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Silver trove found on Baltic island
By Richard Giedroyc
June 15, 2018

Perhaps he wouldn’t be remembered as well to history for his nickname had he seen a dentist, but today Danish King Harald Bluetooth is the focus of a study of the largest hoard of his coins to be found in what had been the Danish-ruled region of the Baltics.

The king’s proper name is actually Harald I, Gormsson. Harald was the son of Gorm “the Old,” an important individual in a royal lineage from Jelling, North Jutland. Harald I ruled Denmark from 958 to 985 C.E. He also ruled parts of northern Germany, southern Sweden and parts of Norway. Gorm began and Harald completed the unification of the Danes, Harald also converting them to Christianity.

Harald’s son Sweyn I pushed Harald off his throne. It was Sweyn I, Gabelbart, who conquered England in 1013. Sweyn’s son Canute would rule an Anglo-Scandinavian kingdom that included much of what is today Sweden.

Despite Harald’s conquests, conversion of his people to Christianity and his introduction of the Trelleborg-type castle, he is usually remembered for his prominent bluish color dead tooth. The name Bluetooth, identifying a wireless communications system, was borrowed from Harald I’s name by the Swedish company Ericsson. Two Runes spelling out Harold’s initials, HB, are the symbol for the technology.

The find now making headlines is a hoard of silver coins, rings, bracelets and pearls recently discovered in a field near Schaprode, Ruegen. Ruegen is an island situated off the coast of Pomerania in the Baltic Sea. Ruegen was the site of the temple hill of Jaromarsburg, dedicated to the northwest Slavic pagan god Svetovid until it was destroyed in 1168 by Bishop Absalon of Roskilde. Harald fled to this area following his son Sweyn’s rebellion.

Rene Schoen and his 13-year old student Luca Malaschnitschenko made the initial find in January. Malaschnitschenko found what he thought at first was a piece of aluminum. It was a silver-composition, hand-hammered penny. (Danish coinage of the period of Harald consisted of Carolingian-influenced deniers often depicting ships, buildings, or animals. Danish coins on which a Christian cross appears likely began during the 970s.)

According to an official Mecklenburg-West Pomerania state archaeology office statement, “It’s the biggest trove of such coins in the southeastern Baltic region.”

Lead archaeologist Michael Schirren was more specific, saying, “This trove is the biggest single discovery of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic Sea region and is therefore of great significance.”

Archaeologist Detlef Jantzen added, “We have here the rare case of a discovery that appears to corroborate historical sources.” It is believed Harald Bluetooth died nearby.

The state archaeology office took charge of the dig site following its discovery. An exploratory trench covering about 400 square meters, or 4,300 square feet, revealed what has since been reported as about 600 coins, about 100 of which can be attributed to Harald Bluetooth. Further details of the find will be announced at a later date.

It is known the find includes jewelry as well as coins. Most of the coins are chipped. The oldest is an Umayyad Islamic silver dirham of 714 C.E. minted in Damascus. This would likely be a coin of al-Walid I, who ruled from 705 to 715 (AH 86-96). Islamic dirham coins of this style are well documented as having been used in trade throughout this region at this time. The most recent coin in the hoard has been identified as a penny dated to 983. Further details of this penny were not available at press time.

Christian dated coins did not become popular until about 1501. While an 1166-dated silver obol is known from Toledo in what is today Spain, the oldest known Christian dated coin of the central or northern part of Europe is a 1234 silver denier of the bishop of Roskilde in Denmark.

While the Schaprode hoard is important, it isn’t the first Bluetooth-related find in the area. A gold jewelry find known as the Hiddensee Treasure was found on a nearby island in the 19th century. In 2016, a small Viking Christian crucifix was found in Denmark, the same year the church where Viking King Olaf Haraldsson was first honored as a saint was unearthed in Trondheim, Norway.

 

This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.

 

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