June 20, 2016
Three amateur treasure hunters, who call themselves "Team Rainbow Power," unearthed the largest trove of Viking gold ever found in Denmark.
Working with metal detectors in a field in Jutland, the team discovered seven bangles — six gold and one silver — dating back to the year 900. The combined weight of the jewelry, nearly all of which remained in pristine condition despite being buried for more than 1,100 years, is 900 grams (about 2 pounds). Only the silver bangle has tarnished.
"We really felt like we had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when we found the first bracelet, but when others then appeared it was almost unreal," noted Team Rainbow Power member Marie Aagaard Larsen.
Larsen revealed that her team, which includes Poul Nørgaard Pedersen and Kristen Dreiøe, had been working in the field barely 10 minutes when the metal detectors indicated that there was treasure underfoot.
After finding the third of seven bracelets, Team Rainbow Power sought the assistance of Lars Grundvad from the Sønderskov Museum.
The field in Jutland had been of interest to archaeologists at the museum because a Viking gold chain had been discovered there more than 100 years ago.
“At the museum, we had talked about how interesting it could be to check out the area with metal detectors because there was a 67-gram gold chain found there back in 1911," Grundvad said. "But I would have never in my wildest fantasies believed that amateur archaeologists could uncover seven bracelets from the Viking Age.”
Two of the gold bracelets discovered by Team Rainbow Power are crafted in the Jelling style, which is associated with the Viking elite. Peter Pentz, a Viking expert at the National Museum, believes the bracelets may have been used by a Viking leader to form alliances or to reward his faithful followers.
The Viking social classes of this era were divided into the noble "jarls," the middle class "karls" and the slave class "thralls."
"To find just one of these rings is huge, so it is something special to find seven," said Pentz. "The Viking Age is actually the ‘silver age’ when it comes to hoards. The vast majority of them contain only silver. If there is gold, it is always a small part, not like here, the majority.”
Why the jewelry was buried is a more difficult mystery to unravel. Perhaps they were buried in a ritual, or hidden by someone who failed to retrieve them, say the archaeologists.
The Sønderskov Museum, which is only 13 miles from the discovery site, will put the seven bracelets on display before shipping them 160 miles east to the National Museum in Copenhagen for further study. Team Rainbow Power will be compensated for their find, although the exact amount has not been disclosed.
Credit: Group of seven bracelets by Nick Schaadt, National Museum of Denmark. Photos of Marie Aagaard Larsen, Team Rainbow Power, bracelet closeup and bracelet in sand by Poul Nørgaard Pedersen. All images provided by National Museum of Denmark via Creative Commons.