Westerklief op Wieringen,’ in: Westfrieslands Oud en Nieuw, Volume 64 (1997), pp.146 [pp. 146–148]. ↩
- ‘Viking Hoard,’ Museum of Antiquities, the Netherlands. Last Accessed 16 August 2019. ↩
- Jan Besteman, Gert Rispling and Simon Coupland, ‘A second Viking silver hoard from Wieringen: Westerklief II.’ In: Jaarboek voor Munt– en Penningkunde 93–4 (2006–7). (Amsterdam: Koninklijk Nederlands Genootschap voor Munt– en Penningkunde, 2009), pp. 22 [pp. 5–80]. ↩
- Jan Besteman, Gert Rispling and Simon Coupland, (2009), pp. 60. ↩
- Jacek Gruszczyński, Viking Silver, Hoards and Containers: The Archaeological and Historical Context of Viking–Age Silver Coin Deposits in the Baltic c. 800–1050. (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019), Appendix A1. ↩
- Christoph Kilger, ‘Kaupang from Afar: Aspects of the Interpretations of Dirham Finds in Northern and Eastern Europe between the Late 8th and Early 10th Centuries,’ in: Means of Exchange edited by Dagfinn Skre (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2007), pp. 233–235 [pp. 199–252]. ↩