A Long Way from Home

Published January 4, 2024 | 1 min read

By Sydney Stewart

A metal detectorist in Vestre Slidre, a rural city in Norway’s south-central Innlandet County, found an unexpected object while exploring the mountainside—an ancient Byzantine gold coin. The piece, a histamenon nomisma, depicts Jesus holding a Bible on one side, and the other features co-emperors Basil II and Constantine VIII. Experts believe the Byzantine coin, which was found in exceptionally good condition despite traveling 1,600 miles from its point of origin, was likely struck between A.D. 977 and 1025. 

The recently discovered ancient Byzantine gold coin. (Photo: Marine Kaspersen/Innlandet County Municipality)

 It is possible the coin once belonged to Norwegian King Harald Hardråde, who ruled in 1046-66 after serving as a guard in Constantinople. According to Norwegian officials, it was customary at the time for guards to loot the palace after an emperor passed and that “during Harald’s time in Byzantium, three emperors had died.” Other theories assert that the gold coin found its way to Norway through the country’s early salt trade or that clergy members left it behind on their travels.

Because the metal detectorist uncovered the coin so late in the season, experts will further investigate the site later this year.

A version of this article appeared in the February 2024 issue of The Numismatist (money.org).