Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bluetooth Treasure: Metal Detector Dings on Silver of the Danish King in Germany

Ancient Origins

Over one thousand years ago, Danish King Harald Bluetooth had to flee his homeland. He would have taken whatever treasured possessions he could as he sought safety in distant lands. Fast forward to January 2018, when a man and a boy armed with metal detectors decided to take a chance at treasure hunting on an eastern German island in the Baltic Sea. What they found was so significant the location of their discovery was kept under wraps.

 Amateur archaeologist René Schön and his 13 year old student Luca Malaschnitschenko are the discoverers of 600 coins - 100 minted during Bluetooth’s reign and 500 other chipped pieces which range from a 714 Damascus dirham to a 983 penny.

 DW reports the two treasure hunters also found jewelry - such as braided necklaces, rings, brooches, and pearls - as well as a Thor’s hammer (an amulet for protection and power, linked to the famous Norse god, Thor ).

Part of the silver Bluetooth treasure found in Germany. ( YouTube Screenshot )

And it all began with a metal detector on the island of Rügen dinging on what the metal detectorists first thought was a “worthless piece of aluminum”, according to The Guardian . After cleaning the artifact up, it was found to actually be a piece of silver…and more was on the way.

The Guardian reports the treasure trove “may have belonged to the Danish king Harald Bluetooth.” Harald Bluetooth was the 10th century king who unified Denmark and promoted Christianity to his subjects. Today, Harald Blåtand (‘Bluetooth’) is a household name thanks to the wireless technology standard which bears a combination of the runes of his initials.

Harald's initials in runes and his Bluetooth nickname. ( haraldgormssonbluetooth)

The location of the Bluetooth treasure was found in January, but it was kept secret until the professionals, joined by Schön and Malaschnitschenko, were able to excavate land 400 sq. meters (4,300 sq. ft) around the site of the original discovery. It was probably hard for the discoverers to keep the secret to themselves, “This was the (biggest) discovery of my life,”

The Guardian reports Schön told the German news agency DPA. The Guardian reports lead archaeologist on the dig, Michael Schirren also told DPA “This trove is the biggest single discovery of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic Sea region and is therefore of great significance.”

One of the coins found at the site. ( YouTube Screenshot )

But DW says the discovery is not the first example of a Bluetooth artifact found in the region. In the 1870s, someone unearthed gold jewelry also linked to the Danish king on the island of Hiddensee, next to Rügen.

A relief showing Harald Bluetooth being baptized by Poppo the monk. ( CC BY 3.0 )

Archaeologist Detlef Jantzen suggests the artifacts provide physical evidence for Bluetooth’s flight to Pomerania in the late 980s, stating “We have here the rare case of a discovery that appears to corroborate historical sources.”

Top Image: A selection of silver jewelry from the Bluetooth treasure. Source: YouTube Screenshot

By Alicia McDermott

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