A Norwegian Family Went Searching for a Lost Earring in Their Backyard. They Found Viking Artifacts Instead

"I didn't understand what it was, but it looked old,” Jan Erik Aasvik said.

The two Viking-era brooches. Photo: Courtesy of Rune Nordseter.

A Norwegian family that ventured into their garden in search of a lost gold earring stumbled instead upon a pair of Viking-era brooches.

The Aasviks, who live on the southern Norwegian island of Jomfruland, found the objects buried near the base of a large tree within moments of switching on their metal detector. They promptly contacted the regional cultural heritage organization to collect and identify the discoveries.

“I took the spade and started digging,” Jan Erik Aasvik told Norweigan news outlet Kragerø Vestmar. “I was probably no further down than about 20 to 30 centimeters. I didn’t understand what it was, but it looked old.”

Archaeologists from the Vestfold and Telemark County Municipality have since revealed that the brooches date from the 9th century. Both are made of bronze with traces of gold, suggesting they were gilded.

Jomfruland Viking

The circular Viking brooch. Photo: Courtesy of Rune Nordseter.

The brooches were likely part of a woman’s burial site, according to archaeologists. Brooches are often found in Iron Age Viking graves and their condition, together with the absence of any indication that soil has been added, supports this interpretation.

One brooch is oval-shaped, a type often used on Viking halter dresses to fasten a strap to the front, like a safety pin. They come in pairs, lead archaeologist Vibeke Lia said, and further digging may well reveal the other one.

The second is a circular dress brooch. Its decoration and style links it to Ribe, Denmark, on account of matching molds dating from between 780 and 850 C.E. that archaeologists have discovered.

Hole in the ground where the brooches were found

The hole where the family found the Viking artifacts. Photo: Courtesy of Vibeke Lia.

The finds are also significant for being the first certain evidence of Viking presence on Jomfruland.

“There is a collection of cairns in the southwest of Jomfruland that has been listed as Viking-age burial cairns, but it’s always been a little uncertain,” Lia said. The discovery of these brooches makes archaeologists confident Jomfruland was settled during the Viking Age. Previous historical records only went as far back as the early Middle Ages.

The brooches will now be sent to Oslo for further examination.

Despite the excitement and historical significance of the Aasvik’s find, their search for the earring goes on.

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