One of the most significant discoveries was a rare silver coin about the size of a five pence piece called a ‘sceatta’, which was found in a pit barely two metres square created as part of work on a new lift shaft.
The mint condition of the coin allowed scientists to date it to the beginning of the 9th century which provides evidence of a major settlement - complete with its own mint - near the site of the Minster during the Anglo-Saxon period. The discovery is particularly significant as it has helped archaeologists and historians understand what was happening in York during this mysterious period, between the Romans leaving York in 410AD and the arrival of the Vikings in 866AD.
“Its condition indicates that it was probably never used - and given how quickly valuable coins were re-melted, this means it is likely to have been dropped close to where it was originally minted,” explained archaeologist Ian Milstead, from York Archaelological Trust. “The presence of a mint confirms York’s position of power and authority in the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria and, indeed, the country, during what has been thought of as a period of decline.
“This mint, and the wealth that would have surrounded it, may well have bankrolled the Anglian city and possibly the establishment of the Viking city - perhaps attracting the Vikings who stole the money and then settled here.”
The sceatta is now on display in Revealing York Minster in the Undercroft, alongside other treasures found during the excavations in 2012 and the 1960s and 70s.