Hoard Alert! The metal detectives of Europe strike gold once again—this time in Germany as bejeweled earrings and silver coins are turned up in Schleswig-Holstein.
The jewelry was all of gold and probably made by the Byzantines. The rings, earrings, and a brooch, all studded with gems, were deliberately buried along with 30 coins minted under the Danish King Valdemar II.
This helps date the burying of the hoard to around 1240 CE.
Schleswig-Holstein was called Hedeby in the times the riches were brought there. The area was part of a critical trading hub for the Danish Vikings between the 8th and 11th centuries.
The metal detectives were out surveying a well-studied plot of the second-largest Viking trading town on mainland Europe, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s known that Norsemen used major rivers like the Volga to cross Eurasia from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, where they took to trading and raiding the Byzantine Empire. This great kingdom held extensive gold reserves, and they were the region’s second large power next to the Arab caliphates to the south.
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These networks reveal not only the extent of the Vikings’ reach, but also the ubiquity of inter-continental trade at the time. Regarding the hoard, it’s unknown whether they were personal items hidden during a crisis or hot property in need of fencing.
“An extensive north-south and east-west trade network has developed here since the early Middle Ages, in which the Mediterranean region, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea were integrated,” Ulf Ickerodt, director of the State Archaeological Department of Schleswig-Holstein (ALSH), told Live Science in an email. “The hoard was certainly not put down by chance.”
An imitation of an Islamic coin was pierced and turned into a brooch, perhaps to showcase the exotic origins of an original that was too small for the purpose. For a people whose language was written in stem runes, Classical Arabic must have been a fascinating sight.
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