Lead weight with coin of Ethelred I

Viking, 9th century AD
From Wareham, Dorset, England

A weight for trading in Viking England

Large numbers of lead weights have survived from the Viking Age in Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia. These were used to weigh out silver, both for trade and probably also for the division of plunder. Payments in silver could take the form of coins, but ingots and so-called hacksilver were also common.

Many of the weights had coins, or small pieces of jewellery inserted into the top. Several coins are known with Anglo-Saxon coins inserted, such as this one of Ethelred I, king of Wessex (reigned AD 865-71). Ethelred's coins were made of silver of a poor quality, and the pin holding the coin to the weight is actually made of finer silver than the coin.

The coin dates from the very end of Ethelred's reign, and was probably fastened to the weight not long after. The weight was found near Wareham in Dorset. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that a Viking army took possession of Wareham in 875-76. A later chronicle adds the information that Alfred the Great, king of Wessex (871-899) paid the Vikings to go away. A weight of this sort would probably have been used to check the payment.

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More information


M.M. Archibald, 'Two ninth-century Viking weights found near Kingston, Dorset', British Numismatic Journal-6, 68 (1998)

J. Graham-Campbell & D. Kydd, The Vikings-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)

G. Williams, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking coin-weights', British Numismatic Journal-4, 69 (1999)


Height: 17.000 mm
Diameter: 28.000 mm
Weight: 99.970 g

Museum number

CM 1991-3-4-2



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