A novice treasure hunter from Denmark found a pre-Viking era treasure using, for the first time, a metal detector he had just purchased at a local shop.
The important treasure, which includes saucer-sized gold medallions, was hidden for 1,500 years until Ole Ginnerup Schytz found it by “sheer luck”, as he called it.
After buying the metal detector, Ole went on an expedition to the land of a former classmate in Vindelev, in an area near Jelling, Denmark, when he heard the device beep.
After digging the ground a little, he felt a small piece of metal bent between his fingers. “It was full of rubble and mud,” he told Danish broadcaster TV2.
“I had no idea what it was, so the only thing I could think of was that it looked like the lid of a can of sour herring.”
But he continued digging and ended up unearthing 22 precious gold objects, weighing almost 1 kg.
Days later, archaeologists excavated the site around the find and found that the treasure was buried under an ancient dwelling by a clan chief in the 6th century. Experts say it is one of the biggest and most important finds in Danish history.
“Denmark is 43,000 square kilometers, and so I chose to place the detector right where this discovery was. It was pure luck.”
Medallions used for protection
The collection includes medallions called bractetates, decorated with magical symbols and runes, one of the earliest forms of writing. Women would have used them for protection, as people at the time believed that gold came from the sun, experts said.
A large medallion depicts the god Odin, who appears to have been inspired by similar Roman jewels that celebrated emperors as gods. Another shows the 4th-century Roman Emperor Constantine, famous for spreading Christianity.
The city of Jelling is known as the birthplace of the great Viking kings who ruled much of northern Europe from the 10th to the 12th century. But relatively little is known about the earlier period, at the end of the Iron Age.
“Here we see Norse mythology in its infancy,” says Peter Vang Petersen of the National Museum of Denmark. “Scandinavians were always good at getting ideas from what they saw in foreign countries and then turning them into something that suited them.”
Experts believe the treasure was buried by a great chief and showed the area to be a center of power with commercial links to the ancient Roman Empire.