A hoard of silver treasure dating back more than 1,000 years and possibly linked to the legendary King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark has been uncovered on a German island.
Earlier this year, a 13-year-old student named Luca Malaschnichenko was scouring a field on Rügen, a German island in the Baltic Sea, when he came across what he thought to be a worthless scrap of aluminum. Upon closer examination by his teacher, amateur archaeologist René Schön, they were shocked to discover that it was actually an ancient silver coin.
Thinking that they had stumbled onto a site of particular significance, the pair quickly contacted the State Office for Culture and Heritage. After an agonizing three months of waiting and careful planning in secrecy, a team assisted by the 13-year-old finally assembled last weekend to begin gently uncovering the earth surrounding the site. They quickly made some remarkable discoveries, including braided necklaces, pearls, brooches, a Thor's hammer (a powerful weapon in Norse mythology belonging to Thor, god of thunder), rings and up to 600 chipped coins, including more than 100 that date back to Bluetooth's era.
"This trove is the biggest single discovery of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic Sea region and is therefore of great significance," the lead archaeologist, Michael Schirren, told the German news outlet DPA, according to AFP.
Harald "Bluetooth" Gormsson, reportedly nicknamed for the dead blue/grey tooth in his smile, was a Viking-born king famous for uniting vast areas of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany into one nation. In the late 10th century, before being forcibly deposed from the throne by his own son, Sweyn Forkbeard, he also converted the Danes to Christianity.
In 1996, an Intel engineer named Jim Kardach, inspired by a book he was reading on Viking history, decided to codename a new short-range radio technology he was working on after the Danish king.
"King Harald Bluetooth ... was famous for uniting Scandinavia just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link," he later recalled.
The codename ended up sticking, as did Kardach's design for the logo –– a bind rune merging the Younger Futhark runes (Hagall) (ᚼ) and (Bjarkan) (ᛒ), Harald's initials.
The location of the find on Rügen appears to corroborate historical sources, which tell of Harald's southern escape from Denmark after losing a battle to his rebellious son. According to USA Today, his ultimate destination was Pomerania — an area that today straddles parts of northeast Germany and western Poland. He died only a short time later sometime between 986 and 987.
The oldest coin found was a Damascus dirham dating to 714 while the most recent is a penny dating to 983. While the historical value is great, the archaeologists are not yet sure about the modern day value of the hoard.
Brian Patrick McGuire, professor emeritus at Roskilde University in Denmark, said the precious silver was likely buried by wealthy followers of Bluetooth during his retreat.
"Things were so unstable that very wealthy men or women from his court felt obliged to bury their coins and jewelry," he told AFP. "Usually, treasures are left behind by people who hope to retrieve them when things get better, as an act of faith in better times."
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