Finding gold in Boeslunde, Denmark, is no huge surprise — it's known as an area where Bronze Age gold offering are often uncovered, as curators there are explaining this month. But a recent discovery has surprised and baffled archaeologists: 2000 tiny gold spirals. It's a "golden enigma".gold spirals. It's a "golden enigma".
Boeslunde is in Zealand, the large island that sits between mainland Denmark and the tip of Sweden. It's a hotbed for archaeology in Denmark since it has served as a connective hub for thousands of years — netting recent finds as diverse as 1000-year-old viking jewellery to actual fortresses in the past year. Boeslunde, where the spirals were discovered, is "a special sacred place in the Bronze Age where prehistoric people performed their rituals and offered gold to the higher powers," according to the Danish National Museum's curator, Flemming Kaul. The constant discovery of new gold around the area has spurred more thorough digs — including one by the National Museum and the local Museum Vestsjælland, which uncovered this new finding.
So, what exactly did they find? Thousands of tightly-wound gold wires, each about 2.5cm long, that together made up more than 200g of solid gold, which seems to have been buried in a wooden box lined with fur which has long since disintegrated. Fascinatingly, no one's quite sure how these tiny wires were actually used — the museum calls it "a little mystery" in its press release about the find, which dates from around 900 BC.
Flemming Kaul, Nationalmuseet
But researchers do have some guesses, including Kaul, who proposes that they were decorations meant to invoke the power of the sun on the clothing of a priest or king. "The sun was one of the most sacred symbols in the Bronze Age and gold had a special magic," he writes. "Maybe the priest-king wore a gold ring on his wrist, and gold spirals on his cloak and his hat, where they during ritual sun ceremonies shone like the sun." Buried as carefully as they were, they could have represented a sacrifice.
Unsurprisingly — after all, who doesn't love a good mystery involving huge amounts of gold buried for thousands of years for unknown purposes — the discovery has spurred a huge amount of public interest. So much that on Wednesday, the local museum in Skaelskor is holding a viewing event for two hours, along with a talk from a curator who will discuss the find. In the meantime, the search for more spirals — and maybe their purposes — continues in the gold field.
Pictures: Morten Petersen/Museum Vestsjælland