Importance of terms: What is a wealth deposit?

Ester Oras


This paper discusses the importance of the terminology used to describe deliberately concealed separate artefact deposits. It is based on material from the eastern Baltic (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) 1.–9. century AD. A general overview of the main material characteristics of the source material and relevant research questions is presented. The article then discusses previous traditionally deployed terms and concepts relating to this specific study material (hoards, votive deposits, selective and special deposits etc). The pros and cons of each one of the terms is discussed and the difficulties of employing these concepts in current research is emphasised. A new term, ‘wealth deposit’, is introduced and discussed in detail. This term is defined as one or more objects of value that are hidden deliberately as an intended deposition of specifically chosen artefacts into a specifically chosen place in a specific manner. I argue that this term—‘wealth deposit’—is more appropriate for analysing the development of and changes in depositional practices in time and space, because it does not limit the source material in relation to a deposit’s production materials, number of objects, environment of concealment and, more importantly, by preconditioned interpretations as to why the deposit was made in the first place. A case study of Estonian wealth deposits is provided to illustrate the usefulness of this new term.

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How to cite: Oras, E 2013. Importance of terms: What is a wealth deposit?. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 22:61-82, DOI:

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Published on 14 February 2013.

ISSN: 2041-9015 | Published by Ubiquity Press | Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.