Last fall, metal detectorists turned up some old coins in a Polish field. Now, what had at first seemed like a not-so-surprising find has the potential to be quite the opposite, reports the New York Times. Archaeologists have since found nearly 120 silver coins at the location near the town of Biskupiec, all of which were believed to have been minted about 1,200 years ago in what is now France, per Live Science. So how did the coins get from there to a field roughly 1,000 miles away? A working theory is that the money was paid as ransom to Vikings to keep them from attacking Paris. The Vikings would have then brought the coins to their trading post of Truso, which was located about 30 miles from Biskupiec, and from there they entered the local economy.
"This is an exceedingly rare and surprising find," Lukasz Szczepanski, head of archaeology at a museum in the Polish town of Ostroda, tells the Times. "We previously only knew what happened in Paris from written sources, but now, suddenly, we have it in a physical form." The theory still needs to be confirmed through further chemical analysis of the coins—to better determine exactly when and where they were minted—and a larger excavation of the field (once its current crops are harvested). The discovery of more coins would bolster the theory, given that the ransom paid to the Vikings by Carolingian King Charles the Bald in AD845 was said to be more than two tons of silver, per the Times and Ancient Origins. Either way, it's the first time so many Carolingian coins have been found in Poland, notes Live Science. In fact, only three had previously turned up. (Read more Poland stories.)