By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
On April 16, archaeologists in northern Germany announced the discovery of a hoard of about 600 silver coins linked to the Danish king Harald Gormsson, otherwise known as “Bluetooth“. The discovery was actually made back in January, but the State Archaeology Office of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania maintained secrecy until a team could fully explore the 400 square meter area and recover the entire treasure.
Like many treasure finds in recent years, the site was initially located by hobbyists – in this case, amateur archaeologist René Schön and his 13-year-old pupil Luca Malaschnitchenko, both of whom are members of a local group of history enthusiasts. The duo were using metal detectors in a field on the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea when Malaschnitchenko got a hit on a silver coin. Believing it to be a bit of aluminum foil rubbish, Schön and Malaschnitchenko came to realize the significance of their find only after they cleaned the small object and could cleary see the antiquity of its design.
“This was the biggest discovery of my life,” Schön told the German news agency DPA.
They immediately notified the authorities. Once the treasure was completely dug out of the ground, the State Archaeology Office reported a total of almost 600 silver coins, presumably buried sometime in the 980s. The oldest coin so far inventoried is a dirham minted in Damascus, Syria dated 714. The “newest” coins in the hoard are silver pennies dated 983, minted by the Frankish king and Holy Roman Emperor Otto III in the first year of his reign. Because he was only three years old at the time, these pennies also rather unusually feature his grandmother Adelheid, who served as his regent.
At least 100 of the recovered coins were struck within Harald’s domains, as they prominently feature the Christian cross. These were the first coins in Danish history to incorporate the cross, since Harald is credited as introducing Christianity to Denmark in the latter half of the 10th century.
But while a significant portion of the find consists of coins made by the mints of his realm, lead archaeologist Michael Schirren says that there is “no definitive link” that proves that Bluetooth himself owned or handled the coins discovered earlier this year.
Still, the find is of vital historical importance. According to Schirren, it represents “the biggest single discovery of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic sea region.”
In addition to the coins, other items found include braided necklaces, brooches, rings, and a Thor’s hammer (Mjölnir) pendant.
Born a viking, Haraldr Gormsson (or Harald Blåtand Gormsen in Danish) was the son of King Gorm (“Gorm the Old”), founder of the Jelling dynasty and the first man to rule the Danish kingdom. The Jellings are also known as the House of Canute, after Cnut the Great, Bluetooth’s grandson and king of England from 1016 through 1035.
Harald Bluetooth and his men regularly pillaged the kingdoms of the Franks to the south. In 950, Harald converted to Christianity (though this may have been forced upon him after a military defeat). As well as bringing the religion to Denmark, Harald is notable for unifying the Danes into one nation, incorporating parts of Norway, Sweden and Germany (though control over some of these areas didn’t last long).
In the 980s, Harald fled to Pomerania, now part of modern Germany. His flight from Denmark and abdication of the throne is said to have been instigated by a naval defeat by the forces of Sweyn Forkbeard, his own son. King Harald died in 987.
He received his famous nickname due to a decayed tooth in his mouth that had a bluish appearance.
And yes, the wireless networking technology takes its name from King Harald. Invented in 1994 by researchers at Ericsson Mobile in Sweden, it was named “Bluetooth” by Jim Kardach at American company Intel, who had been reading about vikings at the time.
Intriguingly, the site of the treasure in Schaprode is not too far from Hiddensse, the location of a hoard of 16 gold coins from Bluetooth’s reign that was found in the 19th century.
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