Featured Image: Objects from the Vindelev hoard (Photo Credit: Vejle Museums).
Imagine you’ve bought a metal detector and use it for the first time on the land of a friend. You discover a spot of gold and then uncover the richest and largest hoard ever found in Denmark! This amazing tale happened only recently in Vindelev near Jelling.
Meanwhile, the Vejle museum has excavated the site. Archaeologists discovered the hoard was hidden in a longhouse. Considering this hoard has 22 gold objects, they currently conclude that this was probably the seat of a powerful chieftain.
Unique Finds in the Hoard
The hoard includes Roman coins. These have been turned into jewelry in a way that archaeologists have not seen before and needs further research to understand the techniques. One coin even dates back to the third century! This is the time that the Roman emperor Constantine the Great reigned.
Also in the treasure are bracteates. These are thin gold medals made in Northern Europe during the Migration Period (see The Met Museum for another sample). One bracteate has runes engraved above a head with braided hair, and there are animals, too. The inscription says the ‘High One’ – which may be a referral to the chieftain, or perhaps, to Odin, as well. Based on all information, the researchers of the museum date the hoard to the sixth century.
The Historical Context of the Hoard
Whilst this hoard is definitely pre-Viking era and at the heart of the Migration Period, it is still important to see what happened in places such as Jelling that is also important during the Viking Age. That way, it might be possible to better understand how culture and society changed from the Migration Period to the Viking Age.
The time of the burial of the hoard coincides with what scientists now also see as a time of severe climate change. In the year 536 a large volcanic eruption took place (as ice core samples from Greenland and Switzerland show). Where this happened is not clear, but the ice cores clearly show that an ash cloud moved over Europe, causing darkness and cold weather. It was a time of hardship, and this hoard is not the the only gold treasure that Northern European elite buried for safekeeping (see the article in Science).