Diameter: 18.000 mm
Weight: 0.890 g
Coins and Medals
Base silver penny of Olaf III, 'the Peaceful'
Early Medieval, AD 1066-93
Minted in Norway
A wide-ranging coinage from 11th-century Norway
Olaf III Haraldsson, 'the Peaceful', king of Norway (AD 1066-93) gained his nickname because he did not inherit the warlike characteristics of his Viking ancestors. The death of his father Harald Hardruler at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in England in 1066 is often taken as a convenient end point for the Viking Age. Even so, it is clear that Norwegian contacts overseas continued during Olaf's reign. He issued a very recognisable coinage, which very crudely imitated Anglo-Saxon coins around the turn of the first millennium. Several of Olaf's coins have been found in the British Isles, even though finds of foreign coins are rare during this period.
Further afield, a coin of the same type presents a rare piece of evidence for early Scandinavian contact with North America. The Icelandic sagas tell us that Viking explorers discovered North America in the late tenth century, 500 years before Christopher Columbus. A short-lived Scandinavian settlement site has also been discovered at l'Anse aux Meadows, on the northern tip of Newfoundland. This dates from the early eleventh century, but a single coin from the early part of Olaf's reign was found further south in Maine, on a native American settlement site. It is not certain that Scandinavian settlers went so far south, and the coin may have made its way south through trade.
P. Grierson, Coins of Medieval Europe (London, Seaby, 1991)
M.M. Archibald, 'Against the tide; coin-movement from Scandinavia to the British Isles in the Viking Age', NNF-NYTT-1, 1 (1991), pp. 19-22
K. Skaare, 'An eleventh century Norwegian penny found on the Coast of Maine', NNF-NYTT, 2 (1979), pp. 4-17