A hoard of ancient gold was recently discovered by a metal detectorist in Denmark. Now that the treasures have been unearthed and cleaned archaeologists are calling the find “one of the biggest gold treasures ever discovered in Denmark”.
Denmark’s Jutland is a large peninsula that ‘juts’ out from the mainland separating the North and Baltic Seas, and bordering Germany to the south. It was here that almost a kilogram of historically priceless golden treasures were excavated. Dating back 1,500 years, the treasure collection is being described as “the most comprehensive archaeological discovery in Danish history.”
A Pre-Viking Tribal-Germanic Treasure From Scandinavia
According to Vejle Museum , who will host the “The Big Viking Exhibition” next February, the treasure was discovered at a site called “Vindelev,” about 8 kilometers from Jelling in central Jutland. Jelling was an important royal monument site during the 10th century reigns of Gorm the Old and his son Harald Bluetooth . The site is famous for the discovery of the two massive Jelling rune stones dating from the 10th century. In 1994, the two magnificent rune stones, all of the burial mounds, and a small local church were all awarded UNESCO World Heritage status for being “unparalleled examples of both pagan and Christian Nordic culture. However, this hoard pre-dates both the stones and the Vikings.
After the tip off from the detectorist, archaeologists finished excavating at Vindelev, in the shadow of Jelling and unearthed almost a kilogram of gold jewelry. The archaeologists at the Vejle Museum said the find is “one of the biggest gold treasures ever discovered in Denmark.” In fact, according to a report in CPH Post , the museum’s head of research, Mads Ravn, ranked the discovery “in the top five all time.”
An Ancient Treasure “Completely Unique In Quality”
Ravn told TV2 News that the discovery was made last December by Ole Ginnerup Schytzusing, a local metal detectorist, and that the find was kept secret until now. The total weight of the treasure is just under a kilogram (945 grams) and it dates to around 500 years before the reigns of Old Gorm and Harald Bluetooth, having been buried around 1,500 years ago. “Qualitatively,” according to Ravn, it’s also quite special because “there are runes and special motifs not seen before.”
The Vindelev treasure consists of “saucer-sized, beautifully decorated medallions, so-called bracteates.” There are Roman coins that have been refashioned into jewelry, representing a technique “that has never before been seen in comparable examples,” according to Ravn.
In particular, a heavy gold coin dated to the reign of Roman emperor Constantine the Great between 285-337 AD, is one example of why this treasure discovery is being described by experts “as completely unique in quality.”
Regional Kings, Or God Heads?
Some of the gold pieces are marked with ancient motifs and runic inscriptions. It is thought these symbols refer to regional rulers of the time. One thin gold bracteate bears a male head with a horse and a bird below it. A runicinscription between the horse’s muzzle and forelegs reads “houaʀ” – meaning “the High.” It is almost certain that “the High” refers to a regional ruler, however, the researchers also say it might be a reference to the High god of Norse religion and mythology – Odin.
According to the museum archaeologists the treasure was buried “in an Iron Age longhouse by a wealthy man.” It is thought to be no coincidence that most of Denmark’s largest gold finds date from the middle of the 5th century. A 2018 Science.org article speaking with archaeologist and medieval historian, Michael McCormick, and asked him what year in European history “was the worst to be alive?” The answer was “536 AD”.
Treasures From A Pre-Viking Armageddon?
McCormick, who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past, said 536 AD “was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive.” An ash cloud cast from a large volcanic eruption in the year 536 AD created a global climate catastrophe sparking decades of “misgrowth and famine,” according to the Science article. It is believed the ash cloud caused common people across Scandinavia to “reject the old rulers and lay down lots of gold during this very period. Maybe to save it from enemies, or maybe to appease the gods.”
This volcanic event not only likely accounts for the recently buried hoard, but also for another golden treasure dated to the same period that was unearthed on the small island of Hjarnø, in Horsens fjord. Therefore, these 1,500 year old golden treasures serve as metallic Sagas, offering us a story of a climatological Armageddon from a bygone age.
Top image: A few of the many items found in the golden treasure hoard recently discovered in Denmark. Source: Vejle Museum
By Ashley Cowie