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This 13 Year Old Helped Find Viking Treasure In Germany

The silver jewelry and coins date to the reign of King Harald Bluetooth and may have been deposited during his flight from Denmark

(Stefan Sauer)
smithsonian.com

Last January, two amateur archaeologists, Rene Schoen and his 13-year-old student, Luca Malaschnitschenko, were metal detecting on the German island of Ruegen in the Baltic Sea when they found what they believed to be a piece of aluminum in a field. After a closer look, however, they realized it was a piece of Viking silver. Now, reports the Associated Press, a crew of professionals has excavated the area, finding a treasure horde linked the reign of famous Danish Viking King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson.

According to AFP, last weekend the Mecklenburg-West Pomerania state archaeology office conducted a dig in the field, excavating about 4,300 square feet. They uncovered necklaces, pearls, rings, a silver amulet in the shape of Mjölnir (the hammer of Thor) and close to 600 coins, including about 100 dating from the Bluetooth's reign from 958 to 986 C.E. that bear the first Christian crosses to enter Danish currency. The oldest of the coins is a Damascus dirham, a currency used on the Middle East, dated to 714. The newest coin is a penny dated to 983. The age of the coins led the archaeologists to believe the cache of silver was deposited sometime in the 980s.

“This trove is the biggest single discovery of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic Sea region and is therefore of great significance,” lead archaeologist Michael Schirren tells DPA/The Local.

It’s possible that this treasure trove is directly linked to Bluetooth himself. During his reign, Bluetooth consolidated most of Denmark into one kingdom and also converted Denmark into a Christian kingdom. In the 980s, however, it’s believed his son Svein Forkbeard defeated Bluetooth, forcing him to flee to northern Germany. Camila Domonoske at NPR reports that in the 19th century, treasure hunters found a cache of golden objects on the nearby island of Hiddensee, which is believed to have been a cache deposited by Bluetooth’s entourage during their flight.

Anders Winroth, author of The Age of the Vikings, tells Domonoske that it is possible that the new hoard is also associated with Bluetooth’s move into Germany. “The timing is right,” he says. However, he cautions there's no definitive evidence to link the treasure with Bluetooth. "[O]ne should always remember that there was a lot of movement of people at this time and a lot of buried treasure, so it is not by any means a certainty,” he says.

And yes, we know what you’re thinking: Bluetooth technology is named after King Harald. Gizmodo reports that in 1997, while the wireless standard was being developed, a couple of engineers had been reading books on Vikings and decided to give the tech the codename Bluetooth. The official name of the tech, PAN, turned out to be too generic to do well in search engines, so the codename stuck. Bluetooth is said to have had a real blue tooth, likely a prominent dead tooth. So the tech that links your morning jams to your car stereo might really get its name from poor Viking-age dental hygiene. Remind us later to tell you the story about King WiFi and Princess Google.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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