A Danish man new to the hobby of metal detecting found an unprecedented stash of Iron Age gold coins, jewelry and other objects in a field in Denmark.
Ole Ginnerup Schytz had only used his metal detector for a few hours over several occasions when he hit upon the 945 grams (2.08 pounds) of gold in a school friend’s field in Vindelev about 5 miles from the historic city of Jelling in southern Denmark. One of the first pieces he dug up looked like the lid to a can of herring. It turned out to be a gold medallion.
“Well, that’s the epitome of improbable luck,” Schytz told tv2.dk. “Denmark is 43,000 square kilometers, and then I happen to choose to put the detector exactly where this find was.”
Danefæ (national treasures) inspector at the National Museum Peter Vang Petersen said the find is perhaps the largest in the region since a significant prehistoric set of Golden Horns was found in the 17th century.
“This is the biggest find that has come in the 40 years I have been at the National Museum,” Peterson said. “We have to go back to the 16th and 18th centuries to find something similar.”
Take a look at this video of the excavation of the field where the treasure was found, posted by Vejlemuseerne (Vejle Museum). It is in Dutch but still interesting to watch.
The National Museum of Denmark and the Vejlemuseerne’s archaeology and conservation departments have been hard at work restoring and examine the 22 pieces found so far, which date back 1,500 years.
Some are coins from the Roman empire, which shows the extent of travel in Europe and Scandinavia during this era. Others are coins that closely resemble Roman designs. One jewelry piece has the shapes of a man and a horse on it, which seem to allude to Nordic mythology and the Norse god Odin. The pieces are quite diverse compared to other large archaeological finds on the Jutland peninsula that encompasses part of Germany and all of Denmark.
The museums’ teams believe that the gold may have been hidden after volcanic activity caused widespread problems around the fifth century. The treasure was found in the remains of a longhouse and may have been buried either to save it or as a sacrifice to gods to stop the climate issues happening around that time.
During the Viking era, Jelling was the seat of the first royals to unite the Kingdom of Denmark. So it makes sense that in the Iron Age (500 B.C. to 800 A.D.) that preceded it, Jelling might have been an area of importance too. The gold pieces were found near the Jelling Stones, famous Viking-era carved stones.
“Only a member of the absolute cream of society would have been able to collect a treasure like the one found here,” said Mads Ravn, the Vejlemuseerne’s head of research and archaeology. “Although the place name Vindelev can be linked to the time of migration, there was nothing that could make us predict that an unprecedented warlord or great man lived here, long before the kingdom of Denmark arose in the following centuries.”
The newly discovered treasures will be a part of a larger Viking exhibit set to start at the museum in February 2022. Denmark’s crown prince and princess were able to view and hold some of the artifacts during a recent official visit to the museum, as shown in this Facebook post from the organization.
While metal detector hobbyist Schytz won’t see any direct monetary compensation for his find, he will forever have bragging rights at finding one of the most significant Iron Age treasures in modern Denmark history.
“I told him he might as well just sell the detector now because he already peaked,” Vejlemuseerne’s Ravn told CNN. “It doesn’t get better.”