Ancient Ukrainian coins were found in Ireland

A metal detecting fan discovered a unique find in the territory of Ireland in the summer of 2020. These ancient Ukrainian coins made from silver and gold were stamped in extremely limited number to pay merchants and mercenaries. This was the first time when such coins were found in Ireland (near Cork).

Is it a hoard of some ancient warrior?

The coins were discovered by a metal detecting fan (Robert Carley) who sent us pictures of his find and a short description.

Here is the text of the letter:

“These coins were detected on the ravine edge when part of it had devolved after heavy rain. Since I spend a lot of time metal detecting and I live not far from the place (Glanmire), I decided to go treasure hunting there at the weekend. I found the coins in the leather purse; basically, there were just fragments of it left. There were no other finds apart from the coins, and I thoroughly studied search every nook and cranny there. At first, I couldn’t define the origin of the coins, but when I did, I understood that the find was a unique one. Every fan of metal detecting would dream of finding something like that. I’d like to impart my happiness with others and show that Ireland is rich with valuable finds. All you have to do is look for them.”

Where did the coins come from?

These are very ancient coins from Kyivan Rus, and they date back to the 10th century. The monetary system of Kyivan Rus up to the end of the 10th century was represented mainly by gold or silver bars and coins of foreign countries such as Byzantium or some West European and Arabic countries.

Ukraine started to mint its own coins from gold and silver only under Vladimir the Great’s rule. Two types of coins were in circulation: golden (called a zlatnik) and silver ones (called srebrenik). The different alloy was used, but the images and letters stamped on the coins were identical.

The coins didn’t have any significant role in the country’s economy since they were mainly a symbol of the current ruler’s power.

Also, these were used to pay foreign mercenaries and merchants. It was probably a mercenary who brought them to the territory of Ireland, and he hid them there.

However, the owner hadn’t had a chance to get back for them, and they spent over a thousand years in the ground.

Gold and silver for the chosen ones

Repeatedly a consumption was made that the beginning of coin minting in Ancient Rus not so much answered the economic purpose as it was a political declaration of the country sovereignty and significance since money circulation in Rus was achieved due to imported Byzantinesque, Arabic and West European coins (the country didn’t have its own sources of coinage metals).

There are several kinds of silver coins in terms of silver purity – 800 and 300 purity. And what is interesting, coin samples of 800 silver purity are encountered more often!

Nowadays, high-quality coins are often found outside the approximate territory of Kyivan Rus’ while the low-quality ones are found inside the country limits. It looks like good silver coins (minted from Arabian silver) were used by merchants to pay their deals, while silver coins of lower purity (300) were used inside the country.

It appears from the small number of the found coin samples that minting gold coins was quite limited, and it didn’t last long (possibly, one or two years), and the number of coins was very small.

Nevertheless, all the coin samples we know for now we found in the hoards together with other coins peculiar to that time, and they have signs of being used; therefore, these were not some ritual, awards, or other kinds of coins. Basing on the fact that these coins were found in various hoards abroad, it looks like the gold coins participated in the international money circulation in the 11th century.

An ancient symbol of Tryzub (trident)

Another thing that makes these coins unique is that there is a symbol on them, the one you can now see on a coat of arms of a European country – Ukraine. The central armorial bearing of the Ukrainian coat of arm is a ‘trident’ (Ukr. Trizub).

This symbol is a family coat of arms of the Rurik dynasty. Archeologists found such symbols on coins, stamps, rings, arms, and wall paintings of Kyivan Rus’ times. The most famous symbols are the family coat of arms of the Rurik dynasty, which were tridents of different styles depending on their belonging to each dynasty member.

With time the symbol representing its owner was used on stamps, and they started to use it in diplomatic and trading processes. It was kind of similar to diplomatic credentials. The modern coat of arms of Ukraine appeared after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the trident occupies the central place in it.