An Amateur Archaeologist And A 13-Year-Old Boy Discover Cache Of Medieval Viking Treasure

A baptismal font, circa 960 to 1100 CE, commemorating the baptism of the King Harald Gormsson, the Norse sovereign who converted to Christianity and brought the religion to Denmark. Wikimedia Commons

Aliyah Kovner 17 Apr 2018, 10:38

You never know what treasures are right underneath you – until you buy a metal detector.

A massive haul of Medieval currency, braided necklaces, rings, pearls, and a lucky charm resembling Thor’s hammer has been unearthed on the German island of Rügen, several months after two amateur archaeologists discovered a single coin.

In January, hobbyist René Schön and his 13-year-old student, Luca Malaschnitschenko, were scanning a field outside Schaprode when they came across what they initially believed to be a piece of aluminum garbage. After realizing what they held was indeed a very old silver coin, the duo contacted the local government.

Over this past weekend, state archaeologists began a 400-square-meter (4,300-square-foot) excavation that has already yielded hundreds of artifacts, including more than 600 additional coins.

According to a statement by the Mecklenburg-West Pomerania state archaeology office, more than 100 of the chipped coins date back to the reign of the Danish King Harald Gormsson, better known as Harald Bluetooth; a Norse king credited with introducing Christianity to Denmark during his rule between 958 and 986 CE. Son of the first sovereign of the unified Danish kingdom, Bluetooth's Viking empire also included parts of modern-day northern Germany, Norway, and southern Sweden.

The oldest coin in the loot cache is a type of Middle Eastern currency known as a dirham, dating to the year 714 CE and created in Damascus.

“It’s the biggest trove of such coins in the southeastern Baltic region,” the statement said.

The most recent of the coins, according to The Guardian, is believed to be from the year 983 CE – timing that lines up with the historical record of Bluetooth’s life. After suffering defeat at the hands of a German army in 974 CE, Bluetooth lost control of some of his territory, and in the mid-980s, his son, Sweyn Forkbeard, began a series of battles aimed at seizing the throne.  

At some point during this period, Bluetooth was injured during a campaign against his son’s troops, and he and his loyalists fled Denmark and headed to Pomerania, a region that includes modern-day Rügen. Bluetooth succumbed to his injuries and died in 986 or 987 CE.

“It was the find of my life,” Schön told DW, a German news agency who also obtained photos of the dig.

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Schön and Malaschnitschenko, who were allowed to help with the excavation, were unable to speak publicly about their amazing discovery until now.

Fun fact: Bluetooth technology gets its name from the long-dead king. Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson named the device-unifying platform after him because he fostered better communication between people by uniting disparate groups – albeit using considerably more violent means than are necessary to link a cell phone to a speaker.

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