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The heavy gold ring of Viking origin found in a pile of “worthless” estate jewelry weighed 11 grams or 0.4 ounces. (Vestland County Municipality)

Gold Ring Found in a Pile of Cheap Costume Jewelry Belonged to a Viking Chief!

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A young Norwegian woman was browsing online for jewelry earlier this week, when she bought a jumbled collection of costume jewelry in an online auction. Upon receiving her purchase, she spotted a roughly-made heavy gold ring, which turned out to be a rare artifact from the Viking Age!

Luckily, Heskestad Gave The Viking Ring to Authorities!

Dated to the Late Iron Age (between 400 and 800 AD), the Viking ring’s band size and weight (11 grams or 0.4 ounces) indicated it was worn by a man, which archaeologists speculate was most probably a powerful Viking chief . The ring’s identification process was swift because the woman who bought it,  Mari Ingelin Heskestad, immediately contacted the archaeological team in Vestland county after her father said it could be an ancient ring .

Heskestad said “it was really heavy and shiny, looked very special” in an interview with local Norwegian newspaper Bergensavisen, BA .

The ring was in the possession of a Norwegian auction company. The only available information at the moment is that the Viking ring was in a series of banana crates from an unnamed estate. Right before Heskestad bought the entire collection, it was added to a larger collection.

“This has been the case throughout the history of archaeology. Somebody finds something – and that’s why it’s so important that they get in touch with the right people, so an archaeologist can come and examine the place where something was found. If you only find one piece of jewelry it’s really important to alert archaeologists, so we can come and see if there is more there,” said Unn Pedersen, an associate professor of archaeology at the University of Oslo. She is a specialist in non-ferrous metalworking, and an authority on artifacts from the Viking Age.

Mari Ingelin Heskestad of Norway, browsing online for jewelry, bought a jumbled collection of jewelry in an online auction that contained this Viking ring likely worn by a Viking chief. Source: Vestland County Municipality

Mari Ingelin Heskestad of Norway, browsing online for jewelry, bought a jumbled collection of jewelry in an online auction that contained this Viking ring likely worn by a Viking chief. Source: Vestland County Municipality

Gold: A Marker of High Social Status in Viking Society

Both men and women wore jewelry as a marker or indicator of social status in Viking society . Silver was much more common, indicating that it was not as precious as gold. Gold was rarely worn, indicating its association with high social and economic status. Gold was rare because its supply was very limited during the Viking Age, which further reinforced its elite status, reports Science Norway .

“Gold was a valuable and expensive material in the Viking Age, used actively to symbolize power, to gain power over others and to establish hierarchies. Finger rings are for example found in the Hoen hoard, a Viking Age treasure with numerous items of gold. Therefore, I find it likely that it was used by someone in the elite, possibly one of the many chiefs of smaller territories,” said Unn Pedersen.

She helped analyze Heskestad’s find and stated that parallels to this ring have been found in silver but added that “… it is extremely rare to find such a gold ring from the Scandinavian Viking Age. Based on the information provided by the local archaeologists this particular ring is of a size that would fit a man, but finger rings of gold from the Viking age are actually also found in female graves. And I think that the extremely well equipped Oseberg ship burial illustrates that females could be chiefs too.”

What is proving to be particularly difficult is to ascertain where the ring was originally found. As Pedersen has noted, the graves of both men and women were an equally possible location for this ring. It could also have hidden under the floorboards of a house, another common location for safekeeping.

Finally, it’s not uncommon to find entire collections of jewelry in some obscure location, either hidden or kept there as part of a larger afterlife communication ritual.

The heavy gold ring is currently in the possession of the University Museum in Bergen, where it will be put on permanent display in the fall of 2022.

Top image: The heavy gold ring of Viking origin found in a pile of “worthless” estate jewelry weighed 11 grams or 0.4 ounces, similar to a modern day crown ring . ( Vestland County Municipality )

By Sahir Pandey

References

Artnet News. 2022. A Woman Bought a Pile of Cheap Costume Jewelry Online. Turns Out It Contained a Rare Viking-Era Gold Ring . Available at: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/norway-jewelry-ring-viking-2144408.

Bergstrom, I. 2022. This gold ring once belonged to a powerful Viking Chief. It was found in a pile of cheap jewellery auctioned off online . Available at: https://sciencenorway.no/archaeology-viking-age-vikings/this-gold-ring-once-belonged-to-a-powerful-viking-chief-it-was-found-in-a-pile-of-cheap-jewellery-auctioned-off-online/2052329.

Crozier, T. 2022. Rarely found gold ring from the Viking Age in jewelry collection: - It shone and stuck out . Available at: https://www.ba.no/fant-sjelden-gullring-fra-vikingtiden-i-smykkesamling-den-glinset-og-stakk-seg-ut/s/5-8-1949187.

Liberatore, S. 2022. Hidden treasure: Gold ring once worn by a Viking chief more than 1,200 years ago is discovered in a pile of costume jewelry auctioned off online . Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10995329/Gold-ring-worn-Viking-chief-discovered-pile-costume-jewelry-auctioned-online.html.

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