Trove of Gold Artifacts From Pre-Viking Era Unearthed by Amateur Treasure Hunter

Call it beginner's luck, but Ole Ginnerup Schytz is going to have a hard time topping his first-ever metal detector find.

Within a few hours of trying out his brand-new metal detector, the Denmark-based amateur treasure hunter stumbled upon a trove of Iron Age jewelry. The discovery, which dates back to the 6th century, offers a glimpse into life before the Viking era.

During the 6th century, Denmark was in the Germanic Iron Age—a period of transition that lasted from the end of the Roman Empire to the start of the Viking Age. Around that time, "a rich Nordic art of animal styles developed," explained the National Museum of Denmark. "At the same time we also see the first images of the Nordic gods, which in many ways mirror known Roman gods," they added.

Now, experts are saying that the artifacts, discovered in December near the town of Jelling, are some of the most significant ever found in the nation's history.

Pre-Viking Gold
Some of the 6th century gold artifacts discovered by Ole Ginnerup Schytz. Vejlemuseerne

"This is the biggest find that has come in the 40 years I have been at the National Museum," said archeologist Peter Vang Petersen, according to Artnet News.

Ole Ginnerup Schytz reportedly discovered the trove after his metal detector sounded its alarm. He began to dig and soon found a piece of metal. "It was scratched and covered in mud," explained Schtyz to TV Syd, as translated by Artnet News. "I had no idea, so all I could think of was that it looked like the lid of a can of herring."

As reported by a translated press release from the museum Vejlemuseerne, the items found by Schytz consist of bracteates, or "saucer-sized, beautifully decorated medallions." These would have been popular as jewelry in Northern Europe at the time, offering wearers magical protection via runes, noted Smithsonian Magazine.

Roman coins that had been made into jewelry were also discovered in the stash. In total, the twenty-two artifacts weighed slightly more than two pounds. They had been buried about 1,500 years ago in a longhouse.

Gold Artifacts
A display of the 6th century artifacts discovered by Ole Ginnerup Schytz. Conservation Center Vejle/Vejlemuseerne

The amount of wealth signified by the large quantity of gold suggests that the area was a center of power at the time. Vejlemuseerne's research director Mads Ravnt explained: "Only one member of society's absolute top [would have] been able to collect a treasure like the one found here."

Researchers suspect that a climate crisis, caused by a volcanic eruption in 536 A.D., might have prompted the items' burial. The volcano released a cloud of ash, resulting in famine, and people were likely to have used the gold jewelry as offerings to the gods, reported Artnet.

The collection is set to be exhibited at the Vejlemuseerne in early 2022, followed by a show at the National Museum.