Hoard unearthed in northern Germany


11 May 2023
The hoard unearthed by e metal detectorist is believed to be around 800 years old

Not far from the World Heritage Site Archaeological Border Complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke, an important Viking trading centre, a metal detectorist in training has discovered a hoard that is believed to be around 800 years old.

Nicki Andreas Steinmann was learning how to use a metal detector with his instructor when the pair stumbled upon gold artefacts and coins near the site in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

After the initial discovery, the Archaeological State Office was informed, and a controlled excavation was undertaken. With the consent of the farmer, a 4m² area was excavated around the site. Although the material had been slightly relocated due to agricultural activity, several coins were stacked on top of one other, as originally deposited, and textile remains preserved on several coins indicated that the finds were in a cloth bag when they were buried in the ground.

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Overall, the hoard consisted of two very high-quality gold earrings set with stones, a gold-plated pseudo coin fibula, two gold-plated finger rings set with stones and a ring fragment, a small formerly gold-plated perforated disc, a small ring fibula and approximately 30 heavily fragmented silver coins.

Initially research has dated the find to after the settlement was destroyed in 1066, with the coins in the hoard playing an important role in the dating process. According to first inspections, the coins date from the reign of the Danish king Waldemar II, nicknamed ‘Sejr’ (the victor) (1202–41). This suggests that the hoard was deposited in the first half of the 13th century. Additionally, the gold-plated pseudo-coin fibula is an imitation of an Islamic coin, an Almohad gold dinar, which had been converted into a robe clasp (brooch) in the Scandinavian tradition. The Almohads were a Muslim dynasty that ruled over much of the Maghreb region in North Africa and southern Spain between 1147 and 1269.

Permission to search with a metal detector in Schleswig-Holstein needs approval from the Archaeological State Office, which is only granted after passing an exam. Practical exercises form part of this training and trainees are assigned a metal detector mentor, with whom they gain experience in handling the probe, spade and measuring device in advance of the theoretical training and the practical test. This is particularly important in this area because every detectorist is seen as contributing to archaeological research. This commitment is reflected in the Archaeological State Survey, where every finder receives an entry in the register.