While searching for a lost earring in their yard, a family in Norway instead stumbled upon two pieces of jewelry that likely date to the Viking Age.
Members of the Aasvik family were conducting their search using a metal detector outside their home in Jomfruland, a remote and sparsely populated island off mainland Norway’s southeast coast. When they reached an area of land underneath a large tree, the device indicated it had detected something. Intrigued, the family started digging.
In that spot, they found two bronze ornaments that local government archaeologists later identified as brooches. The larger of the two is oval-shaped and likely helped fasten the shoulder straps of a woman’s halter-style dress. The other, smaller brooch was circular; experts initially found it more challenging to identify.
Both objects had been engraved with elaborate depictions of animals, as well as geometric patterns, according to Live Science’s Tom Metcalfe. Archaeologists think they were once covered in gold, based on traces still present on the items.
The discovery suggests that an aristocratic Viking woman was buried at the site some 1,200 years ago.
“A Viking grave right under the turf!” wrote the Vestfold and Telemark County Council’s cultural heritage office on Facebook, per Google Translate.
The discovery of artifacts and the burial site suggest Vikings once lived on the island. Previously, researchers had found piles of loose rock, known as cairns, on the southwestern part of Jomfruland. They suspected Vikings had made the piles, possibly to stake their claim on the land. But because historical records go back only to the Middle Ages, they couldn’t be sure.
Though the brooches show their age, they were still in “pretty good condition compared to most metal-detecting finds we get,” says Vibeke Lia, an archaeologist with the Vestfold and Telemark County Council, to Live Science. That’s likely because the plot of land wasn’t used for farming and was therefore never plowed.
Authorities aren’t sure what will happen at the site. For now, “the next step is to assess whether this site is in danger of deterioration,” adds Lia. “If it’s safe there, then it will probably not be dug but preserved where it is.”
Metal detectorists have made several exciting discoveries in recent months. Just a few weeks ago, officials announced another find in Norway: Erlend Bore, who had only been metal detecting for a number of months, unearthed a trove of 1,500-year-old gold jewelry on the island of Rennesøy.
Other brooches have also been found this way. In 2020, a metal detectorist stumbled upon a rare early medieval brooch in Somerset, England. The artifact will go on view at the Museum of Somerset later this month.