An amazing discovery by a metal detectorist in Emmerlev, Denmark, could point to a historic alliance between nobility in Southwest Jutland and the Kingdom of France. 

It was 39-year-old Lars Nielsen who hit upon the find of a lifetime, an ornate gold ring: 

"I was so excited and overwhelmed that I could hardly say anything, and that's not typical for me! This is, without a doubt, my best find so far." 

"To make such a unique and one-of-a-kind discovery is completely surreal. I am very proud and honored to be able to contribute a piece to our shared history both locally and nationally." 

The remarkable find of an ornate gold ring in Emmerlev was made by Lars Nielsen, whose passion for metal detecting led him to uncover evidence of ancient ties between Denmark and Merovingian France. Photo: National Museum of Denmark

European powers 

Experts at the nearby Museum Sønderjylland and the National Museum of Denmark have since been analyzing this rare piece of jewelry, uncovered in an area where the legendary Golden Horns of Gallehus were found way back in 1639 and 1734. 

The ornate gold ring is set with a red semi-precious stone and fashioned with spirals on the underside and trefoil knobs, a style characteristic of Frankish craftsmanship. 

This particular design is familiar from rings worn by the elite of Merovingian France, the dynasty that ruled nearly all of Gaul for around 300 years until 751. 

As Kirstine Pommergaard, a museum inspector at the National Museum in Copenhagen, explained after studying the item in depth:

"The gold ring not only reveals a possible new princely family in Emmerlev but also connects the area with one of Europe's largest centers of power in the Iron Age." 

"The ring probably belonged to a woman, possibly a prince's daughter, who married a prince in Emmerlev. Gold is typical of diplomatic gifts, and we know that people have married into alliances." 

Therefore, the discovery of the gold ring suggests the previously unknown existence of a princely family in the area, indicating close ties to the Merovingians – who were a dominant force in Europe at the time, with their influence extending into Belgium and Germany. 

Anders Hartvig, inspector at the Museum Sønderjylland, pointed out its significance to an area closer to home, the Wadden Sea, dotted with low-lying islands and wetlands between Northern Netherlands and Western Denmark: 

"We've never seen anything like it out here. Many discoveries have been made over time that point to global trade connections at the Wadden Sea." 

"The gold ring substantiates that there has also been an elite who were significant or influential. Not everyone has had contact with the Merovingians." 

As Kirstine Pommergaard outlined: 

"The Merovingians were interested in entering into a network with families and individuals who could control trade and resources in an area. Perhaps the princely family in Emmerlev had control over an area between Ribe and Hedeby and secured trade there." 

The linkage of a gold ring to the Golden Horns of Gallehus by Anders Hartvig paints a broader picture of the Jutland dynasty's historical prominence and interconnectedness with ancient elites. Photo: National Museum of Denmark

The horns and the ring 

The experts do not believe that the ring was simply lost by a visiting merchant. 

Other objects have been found in the same area, including gold and silver coins, which confirm contact between the Merovingians, probably via allies in Friesland. 

Secondly, the ring is set with a red semi-precious stone, which is a well-known symbol of power in the Nordics, while the elite gold rings of the Merovingians are typically set with a coin or a plaque, like a signet ring. 

This shows that the ring was meant to serve as a symbol of power in the Nordics. 

Anders Hartvig also sees a connection with the famed but long-lost Golden Horns of Gallehus, whose replicas currently sit in the National Museum in Copenhagen. 

This would point to the Jutland dynasty holding power for a significant period of time. The horns, which were stolen in 1802 and then melted down, date back to the early 5th century:

"Whoever had the ring probably also knew about the people who had the golden horns. Maybe they were related." 

"Together with other recent finds, it paints a picture that Southern Jutland has had a greater influence than previously thought, and that the Wadden Sea was not closed in on itself, but had an aristocratic presence with important trade links to the south."

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