A metal detectorist in Denmark uncovered a one-of-a-kind piece of 11th-century gold jewelry that had never been seen in Scandinavia before.
Experts claim that the stunning gold earring found at a field near Bøvling in West Jutland, Denmark, may have been gifted to a Viking chief 1,000 years ago by the Byzantine Emperor.
The crescent-shaped earring from the 1000s, found by a metal detectorist, consists of a golden plate with enamel decoration depicting two birds around a tree or a plant. Only 10 or 12 examples of them are known worldwide, and this is the first one ever discovered in Scandinavia.
The piece is made of cloisonné enamel in shades of purple, green and blue is divided by gold threads to form a stylized design of two birds on either side of a tree. One theory is that it depicts the Tree of Life that is understood in both Islamic and Christian ways of thinking. This type of earring design has been found in Egypt, Syria, Byzantium, and Russia. The jewelry found is most similar to the Arabic examples, which originated in Egypt.
The find is a beautiful and quite unusual gold earring from the 11th century, according to Peter Pentz, who is a museum inspector at the National Museum of Denmark. “It is completely unique to us, we only know of 10-12 other specimens in the whole world, and we have never found one in Scandinavia before,” he says, adding that the Vikings have brought home thousands of silver coins from their travels, but almost never jewelry.
According to Pentz, the earring likely comes from Cairo due to similarities with other crescent-shaped earrings in museum collections.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the finest, he rated the Bvling discovery as an “eight,” not least because of the beautiful enamel work akin to the Byzantine relief Dagmark Cross discovered in 1683 in one of the royal graves in Saint Bendt’s Church in Ringsted.
“In quality, the enamel on the earring is not quite as good as the Dagmark Cross. But where the Dagmark Cross was found in a queen’s grave, where context lends itself, the earring was found without any context whatsoever in a field in West Jutland. It’s a little fascinating with detector finds that you can imagine quite a lot”, Prentz said.
“We had expected to find such a fine and invaluable piece of jewelry like this together with a large gold treasure or in a royal tomb and not on a random field in Bøvling,” notes Peter Pentz.
The discovery was made by Frants Fugl Vestergaard, who has doing metal detecting for the last ten years and had even gone over this field several times before.
The earring will be placed in a secure display at the National Museum, where it is part of the Viking exhibit “The Cruise”, which focuses on Vikings’ voyages to the Middle East. Here guests can take a close look at it along with other Vikings’ treasures.