Byzantine Emperors in Finland

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August 30, 2018 – In September 2017, a metal detectorist made a rare silver find near the medieval church of Sysmä. The Finnish Numismatic Society chose to sponsor the find due to its numismatic significance and uniqueness. The financial support from the Finnish Numismatic Society made it possible to conserve and exhibit the artifacts. The silver find will be on display in the National Museum’s Prehistory exhibition until the end of October.

A local imitation based on a rare gold coin (histamenon nomisma) of the Byzantine emperor Michael V (1041-1042). Photo: The National Museum of Finland.

Imitations of Byzantine Coins

The find includes 31 silver coins, a silver buckle, rings, silver and cross pendants and silver spirals. The coins and the silver pendant were attached to a necklace with loops. What makes the find so exceptional is the large number of Finnish imitations and coins that were used as jewelry. The artifacts include several previously unknown Finnish imitations of coins. The most significant is an imitation based on a rare gold coin of the Byzantine emperor Michael V (ruled 1041–1042), which is the only known piece of its kind. 

The oldest coins, dirhams, are from the early 900s. The imitations of Byzantine coins are approximately 100 years younger. There are plenty of known Iron Age relics that have been found in the vicinity of the medieval church of Sysmä: dwelling sites, burial sites and sacrificial stones. The area probably already had village-like habitation at the end of the Iron Age. Stationary relics are protected under the Antiquities Act (295/1963)

A local imitation based on Constantine IX (1042-1055) and Romanus III’s (1028-1034) miliaresion. Photo: The National Museum of Finland.

A film about the hoard

Investigations connected to the Sysmä silver find and its conservation are discussed in more detail in Yle KulttuuriCocktail’s short documentary ”Löytynyt: hopea-aarre”, (Found: A Silver Treasure), which will be shown at the exhibition. The short documentary, in Finnish, shows what the Iron Age silver items can tell us today.

The conservation unit of the National Museum of Finland had the honor of opening its doors to the Finnish Numismatic Society during the conservation and was able to take advantage of the deep knowledge of experts in their special field. 

The short documentary “Found: A Silver Treasure” is available on the KulttuuriCocktail website.

The National Museum of Finland owns the country’s biggest coin collection featuring more than 230,000 numismatic objects.

The best way of dealing with detectorists was developed by the “Portable Antiquities Scheme”. We reported about it in detail at CoinsWeekly.