newsDenis Waterford 9105453

Viking Weights

Here is the only Viking weight decorated with a human face. It is an enamel-decorated lead weight, dating to about 850, one of over 200 found during archaeological excavations at the Viking site at Woodstown near Waterford City.

Before coins were used by the Vikings they traded using pieces of silver for money which was weighed using lead weights like this one. It shows a bearded human face and is unique.

Silver pieces were weighed by merchants on simple scales and it was common for merchants to have their own sets of weights. Over 200 weights have been found in Woodstown, the largest number of Viking weights ever found on a Viking site anywhere in Britain or Ireland. Interestingly all the Woodstown weights weigh the same as weights used in Scandinavia and probably came from there.

The weights themselves are generally made from lead and come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very plain and functional while others are highly decorated with copper discs or pieces of crystal. The most interesting example is a lead weight decorated in enamel with a human face. This weight was undoubtedly a much-prized possession and could well have originated in one of the great commercial centres of the time such as Constantinople.