Denmark: Amateur archaeologist finds pre-Viking gold
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The real-life buried treasure was discovered by detectorist Ole Ginnerup Schytz at Vindeleve near Jelling, Denmark. The site has since been excavated by archaeologists from Vejle Museum (VejleMuseerne), who have counted 22 priceless artefacts from the pre-Viking era. Even more incredibly, Mr Schytz said he stumbled upon the treasure trove by “pure luck”.
The detectorist had been out on a walk, using his trusty metal detector to scan a field owned by a former classmate.
Little did he know at the time he was about to encounter one of the biggest troves of treasure in Danish history.
He told Danish broadcaster TV2: “It was full of smashes and mud. I had no idea about it, so the only thing I could think of was that it looked like the lid of a can of sour herring.”
Much to his surprise, however, the “lid” turned out to be just one of more than 20 pieces of gold jewellery buried in the ground.
In total, Mr Schytz helped uncover more than two pounds of intricate gold medallions or bracteates, some of which are as large as saucers.
He added: “Denmark is 43,000 square kilometres and then I happened to choose to put the detector exactly where this find was.”
After archaeologists from Vejle Museum descended on the site, they determined the treasure was buried inside the longhouse of a local chieftain.
The site itself would have been a village more than 1,500 years ago.
According to Peter Vang Petersen, Museum Inspector at The National Museum of Denmark, the discovery marks the biggest haul of treasure found in Denmark in decades.
The discovery has even been compared to the Golden Horns of Gallehus – a part of early fifth-century drinking horns formed from sheet gold that were found in 1639 and 1734, respectively.
Mr Vang Petersen said: “This is the biggest find that has come in the 40 years I have been at the National Museum.
“We have to go back to the 16th and 18th centuries to find something similar.
“It really is a wonderful find for an archaeologist.”
According to the expert, the gold jewellery would have been worn by women in the late Iron Age.
The gold medallions were adorned with intricate patterns and runes that were believed to offer magic protection.
The medallions also shed light on the infant days of Nordic mythology, with depictions of the Norse god Odin.
These depictions would have been inspired by Roman religious and cultural practices.
Similar Roman jewellery often depicted the Roman emperor, who was seen by many Romans as a living, breathing deity.
This is also evidenced by a number of Roman-era coins found in the trove, some of which depict the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (285 to 337 AD).
The coins predate the Danish longhouse by a few hundred years and paint a picture of how far gold travelled throughout the European continent as a result of trade and war.
Mr Vang Petersen said: “The Scandinavians have always been good at getting ideas from what they say in foreign countries, and then turning it into something that suits them.”
Starting in February next year, the gold treasure will go on display at the Vejle Museum’s Viking exhibition.
The medallions will then be shipped off to the Nationa Museum after about a year, where they will be displayed alongside similar hoards of gold.
Mr Schytz meanwhile said it is hard to believe the magnitude of his discovery.
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