Lost, sacrificed or buried? A story of coins found under the church floor *

Frida Ehrnsten
Finland was monetised in the course of the Middle Ages, beginning in the coastal parts of the country in the thirteenth century and followed by the inland areas during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 1 Thereafter coins were used almost everywhere where people interacted. As small objects coins have always been easy to lose, and coins are indeed a very common sight in the archaeological find material from historical periods. There are however few places that present such concentrations
more » ... ch concentrations of coins as churches do. The church was both an institution and a place that endured from generation to generation. If a church was destroyed by fire, people did not hesitate to rebuild a new church on the same spot. The church was the focus of community life, and most people visited it regularly. Many of these people carried coins with them to church, as offerings, contributions to the collection and perhaps to use in transactions after the service. In the crowded, dark church coins were easily lost and difficult to retrieve. In Finland, including Åland, over 13,500 coins have been salvaged from 78 different churches. Around 15 % of these coins can be dated to the medieval period, while the largest numbers (75 %) derive from the 17 th and 18 th centuries. On the Åland islands the medieval coins form a bigger group, constituting almost 25 % of the total number of coins. This is because of the slightly earlier monetisation of Åland, as well as the condition of the church floors in later periods. On the mainland the richest material is found along the coast, in the areas that were the most densely settled already during the Middle Ages. These areas saw the construction of stone churches, which subsequently have been the target of archaeological investigations related to restoration works. Only a few of the post-medieval stone churches and churchyards in Ostrobothnia and inland Finland have been excavated. Thus the distribution of church finds follows the boundaries of early * I wish to thank Elina Screen for correcting the English of my article.