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Bronze Age Treasure Accidentally Found in Swedish Forest

Bronze Age Treasure Accidentally Found in Swedish Forest

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The Nordic or Scandinavian Bronze Age lasted from 1700-500 BC – ancient prehistory – with major metallurgical influences from Central Europe. The people from the Nordic Bronze Age were adept metal workers, who imported metal and exchanged amber in return. Jewelry and artifacts made of bronze and gold were common. In fact, the number of metal deposits makes the Nordic Bronze Age one of the richest anywhere in the world.

Recently, a Swedish historical and orienteering enthusiast stumbled upon a stash of 50 Bronze Age relics, dated from 750-500 BC, in a forest near Alingsås in western Sweden. This Bronze Age treasure includes very well-preserved chains, necklaces, and needles, all made expertly and beautifully from bronze. They were probably lying deeply entrenched in the dirt in crevices between boulders, but were dug out by wild animals.

The Bronze Age treasure was found in a forest near Alingsås in western Sweden. (Johanna Lega/CC BY 4.0)

The Bronze Age treasure was found in a forest near Alingsås in western Sweden. (Johanna Lega/ CC BY 4.0 )

Status in the Scandinavian Bronze Age

The finds are fascinating from a historical and aesthetical point of view as they point to the advancement of metallurgy as early on as 2 millennia ago. In a statement, Johan Ling, professor of archaeology at the University of Gothenburg, says, “Most of the finds are made up of bronze items that can be associated with a woman of high status from the Bronze Age”.

“Most of the finds are made up of bronze items that can be associated with a woman of high status from the Bronze Age”. (Mikael Agaton/CC BY 4.0)

“Most of the finds are made up of bronze items that can be associated with a woman of high status from the Bronze Age”. (Mikael Agaton/ CC BY 4.0 )

During the Bronze Age, Scandinavian society became deeply divided between the wealthy and the non-wealthy. Princes surrounded themselves with a lot of finely crafted bronze and gold pieces, which were arguably the finest anywhere in Europe.

The discovery also demonstrates just how uncommon these finds are – the adoption of luxury items by elite members of society indicates that proliferation to the lower classes was not carried out. Thus, records of the lower classes are difficult to obtain and study. In any case, this is a period which has not been as well recorded as other historical periods.

The Bronze Age Treasure

The discovery was made by Tomas Karlsson, who is also a cartographer. In the process of studying and updating a map in early April, he thought the artifacts were just junk when he first stumbled upon them. "It looked like metal garbage. Is that a lamp lying here, I thought at first… but it all looked so new. I thought they were fake”, said Karlsson.

"It looked like metal garbage. Is that a lamp lying here, I thought at first… but it all looked so new. I thought they were fake.” (Mikael Agaton/ Mats Hellgren/CC BY 4.0)

"It looked like metal garbage. Is that a lamp lying here, I thought at first… but it all looked so new. I thought they were fake.” ( Mikael Agaton / Mats Hellgren /CC BY 4.0)

As obligated by law, he informed the local authorities - who sent out a team of historians and archaeologists to understand and assess the finds. This was a team from the Administration for Cultural Development, along with researchers from University of Gothenburg.

In total, the discovery includes 50 bronze items in different degrees of preservation, 20 indeterminate bronze items, and 10 fragments of iron. Residual products from bronze casting, a rod, and horse spurs (found earlier in Denmark) were also found and sent away with the entire booty for preservation.

In total, the discovery includes 50 bronze items in different degrees of preservation, 20 indeterminate bronze items, and 10 fragments of iron. (Mikael Agaton/CC BY 4.0)

In total, the discovery includes 50 bronze items in different degrees of preservation, 20 indeterminate bronze items, and 10 fragments of iron. (Mikael Agaton/ CC BY 4.0 )

Pernilla Morner, an antiquities expert for Vastra Gotaland region, said that "not since the bronze shields from Froslunda were excavated from a field in Skaraborg in the mid-1980s has such an exciting find from the Bronze Age been made in Sweden". Alingsås is in the rich Vastra Gotaland region in western Sweden.

Forests and Sacred Spaces

What puzzles these historians is the placement of these objects in a forest. This is because generally ritual items outside the scope of burials are placed near sacred spots, like rivers, lakes, and ponds, according to Heritage Daily . Archaeologists also add that ancient tribes and cultures would generally leave such finds near rivers or wetlands as a mark of cultural and symbolic importance.

The County Administrative Board deemed the discovery as one of the largest and most spectacular Bronze Age finds ever. It is also called a “depot find”, according to BBC. A depot find can be defined as a hoard left as an offering or ritual to gods, or as an investment for life after death.

"They have been used to adorn different body parts, such as necklaces, bracelets and ankle bracelets, but there were also large needles and eyelets used to decorate and hold up different pieces of clothing, probably made of wool," Professor Ling remarked, elucidating upon his hypothesis of the finds being associated with a woman of high status.

“There were also large needles and eyelets used to decorate and hold up different pieces of clothing, probably made of wool.” (Mats Hellgren/CC BY 4.0)

“There were also large needles and eyelets used to decorate and hold up different pieces of clothing, probably made of wool.” (Mats Hellgren/ CC BY 4.0 )

Top Image: A Swedish orienteering enthusiast accidentally found a Bronze Age treasure in a forest. Source: Mats Hellgren/ CC BY 4.0

By Sahir Pandey

References

Heritage Daily. 2021. Archaeologists excavate Bronze Age treasures in Sweden. Available at: https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/04/archaeologists-excavate-bronze-age-treasures-in-sweden/138852

PHYS. 2021. Swedish orienteering enthusiast finds Bronze Age treasure trove . Available at: https://phys.org/news/2021-04-swedish-enthusiast-bronze-age-treasure.html

Local, The. 2021. In pictures: Swedish orienteering enthusiast finds rare Bronze Age treasure. Available at: https://www.thelocal.se/20210429/in-pictures-swedish-orienteering-enthusiast-finds-rare-bronze-age-treasure/

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