Ancient Stamp Found at Pre-Viking Site in Denmark May Point to a Powerful King and Power Center
In Falster, southeast Denmark, a metal detector enthusiast has stumbled upon a “very rare find”, which could potentially change Danish history! A faint beep on his machine revealed a special Pre-Viking stamp in the ground called a ‘Patrice’, used to create gold images, and was a votive offering to the gods. Just 2 centimeters in length, it is believed to be a representation of a former royal power in Falster.
Lennart Larsen, the detectorist, immediately informed the Museum Lolland-Falster, recognizing the importance and value of his find, and the exact location has been withheld on the museum’s request.
“I got a beep on my equipment. But I was unsure what it was. But I could see it was old, he said. I found it in a field that we go to with a metal detector. Here we have previously found, among other things, fibrils, special clothespins, in the ground”, he told TV2 EAST.
A Significant Settlement, a Powerful Ruler
The discovery, coupled with the unearthing of weight fragments, indicates the existence of a significant settlement, possibly linked to a powerful individual or an early king.
“This indicates that we are standing in a place that has meant some trade and probably also had some form of cultic activity. And although it’s a bit wild to say, it could also indicate that it was once a center of power on Falster,” said museum inspector and archaeologist Marie Brinch from the Lolland-Falster Museum.
Archaeologists have long been intrigued by Falster's history, which exhibits signs of activity from the Iron Age (500 BC-400 AD) and the Viking Age. While various archaeological remains have been found, few offer insights into where the island's elite resided before the Viking Age (800-1050 AD) fully emerged.
“Falster is a small place and we may not have a total center of power in the area, but a number of localities, that can be described as parts of a larger complex connected to the same power. Among other things, we have the large Hannenov ring found in the forest north of the Viking castle, and now these finds that indicate that this is a center of power. It makes sense - also because, like all other centers of power at that time, it is at the right distance of about five kilometers to the coast,” adds Brinch.
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The Patrice: A Rarity of a Stamping Tradition of a Bygone Era
The Patrice is believed to date back to the Germanic Iron Age, just preceding the Viking Age, approximately between 500 and 700 AD. During this period, a unique tradition of sacrificing gold images to the gods in ritualistic practices prevailed.
The Patrice Pre- Viking Stamp on a white background. (Lolland Falster Museum)
Referred to as "gold guys" in ancient Swedish, such objects are abundant on Bornholm at Sorten Muld and in Skåne. However, they have also been found in Zealand and Funen, albeit with slight stylistic variations. These gold images, often formed by pressing thin layers of gold against stamps, are prevalent in the region, reports Arkeonews.
Margrethe Watt, an expert from the National Museum, dedicated to collecting and studying ancient gold coins and stamps, emphasizes the rarity of these finds. Throughout the entire Nordic region, including the one found on Falster, only 28 stamps have been unearthed. Among them, the stamp from Falster stands out as particularly unique. Notably, no stamps or gold coins have ever been discovered south of the Baltic Sea!
“The stamps are all very special. We only find them in the most important places of residence – those that we call the central places in the technical language. These are the places that we associate with the greatest magnates or kings. That’s the league we’re in here. And this stamp is at the same time very much for itself in its style,” she says.
An Influential Figure: Genderless or God?
Watt emphasizes the significance of this era, as it marks a time when influential figures amassed wealth and power while also gaining control over religious practices. The images on the Patrice from Falster depict a person in elaborate clothing with hands held in a distinctive manner, facing downwards, and palms visible. In both Christian and pre-Christian cultures, this posture symbolizes submission or revelation, a theme even prevalent in contemporary churches.
The artwork on the Patrice ensures the depicted figure, be it a god or a king, appears strong and flawless. However, the exact identity remains a mystery. By the 500s, the worship of the Norse gods, known as asa faith, had started gaining momentum across Denmark. Despite this knowledge, Watt refrains from speculating about the specific image represented on the Patrice, considering it an evolving puzzle with missing pieces.
The worship of the Norse gods, known as asa faith was common across ancient Denmark. (Victor villalobos, CC BY-SA 4.0)
“This means that it is either a royal figure who submits to a god – or that it is a god who reveals himself to a human being. It is actually difficult to see if it is a man or a woman who is depicted. You would see that by the fact that there is a tuft of hair on the back of the piston. But it may well appear that there is, and thus emphasizes that it requires further investigation to determine if that is the case,” adds Watt.
The quality of the aforementioned finds indicates a very high level of craftsmanship, with a high degree of technical knowledge. Just a few centimeters in size, these stamps are detailed and intricately made, with fine needlework. The Falster find particularly was cast in bronze and made in a very complicated casting process, and thus a highly specialized job, concludes Watt.
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The Museum Lolland-Falster now plans to study the small stamps, and conduct further excavations in the area. Though the present identity of the individual on the stamps remains a mystery, including whether it was a king or another powerful entity, there is no doubt that further research should shed light on these mysteries.
Top image: Just 2 centimeters in length, the Patrice, a Pre-Viking stamp, is believed to be a representation of a former royal power in Falster. Source: Lolland Falster Museum
By Sahir Pandey
Altuntas, L. 2023. Rare Ancient Stamps Found in Falster May Show Way to an Unknown King’s Home. Available at: https://arkeonews.net/rare-ancient-stamps-found-in-falster-may-show-way-to-an-unknown-kings-home/.
Bartek, J. 2023. Rare And Tiny Ancient Stamps Found in Falster May Show the Way to an Unknown King’s Home. Available at: https://www.ancientpages.com/2023/07/26/rare-tiny-finds-falster/.
Olling, J. 2023. Tiny finds from Falster are super rare - can show the way to the home of the past king. Available at: https://www.tv2east.dk/guldborgsund/lillebitte-fund-fra-falster-er-super-sjaeldent-kan-vise-vej-til-fortidig-konges-hjem.