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Part of the Viking hoard in situ. Source: Nordjyske Museer

Biggest Viking Treasure Trove in 50 Years Found in Denmark!

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Talk about beginner’s luck! An amateur detectorist has found a highly valuable Viking treasure hoard in a cornfield in north-west Denmark. It includes silver jewelry and nearly 300 incredibly rare Viking coins - a mix of Danish, Arab and Germanic origin, indicating the extensive trade and raiding networks of the Vikings. The booty was found near a Viking ringfort dating to 980 AD.

Viking Raiding Expedition to Ireland?

Experts at the local Historical Museum of Northern Jutland noted that these two items were "particularly interesting." They believe that the two ornate silver balls were once part of the same unusually large silver ring pin, and the beautiful quality and size of the pin suggest that it may have been taken from a bishop or a king, likely on a Viking raiding expedition.

Part of the silver ring pin found in the Viking treasure hoard. Source: Nordjyske Museer

Part of the silver ring pin found in the Viking treasure hoard. Source: Nordjyske Museer

The artistic merit or the authority that minted the currency was not the primary concern for the Vikings. In fact, many of the coins in the hoard are not of Danish origin, but rather German or Arab, as aforementioned. For the Vikings, the value of the treasure lay in the weight of the silver they could retrieve from it.

It was possibly from a high-society individual all the way over in Ireland, 1200 nautical miles away from where the hoard was found! “A hoard like this is very rare,” Lars Christian Norbach, the director of the North Jutland Museum, where the artifacts will go on display, told Agence France-Presse.

According to archaeologists, the practice of burying treasure during wars was not uncommon among the Vikings. It was likely that the owners of the treasure buried it for safekeeping during times of war or conflict and were never able to retrieve it.

King Harald and His Famed Conversion to Christianity

The treasure is believed to be over 1,000 years old, with the Danish coins in the hoard dating back to the 970s or 980s AD, during the later period of the reign of Harald Blåtand, infamously known as "Bluetooth". Researchers were able to date the treasure accurately thanks to King Harald's famous mid-life conversion to Christianity, as the coins feature a cross on one side, which would not have been present before the mid-960s.

Viking coins from the hoard could be dated based on the presence of the cross. Source: Nordjyske Museer

Viking coins from the hoard could be dated based on the presence of the cross. Source: Nordjyske Museer

The location of the treasure trove being in close proximity to the Fyrkat Viking ringfort (5 kms or 8 miles away), raises questions about a possible connection between the treasure and the fort, which burned down during the same period. It's possible that the Vikings who buried the treasure had a connection to the fort and may have been involved in its destruction.

The discovery also provides important clues about the potential dates of the hoard. The silver was found near the fortress of Fyrkat, which was only in use for a short time around the year 980. While the exact reason for the abandonment of the fortress is not known, evidence from other sites suggests that it may have been due to an intergenerational power struggle for the throne.

Aerial view of historical Viking ring castle Fyrkat. Source: Iurii / Adobe Stock.

Aerial view of historical Viking ring castle Fyrkat. Source: Iurii / Adobe Stock.

Power Struggle Between Father-Son and the Role of Agriculture in Coin Preservation

This context may explain why such an opulent collection was left behind in the first place. Archaeologist and museum inspector Torben Trier Christiansen provides that, "Perhaps the castles were not given up entirely voluntarily, and perhaps it happened in connection with the final showdown between Harald Blåtand and his son Svend Tveskæg."

The upheaval caused by the power struggle, coupled with centuries of agricultural activities that followed, may have resulted in the hoards of silverware being scattered throughout a larger area, making it difficult for experts to determine with certainty which trove any individual item originated from, reports IFL Science.

“These two silver treasures constitute a fantastic story in themselves,” Treir Christiansen remarked. “But to find them abandoned in a settlement only eight kilometers from Harald Blåtand's Viking fortress Fyrkat is incredibly exciting.”

The find is significant in that it is the first large Viking hoard discovered in more than 50 years! The last such discovery occurred in 1968, also in Denmark, and consisted of 82 coins. The current discovery, however, is much larger, with nearly 300 coins and pieces of silver jewelry.

As the coins have been dated to the 980s, which is the same period as the fort, archaeologists are hopeful about the various missing pieces of the historical puzzle they will fill. They plan to continue digging next autumn after the harvest in the hopes of finding the burial sites and homes of the treasure's one-time owners.

Top image: Part of the Viking hoard in situ. Source: Nordjyske Museer

By Sahir Pandey

References

AFP. 2023. "Very rare" 1,000-year-old Viking coins unearthed by young girl who was metal detecting in a Danish cornfield. Available at: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/viking-coins-1000-year-old-unearthed-young-girl-denmark/.

Ho, K.K. 2023. Amateur Archaeologist Finds Ancient Silver Coins Near Viking Castle in Denmark. Available at: https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/amateur-archeologist-silver-coins-980s-near-viking-castle-fyrkat-denmark-1234665257/.

Spalding, K. 2023. Young Metal Detectorist Discovers Massive Viking Raiding Hoard In Danish Field. Available at: https://www.iflscience.com/young-metal-detectorist-discovers-massive-viking-raiding-hoard-in-danish-field-68582.

 

Comments

Is there anything in that ring fort? Also, Did Harald have a rotten tooth in front, hence Bluetooth?

Sahir's picture

Sahir

I am a graduate of History from the University of Delhi, and a graduate of Law, from Jindal University, Sonepat. During my study of history, I developed a great interest in post-colonial studies, with a focus on Latin America. I... Read More

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