Amateurs Find Largest Ever Viking Gold Hoard in Denmark
Three amateur archaeologists recently found the largest Viking gold hoard ever discovered in Denmark. At 900 grams (1.948 pounds), the hoard consists of seven beautifully worked bracelets, six of gold and one of silver. The silver piece weighs about 90 grams.
“At Sønderskov Museum we are extremely excited about six gold bracelets that were recently handed in to the museum. They were discovered by Poul, Kristen and Marie that make up the metal detector group Team Rainbow,” says the museum’s Facebook page. Their full names are Poul Nørgaard Pedersen, Marie Aagaard Larsen and Kristen Dreiøe.
The group Team Rainbow Power includes Poul Nørgaard Pedersen, Marie Aagaard Larsen and Kristen Dreiøe (Photo by Jørn Larsen)
“One of the bracelets was decorated in the Jelling style – an art style that is thought to be closely related to the upper class in Viking society. This could mean that some of those closest to the king were based in Vejen Municipality.”
The group found the pieces in a field in Vejen, which is in Jutland. Ms. Larsen told the Danish National Museum (press release in Danish) that she was using her metal detector for just 10 minutes when she struck gold. The Danish National Museum said the “bangles” date to the 900s AD.
“We really felt that we had found the gold at the end of the rainbow when we found the first ring, but as there appeared more up, it was almost unreal,” Ms. Larsen told the museum. Her husband is Dreiøe, and Pedersen is their friend.
Sønderskov Museum curator and archaeologist Lars Grundvad said: “At the museum we had talked about that it could be interesting to explore the area with a metal detector, because a gold chain of 67 grams was found in 1911. But that amateur archaeologists in the course of a few days would find seven Viking bangles, I had in my wildest dreams never imagined.”
He said the seven bracelets are likely connected to the one found in 1911.
The Denmark National Museum’s Viking expert, Peter Pentz said: “To find just one of these rings is huge, so it is something special to find seven. The Viking Age is actually the ‘silver age’ when it comes to hoards. The vast majority of them contain only silver. If there is gold, it is always a small part, not like here, the majority.”
One of the bracelets; note the dragon heads. (Photo by Arnold Mikkelsen of the Denmark National Museum)
Mr. Pentz said there’s no doubt in his mind the treasure belonged to Viking elite, and the bracelets may have been used by a chief as alliance gifts, or as rewards or oath rings for his men.
According to Hurstwic.org in an article on Viking social classes, their society was divided into three groups: the middle class karls, the noble jarls and the slaves or bondsmen þræll. People could move from one class to another, the article states, adding:
Above [the karls] were the jarls, the noble class. The stories indicate that jarls lived in fine halls and led refined lives filled with a myriad of activities. But archaeological evidence to back up these details is lacking.
Jarls were distinguished by their wealth, measured in terms of followers, treasure, ships, and estates. The eldest son of the jarl was on the fast track to becoming the next jarl. But, by gaining enough fame and wealth, a karl could become a jarl. The power of a jarl depended upon the goodwill of his supporters. The jarl's essential task was to uphold the security, prosperity, and honor of his followers.
But why did such fabulous wealth end up in the ground? both Pentz and Grundvad ask. Mr. Pentz said perhaps someone buried it with the intent to go back and retrieve it later, but for some reason was unable to.
“It would be interesting to examine the wreck site closer as it might enlighten us as to why this valuable treasure has ended up in the ground,” Mr. Pentz said.
Mr. Grundvad agreed an archaeological survey would gives clues as to why the treasure was buried. He hopes the news of the find will help archaeologists raise money for an excavation, perhaps this fall, of the site, which is being kept secret for now.
Another find, of 750 grams (1.65 pounds), from Vester Vestad in south Jutland, was the largest Viking gold hoard found previously.
Team Rainbow Power will be compensated before the hoard goes on display at the Denmark National Museum.
Featured image: The seven bracelets likely belonged to a Viking nobleman and may have been used as oath rings for his men. (Denmark National Museum photo)
By Mark Miller