Denmark is experiencing a record number of historic finds, according to the inspector at the National Museum in Copenhagen

Speaking with The Viking Herald, Line Bjerg, the Treasure Trove Team Coordinator at the National Museum, with a Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology, pointed out the benefits for the new wave of enthusiasts going out in the field with metal detectors – but also outlined the strict ground rules should anything be found. 

The Viking Herald: It seems that more and more historical artifacts are being found across Denmark. Why do you think this is, and can you point out a couple of the more interesting objects? 

Line Bjerg: The use of metal detectors has become more widespread over the years, and we see new groups of metal detectorists, more young people, women, and sometimes families, involved. The outdoor aspect is also beneficial as people can combine getting out in the fresh air, an interest in cultural heritage, and exercise. 

An interesting gold finger ring with two blue, naturally shaped sapphires, dated to the Middle Ages (14th-15th centuries), has been found near Bjerringbro in Jutland. It probably belonged to a bishop, a nobleman, or a royal.

The bishopric identification is based on the fact that the stones are sapphires, and they symbolize wisdom and chastity. 

Another great find has been a gold torc ornamented with geometric decoration and profiled ends, dated to the Early Germanic Iron Age (c. 400-550). It was discovered close to Ilsted, also in Jutland. 

A gold ring with naturally shaped blue sapphires, found near Bjerringbro in Jutland and dating to the Middle Ages, suggests it may have adorned the hand of a bishop, nobleman, or royal. Photo: Søren Greve / The National Museum of Denmark

The Viking Herald: Are there any specific areas of the country particularly rich in finds, and are particular eras more commonly represented? 

Line Bjerg: The number of finds in different parts of the country depends on the number of metal detectorists and the intensity of their surveys. We see a lot of medieval coins and finds from prehistory. 

The Viking Herald: What aspect of the discovery-and-research process do you find most satisfying – visiting a site, analyzing an item, or presenting it to the public?

Line Bjerg: We don’t go to the sites as such; the museums with archeological responsibility for the area take care of that. But we absolutely enjoy identifying the found treasure objects and the knowledge that they bring. 

With a significant increase in treasure-trove discoveries, the National Museum plays a crucial role in evaluating, registering, and potentially exhibiting these amateur archeological finds. Photo: Richard Mortel (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Viking Herald: Approximately what percentage of the discovered material ends up on display or in an exhibition at a museum like yours? 

Currently, we have more than 15,000 treasure-trove objects on loan to exhibitions at other museums, and the treasure-trove exhibition at the National Museum consists solely of these kinds of items.

There are several hundred treasure-trove objects in the exhibitions at the National Museum, though I cannot give you an exact percentage. 

The Viking Herald: How has your job changed over the years? Are there far more items to investigate? Is the public more aware of what might be out there? 

Line Bjerg: The number of potential treasure-trove objects has grown considerably over the last ten years, from 5,556 objects sent in for evaluation in 2013 to 20,859 items in 2023.

And yes, the public is more interested than ever before, including in local finds. 

Line Bjerg highlighted the discovery of a gold torc from the Early Germanic Iron Age, found in Jutland, as a significant contribution by amateur finders to Denmark's archeological heritage. Photo: Søren Greve / The National Museum of Denmark

The Viking Herald: Can you clarify the protocol when somebody finds something potentially interesting or valuable? 

Line Bjerg: When a potentially valuable object is found, it must be handed in to the museum with archeological responsibility for the area. The museum then reports the find to the National Museum. 

Once a year, the National Museum collects the cases for processing. These are recorded, sorted and the objects are identified, registered in the database, and letters outlining the value and the reward are sent to the finder. The finds are then either sent for research, display, conservation, or to the storerooms.  

National Museum of Denmark, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 Copenhagen, Denmark. Open Tue-Sun 10 am-5 pm.

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