Archaeologists have uncovered several pieces of elite Viking jewelry on a modest farm in Denmark that date back between the late seventh to the early 11th centuries.
The site, called Vestervang, is located across a farmstead in Zealand, Denmark. It was slated for residential development, but work in the area revealed traces of a late Iron Age settlement — including the remains of 18 longhouses and 21 pit houses. These habitations weren’t constructed at the same time, but were built up over time in six phases over the span of four centuries.
Armed with metal detectors, the archaeologists found a stunning batch of Viking Age jewelry. They were taken aback by just how beautiful and intricate the pieces were — some of them even embedded with gold.
Among the finds was a 2.9 inch piece exhibiting an image of a heart-shaped animal head with rounded ears and circular eyes. Archaeologist Ole Thirup Kastholm, and author of the new paper, claims it’s a rare piece that would have been extremely valuable and "high end" in Viking times.
He’s quoted in LiveScience:
The neck is covered by a beadlike chain," Kastholm writes. "Above the creatures forelegs, there are marked elbow joints and three-fingered paws or feet, which awkwardly grasp backwards to what might be hind legs or wings." The object probably had three similar images originally, but only one survives.
In addition to the animal image, the item, possibly a pendant, also shows three masked figures, each with a "drooping moustache." A "circular mark is seen between the eyebrows and above this, two ears or horns emerge, giving the humanlike mask an animal character," Kastholm writes.
He said that the animal image itself seems to be anthropomorphic, something not unusual in Viking age art. "Some of these anthropomorphic pictures, though, might be seen as representations of 'shamanic' actions, i.e. as mediators between the 'real' world and the 'other' world," Kastholm wrote in an email to LiveScience. He can't say for sure who would have worn it, but it "certainly (was) a person with connections to the elite milieu of the Viking age."
Other pieces include a Christian cross which may have been created in continental Europe around A.D. 500 to 750 — predating the farm site.
The find also included a trefoil, an oval double-shelled brooch, and a gilded copper alloy brooch.
And check out the entire study at the Danish Journal of Archaeology: “Vestervang at Kirke Hyllinge, Zealand: a late Iron Age settlement with rich stray finds.”
All images Ole Kastholm/Roskilde Museum.