Denmark’s heaviest hoard of Viking gold found in Jutland

Three metal detectorists have discovered a group of bangles which add up to the greatest amount of Viking gold ever found in Denmark. Last week Marie Aagaard Larsen, her husband Christian Nedergaard Dreiøe and their friend Poul Nørgaard, aka Team Rainbow Power, were scanning a field in Vejen, south Jutland, where a gold chain from the Viking era had been discovered in 1911. Ten minutes after they started, Poul struck gold. They unearthed a gold bangle that they recognized was old, but it was bigger than anything quite they’d encountered before.

Team Rainbow Power emailed a photograph of the artifact to the Museum Sønderskov in nearby Brørup. Curator and archaeologist Lars Grundvad was amazed to see what they’d found. He and his colleagues had discussed returning to that field to explore it further because of the gold chain weighing 67 grams that had been unearthed there in 1911, but in his wildest dreams he hadn’t imagined there would be multiple finds of such quality and size.

Within 15 minutes, they found another gold piece. Then they found another. In the final tally, Team Rainbow Power discovered six gold and one silver bangle. The total weight of the gold bangles is 900 grams, just shy of two pounds. The previous record holder for the greatest amount of gold from a Viking treasure was the hoard found in Vester Vedsted, Southwest Jutland, in 1859. That hoard contained two gold neck rings, five gold bangles, a fragment of gold chain, two filigree pendants and two gold beads which totalled 750 grams. The Vejen find beats it by a lot in just six bangles, which goes to show just how big these pieces are. The sole silver bangle is a hefty one too at 90 grams (3.17 ounces). The bangles were likely buried together with the previously unearthed chain in the 10th century.

It’s not unusual for objects from the same hoard to be found at different times, even a century apart. Buried hoards could be broken up and scattered over a wide area by centuries of agricultural activity, and since metal detectors only began to be used in Denmark in the 1980s, even archaeological excavations were unlikely to find every artifact.

“Finding just one of these bangles is massive, so finding seven is something very special,” said Peter Pentz, a Viking expert and curator from the National Museum of Denmark.

Pentz went on to explain that silver was the most used metal during the Viking Age, which makes the golden find even more audacious.

One of the gold pieces is decorated in the stylized animal figures characteristic of the Jelling style, as is the chain discovered in 1911. The Jelling style in particular is associated with the elite of Viking society and considering the richness of the find, the Vejen area was likely home to a person of great wealth and position. The bangles could have been gifts for allies, rewards for his best men or oath rings. The style also helps date the hoard because it was in vogue for a short period from the first half of the 10th century until the year 1000 when it disappears from the archaeological record.

The precise location of the find is being kept secret for now as Team Rainbow Power, in collaboration with the Museum Sønderskov, is still searching the field. Lars Grundvad is working on raising funds now for a full archaeological investigation of the find site to take place as early as this fall. The museum hopes to display the finds before they are transferred to the National Museum in Copenhagen, where they will be studied and evaluated as treasure trove. Team Rainbow Power will receive treasure trove compensation based on the National Museum’s assessment.

8 thoughts on “Denmark’s heaviest hoard of Viking gold found in Jutland

  1. The Jelling piece has a small chain around it. It’s not a safety clasp, so I wonder if it had something hanging from it that didn’t survive.

  2. “… metal detectors only began to be used in Denmark in the 1980s…” — In an unrelated fact, Danish soldiers surveyed during the Cold War as to what Communist-bloc weapon they feared most, they answered, “Land mines.”

  3. Provenance is tetchy, though, since the horns were stolen and melted down. There were casts, which were lost, and eventually copies were made from drawings made of the originals. From what I can tell from wiki, quality of gold in the originals is unknown, as the gold was not recovered. The copies were made out of other materials. (Apparently, the copies were also stolen, but quickly recovered.) Kind of messy, isn’t it? Sad because two honorable people found the horns a century apart, and nothing to show for it, really.

  4. Wonder how you got the excellent photos embedded in the story about the recently discovered Viking bangles, please? I’d like to use one in my own blog, but are they original to you? Thanks.

  5. Growing up near on the oldest churches in my region of the US, old coots with metal detectors in the church yard were a common sight. We would sometimes get several a day, when silver and gold prices shot through the roof in the late 70’s, all going over the same patches of ground.

    It’s nice to see a group of responsible young ladies get in on the act and help recover an important items.

    To Tom above, when metal detectors first got cheap enough for every old duffer in the region we had a couple blow themselves sky high, nosing around the sites of minor Civil War battlefields in this region of the US, where they are as common as dirt. Those old shells are very unstable and dangerous to this day.

    My great-Grandfather said they were known as “cow-killers” in his region of Virginia when he was boy. They weren’t that deep then, when Bossie step on a shallow one, it was free hamburger for every scavenger in the area.

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