Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Viking Maine Penny Mystery

The Maine Penny – Goddard Coin/Norwegian Silver Coin

The Maine Penny referred as the Goddard coin is a Norwegian silver penny which dates during the reign of Olaf Kyrre. It is described by the Maine State Museum as `the only pre-Columbian Norse artefact which is regarded as genuine found in the United State’, In 1957, during the second year of digging the Goddard site, a huge prehistoric Indian trade village in Penobscot Bay on the central Maine coast, a local resident together with amateur archaeologist Guy Mellgren discovered a small silver coin which was later identified as a Norse silver penny, by experts, dating between 1067 – 1093 AD though extensive archaeological investigation of the site, revealed no evidence for a Norse settlement.

An article in Time in 1978 stated the discovery site, as an ancient Indian rubbish heap near the coastal town of Blue Hill. A collection of 30,000 items from the site, over a period of time, were donated to the Maine State Museum. The coin at first was identified as British penny from the 12th century and most of the circumstances of its discovery were not preserved for record just as in the case with most of the 30,000 discoveries and in 1974 the coins were then donated.

Probably Considered a Hoax

Critics are speculating that the Maine penny could probably be a hoax and could have been deliberately placed at the site by Mellgren. Other similar coins of that era and the Maine penny were available in the market in the year 1957 and hence Mellgren could have had the opportunity of planting the coin at the site or could deceived by someone else, though the motive behind it all is not known.

The fact is that the coin was minted between 1065 and 1080 AD and these kinds of pennies were circulated widely during the 12th and the 13th centuries and the Goddard site dated 1180 to 1235 AD was within the circulation period.

Since the site dates around 200 years after the last Vinland voyages as described by the Norse sagas, it could probably be within that period when the Norse lived in Greenland with the possibility of visiting North America. Penny’s coastal origin is offered as evidence of the Vikings travel further south rather than Newfoundland or perhaps the coin could have been used for local trade, though the penny seems to be the only Norse artefact which was found at the site.

On Display at Maine State Museum

This according to evidence was a hub for large native trade market. A single artefact for example, identified as Dorset Eskimo burin had also been discovered which could support the idea that both the penny as well as the burin could have come to Maine by native trading channels from the Viking source in Newfoundland or Labrador.

Presently the coin is on display at the Maine State Museum and though the identity of the Maine Penny is no doubt an Olaf Kyrre silver penny, the Maine Museum as well as the Smithsonian website are in agreement that it had been found at the site and is an evidence of Viking presence in North American continent, the possibility of a hoax also came up. Though there is no solid evidence of a hoax, all the same, speculations are on regarding the archaeologist which created the coin, leaving much unresolved.

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