The “huge” find consists of nearly one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of gold buried 1,500 years ago, according to a press release from the Vejlemuseerne Museum, which will exhibit the treasure.
Described by the museum as “one of the greatest, richest and finest golden treasures in Danish history to date”, the treasure was discovered at Vindelev, near the central Danish town of Jelling , by a novice detector called Ole Ginnerup Schytz.
Mads Ravn, head of research at Vejlemuseerne, told CNN he almost fell out of his chair when Schytz sent him a photo of an object, asking if he had anything important.
Ole Ginnerup Schytz, who had recently acquired his metal detector, discovered the treasure just hours after he began his search. Credit: Vejle Museums
Schytz had only recently acquired his metal detector and had received permission to use it on his friend’s grounds. A few hours after starting, he had discovered the treasure.
“I told him he might as well sell the detector now because it’s already peaked,” Ravn said, adding, “It’s not improving.”
Archaeologists from Vejlemuseerne then excavated the site with a team from the National Museum, discovering a treasure comprising “huge medallions the size of saucers”, according to the report. Vejlemuseerne.
The artifacts were buried in a longhouse by an Iron Age chieftain, revealing that Vindelev was a center of power at the time, the museum added.
Whoever buried the treasure would have been immensely rich and powerful, Ravn said, adding that the treasure contains thicker than normal medallions.
“I have never seen anything like it,” he said.
In the 6th century, the chef attracted skilled artisans to the area and then buried his great golden treasure. It is not known exactly why he buried him, but Ravn believes he was buried as an offering to the gods.
The artifacts may have been buried as an offering to the gods. Credit: Vejle Conservation Center
Some experts have suggested that the gold was buried to save it in wartime, but Ravn said the combination of objects suggests it was likely an offering.
The treasury contains decorated saucer-sized medallions called bracteates, as well as Roman coins that had been fashioned into jewelry.
One of the bracteates is decorated with a man’s head and several runes, as well as a horse and a bird. A runic inscription on the horse indicates “the top”, according to preliminary research, which could refer to the chief or the god Odin.
At the time, Norse mythology was developing and would have competed with older religions, Ravn said, about 300 years before the ancient sagas were written.
Some medallions are as big as saucers. Credit: Vejle Conservation Center
Additionally, a heavy Roman gold coin dates from the reign of Constantine the Great (AD 324-337) and reveals that Europe was already well connected in the Iron Age.
Roman coins show how mobile people were back then, Ravn said, with people from northern Europe moving south to loot or serve as mercenaries in Roman armies before bringing back the rooms at home.
“There weren’t these borders,” Ravn said, “so people were moving.”
The artifacts will be on display from February 2022. Credit: Vejle Conservation Center
The period also saw a climatic catastrophe caused by the ash cloud from a large volcanic eruption in Iceland in 536 AD, which led to years of famine.
“It was a very chaotic time in some ways,” Ravn said.
Some of Scandinavia’s greatest golden treasures were buried around this time, and some artefacts found on the island of Hjarno in central Denmark bear similarities to those on the latter treasure.
This suggests that there may have been an alliance between the leaders of the two regions and Denmark’s debut as a UK, Ravn said.
The treasure will be exhibited at the Vejlemuseerne in February 2022 as part of a major Viking exhibition.
“It’s kind of a pre-chapter of the Viking Age,” Ravn said. “We already have echoes of the start of the Viking Age around this time.”