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norse coin back norse coin front

In the summer of 1957, during his second year of digging at the Goddard site on the central Maine coast, amateur archaeologist Guy Mellgren found a small silver coin near the center of the site, at a depth of 5" below the surface. In 1978 the coin was identified by Peter Seaby, a British coin dealer, as a Medieval Norwegian penny. This identification was confirmed in 1979 by Kolbjørn Skaare, a leading authority on Medieval Norse coinage, who examined the coin at the Maine State Museum and arranged for neutron activation testing of a small fragment from it. Skaare's analysis confirmed the coin's authenticity as a Norwegian penny issued during the first half of King Olaf Kyrre's reign, AD 1065-1080. The Goddard coin remains the only pre- Columbian Norse artifact generally regarded as genuine found within the United States.

Extensive archaeological investigation of the Goddard site has revealed no evidence for a Norse settlement there. Rather, it seems to have been the locus of a sizeable native settlement between 600 and 900 years ago, quite possibly the largest Native American village in Maine at the time. It is possible that the Norse visited this village, leaving the coin behind in trade. However, there is a good deal of evidence that the Goddard village was an important hub within a far-ranging native trade network, one which brought goods from as far away as Pennsylvania, the Great Lakes and Labrador to the site. Thus, we think the most likely explanation for the coin’s presence is that it was obtained by natives somewhere else, perhaps in Newfoundland where the only known New World Norse settlement has been found at L’Anse aux Meadows, and that it eventually reached the Goddard site through native trade channels.


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