Stunning gem-covered gold earrings found in an 800-year-old hoard in Germany

A trainee metal detectorist in northern Germany recently hit on something his mentor never expected: an 800-year-old hoard of gold jewelry and silver coins that hint at the area’s trade connections.

The large hoard contained a dazzling collection of artifacts. “The hoard consists of two very high quality gold earrings set with semi-precious stones, a gilded pseudo-coin brooch, two gilded stone-studded finger rings, a ring fragment, a small formerly gilded perforated disc, a ring brooch, and about 30 silver coins, some of them heavily fragmented,” Ulf Ickerodt (opens in new tab)director of the State Archaeological Department of Schleswig-Holstein (opens in new tab) (ALSH), told Live Science in an email.

For decades, amateur and professional archaeologists have been working together to investigate the region of Schleswig-Holstein, and in particular the UNESCO world heritage site of Haithabu (opens in new tab). Known as Hedeby in Danish, the site was the second-largest Nordic town and was important to the Vikings between the eighth and 11th centuries. Haithabu was destroyed and abandoned around 1066, ending the Viking era in the region, but a century or two later someone purposely buried the bag full of valuables nearby.

A selection of silver coins found in the hoard. They date to the time of King Valdemar II. (Image credit: © ALSH)

The detectorists came across the hoard while walking a well-studied patch of land. They reported the find to the ALSH, and a team of archaeologists then excavated the site to reveal items including silver and gold objects with preserved textile fragments adhering to them.

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