Metal detector trainee finds 13th c. hoard

A hoard of coins and jewelry buried 800 years ago has been discovered near Haithabu on the Jutland Peninsula of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany.

It was discovered by trainee metal detectorist Nicki Andreas Steinmann on his third outing with his instructor. (Schleswig-Holstein only allows people to metal detect who have been trained in archaeological fieldwork by the State Archaeological Office and pass an exam.) As soon as he dug down and saw a few silver coins and the glint of gold, he and his mentor called in state archaeologists who then professionally excavated the full hoard.

The investigation revealed around 30 silver coins, earrings, two gold-plated finger rings, one ring fragment and two fibulae. They had been slightly disturbed in the course of agricultural activity, but there was a group of coins in a stack that were in their original configuration. Textile remnants were found on the stacked coins, the remains of a cloth bag the hoard was in when it was buried.

The coins date to the reign of Danish king Valdemar II (1202-1241). The stand-out pieces are a pair of gold filigree pendant earrings festooned with gemstones. The style is typical of Byzantine goldsmithing dating to around 1100. Another rare object is a gold plated pseudo-coin fibula. It is an imitation an Almohad dynasty (1147-1269) gold dinar fashioned into a Scandinavian-style a robe clasp. The coins date the deposit to the first half of the 13th century.

The hoard was unearthed in an agricultural field near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hedeby, a major northern European trade hub during the Viking Age (8th-11th c.). Located on a narrow strip of land between the Baltic and the North Sea, the commercial town of Hedeby was enclosed by the ancient Danevirke rampart system that crossed the Schleswig isthmus and fortified the border between Scandinavia and the European mainland. Hedeby’s unique location made it one of the largest trading towns of the Viking era. Goods of all kinds passed through Hedeby and were also produced there. Specialized craftsmen — goldsmiths, blacksmiths, glaziers — created fine jewelry, tools, beads and many other objects of adornment and use. Hedeby was sacked and burned by West Slavs in 1066, so by the time the hoard was buried, the site was long abandoned making it a good place for someone to cache their valuables.

2 thoughts on “Metal detector trainee finds 13th c. hoard

  1. Just a “training” detection and already a success story. – Of course, “Hedeby” is just the Danish term for Haithabu. Already the granddad of Danish king Valdemar II, during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, passed away on Cyprus. The Danes themselves, however, had to fight off viking style raids from the Eastern Baltic. Also, the Franks were a threat.

    In the 12th century, Valdemar “the Great” –i.e. Valdemar’s dad– together with Absalon, attacked the Rani tribe on the island of Rügen, took their capital Charenza, and destroyed their temple at Arkona, of which remnants are still there. One of my classmates has his family roots in Rugian nobility, and one of his earlier ancestors was active in 1290AD.

    In Aachen, Charlemagne in 810AD had plans to attack the raiding Danes, but his beloved war elephant “Abul-Abbas” just made it to ‘Lippeham’: “Imperator vero Aquisgrani adhuc agens et contra Godofridum regem […], deinde transmisso Rheno flumine in loco, qui Lippeham vocatur, […] elefans ille, quem ei Aaron rex Sarracenorum miserat, subita morte periit.”

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