Iron Age gold stash found by detectorist in Denmark
- Published: Oct 4, 2021, 8 AM
One of the largest, richest and most beautiful gold treasures in Danish history so far was recently unearthed in a small town in Denmark.
The enormous find of almost 1 kilogram of gold, including some huge medallions the size of saucers, is finally again seeing the light of day after 1,500 years in the Danish soil. The hoard was discovered in Vindelev, near Jelling, in the central western region of the country, north of Germany and west of Denmark’s capital of Copenhagen.
Ole Ginnerup Schytz had just acquired a metal detector and had been given permission to walk on land belonging to his old classmate. After a few hours, he found the hoard.
The site was subsequently excavated by archaeologists from Vejlemuseerne, in collaboration with experts from the National Museum and with funding from the Agency for Culture and Palaces.
Ancient center of trade
Archaeologists now know that the treasure was buried in a longhouse in a village about 1,500 years ago. The studies and the many samples and data collected are expected to provide invaluable knowledge about the connections and circumstances that led to the treasure being buried apparently by an Iron Age chieftain. The enormous amount of gold discovered shows that Vindelev was a center of power in the late Iron Age.
“Only a member of the absolute cream of society would have been able to collect a treasure like the one found here,” said Mads Ravn, who heads research at Vejlemuseerne, through a press release. “Although the name Vindelev can be linked to the time of migration, there was nothing that indicated that a previously unknown warlord or chieftain lived here, long before the kingdom of Denmark arose in the following centuries.”
Here, just about five miles from Jelling, which in the 10th century became Denmark’s cradle, a powerful Iron Age chieftain in the sixth century apparently managed to create wealth and attract skilled artisans. For unknown reasons he chose to bury this large gold hoard, perhaps to save it in case of war, or perhaps as a sacrifice to higher powers.
What’s in the hoard?
The Vindelev Hoard consists of saucer-sized, beautifully decorated medallions, so-called bracteates.
There are also Roman coins that have been made into jewelry.
One of the finds is a bracteate that has a male head with a braid and a number of runes on it. Under the head, a horse is seen and a bird with which the man communicates. A runic inscription between the horse’s muzzle and forelegs means, according to preliminary interpretations, “the high one,” which may refer to the ruler who buried the find; in later mythological contexts, the term is also associated with the god Odin.
There are also much older coins from the Roman Empire.
Most notable is a heavy gold coin from the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (A.D. 285 to 337). Constantine legalized Christianity among the Romans in 313, a few hundred years before the coin that bears his face found its resting place in Vindelev under a Danish longhouse, 1,242 miles further north.
On exhibit in 2022
In less than six months, the Vindelev Hoard can be viewed as part of Vejlemuseerne’s large Viking exhibition, which opens Feb. 3, 2022.
The exhibition tells the story of Harald Bluetooth’s eastern connections and alliances, and the formation of the early Danish kingdom that created the foundation for the Jelling dynasty.
The exhibition is a collaboration with Moesgaard Museum, which will have an exhibition about other aspects of the Vikings’ travels to the east.
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