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Ancient Viking Riches in Denmark

Ancient Viking Riches Unearthed on a Farm in Denmark

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Archaeologists have uncovered a series of lavish Viking jewellery items at a farm site on Zealand, the largest island in Denmark, dating back 1,300 years.  It is thought that the items may be connected with a site named Lejre located about 10 kilometres away which, according to legend, was the place where the Kingdom of Denmark began, ruled by the royal family of the Scyldings before the conversion of the Danes to Christianity.

The findings, which were published in the Danish Journal of Archaeology, were made by a team of archaeologists and volunteers using metal detectors on the farmland, now called Verstervang.

The most spectacular item is a heart-shaped animal head made of copper alloy which may have formed part of a necklace and which demonstrates exquisite craftsmanship and artistic skills.  In addition to the animal image, the item also shows three masked figures, each with a "drooping moustache." A "circular mark is seen between the eyebrows and above this, two ears or horns emerge, giving the humanlike mask an animal character," said archaeologist Ole Thirup Kastholm, of the Roskilde Museum.  Judging by the features of the jewellery item, Kastholm believes it would have belonged to someone with connections to the elite milieu of the Viking age.

Another mysterious piece of jewellery found at Vestervang is a brooch which depicts a Christian cross and appears to have been created in continental Europe sometime between 500 and 750 AD. It contains gold textured in a waffle shape along with a cross made of red glass and semiprecious stone.  How the artefact arrived at a pre-Christian Viking-age farm site is a mystery, but it is possible that a Christian traveller brought it there.  It tells us about “close relations and networks between Southern Scandinavia and the European continent in late Iron Age, before the time of Christianization," Kastholm wrote.

Archaeologists and historians have suggested that the farm site may have been a farm controlled by a member of the elite from the legendary Lejre and may have been given to generations of retainers. "This would explain the extraordinary character of the stray finds contrasting with the somewhat ordinary traces of settlement", said Kastholm.

The story of the royal Scyldings is supposedly a myth written about in Norse literature and medieval chronicles, but archaeological excavations over the years have clearly shown that these traditions are built upon a background of material remains, which convincingly place Lejre amongst the most important localities in the Late Iron Age and Viking Age.

By April Holloway

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