JELLING, DENMARK – Last month the Danish National Museum (National museum) and the Vejle Museum (Vejlemuseerne) unveiled one of the most impressive Iron Age gold discoveries ever to be found. The collection contains 22 objects, including Roman coins and many thin amulet-shaped discs known as “bracteates. “In total, the collection weighs just over two pounds.
“This is the biggest find in my 40 years at the National Museum,” said Peter Vang Petersen, an archaeologist from the National museum on Syd TV. “You have to go back to the 16th and 18th centuries to find something similar.
The collection is currently believed to originate from the mid-6th century, a period known as the Age of Migration, before the Viking Age. This is the time when similar treasures have been dated, including previously discovered bracteates. There were widespread famines and unusually cold weather in Europe in AD 536, potentially caused by a volcanic eruption, and some scholars believe treasures like this were buried as a religious offering to restore the Sun. However, there might be more mundane explanations why such a treasure was buried near Jelling.
Archaeologists say the find was buried in a longhouse. Mads Ravn, director of Vejlemuseerne, believes this indicates that the region is a center of power with extensive trade networks. “Only one member of the absolute top of the company was able to collect a treasure like the one found here,” he said in a statement to Agence France-Presse. “Nothing could have made us predict that an unprecedented warlord or great man lived here, long before the Kingdom of Denmark appeared in the following centuries. “
To modern pagans, surely the most intriguing specimen is a bracteate with an elderberry futhark runic inscription that depicts the face of a man and a horse. An inscription reads “houaʀ”, which translates to “The High”.
Morten Oxboe, retired curator at the Nationalmuseet and expert on bracteates, argues that the bracteate may be a reference to a myth involving Odin, who is known as “The High One” in the Old Norse-Icelandic poem “Hávamál” , written in 13th century Iceland. In Merseburg’s second spell, Odin is able to heal his son Balder’s horse, which had broken his leg and would soon die, after several goddesses were unable to do so; Odin is able to repair the horse’s leg using sympathetic magic:
Phol and Wodan rode towards the woods,
and Balder’s foal’s foot has sprained
Then Sinthgunt, Sunnah’s sister, conjured her;
and Frija, Volla’s sister, conjured her;
and Wodan conjured him, as well as he could:
Like a bone sprain, so a blood sprain,
therefore joint sprain:
Bone to bone, blood to blood,
joints with joints, they can therefore be glued.
(ttranslation by Benjamin W. Fortson, Indo-European language and culture: an introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.)
Merseburg’s second charm, however, is in Old High German and was recorded in a 9th or 10th century manuscript in Fulda, Germany – centuries and miles from the time the treasure was buried near Jelling. As such, while the potential connection between “The High One” and the Wodan / Odin Viking Age is tantalizing, it should not be taken as conclusive.
Equally fascinating is the story of the discovery of the treasure. Ole Ginnerup Schytz had just acquired a metal detector and had taken it to a friend’s field near the town of Vindelev to prospect for the first time. The device activated in the first hours. “Denmark is 43,000 square kilometers, and it just so happens that I chose to place the detector exactly where this find was,” Schytz told TV Syd.
He discovered a small piece of bent metal. “It was scratched and covered in mud,” he told TV Syd. “I had no idea, so all I could think of was that it looked like the lid of a can of herring. “
Since metal detectors became readily available in the 1980s, amateur archaeologists have made the majority of new finds in Denmark. Under Danish law, amateurs like Schytz can submit their finds to the Nationalmuseet and are paid based on a number of factors, which encourages them to offer their findings to academics rather than trying to sell them. illegally. Schytz’s compensation was not disclosed.
“I told him he might as well sell the detector now because it’s already peaked,” Ravn said. “It’s not getting any better.”
The treasure will be on display at the Vejlemuseerne in February, where it will remain for a year before moving on to the Nationalmuseet.