The discovery of a bowl brooch from the Viking era near Grue, Norway, by an intrepid metal detectorist shows how hobbyists and archaeologists can work together.
The secrets of Innlandet
Innlandet County, just northeast of Oslo, where Norway borders Sweden, has long been known for its finds from the Viking Age.
It's here, for example, that the now world-famous team at Secrets of the Ice, pioneers in the field of glacial archaeology, is based.
Additionally, Glåmdalen is the name of the valley formed by the Glåma, one of the major rivers in the region, and a term often used today for the combined areas of Solør and Odalen.
By the Glåma, the municipality of Grue is characterized by forests and agricultural activity.
The forests would have provided ample wood for settlers. The area around the lake of Røgden is believed to be one of Norway's earliest population centers, as well as a hub of early Finnish migration.
The agricultural activity means that unless you're exploring the remote heights of Innlandet, home to Norway's highest peak, Galdhøpiggen, there's a high likelihood of disturbances.
Any historical treasures you might find here have likely been affected by farming machinery or man-made development.
Discoveries here are by no means rare.
Speaking to The Viking Herald, metal detectorist Per Erik Engebretsen described his extensive searches in this particular area of Glåmdalen. It was here that he stumbled upon what the Norwegians call a skålspenne, or bowl brooch.
Found in Grue, just west of Norway's border with Sweden, the Viking bowl brooch is believed to be part of a pair, often worn on the chest area of Viking women's attire. Photo: Per Erik Engebretsen
Old maps and rare finds
"This is a field where there have been several burial mounds," said Per Erik.
"But according to records, these were destroyed in connection with the railway development at the end of the 19th century. The same earth was also bulldozed quite a while back."
"I have searched a lot in this field and made a lot of discoveries there. Several bowl buckle fragments, among other things. I have also found a special isosceles buckle in what's known as borrestil or the drill style."
Following the correct protocol, Per Erik contacted the authorities immediately after his discovery.
May-Tove Smiseth, archaeologist at the regional cultural heritage organization, Kulturarv i Innlandet, then took up the story:
"It's correct that Per Erik Engebretsen found a Viking-era bowl brooch late in September."
Featuring intricate knotwork motifs, the Viking bowl brooch offers a fascinating glimpse into the fashion and style preferences of Viking women from the 9th century. Photo: Per Erik Engebretsen
"As stated in our guidelines for metal detecting, the find should be reported to us within 24 hours after discovery. They send us photos, coordinates, and information on where the find was made."
"We know that an old map from the 19th century shows a probable burial site with several mounds in the area where the brooch was found. The mounds were probably removed when the railway was built through the area in the late 1860s."
These kinds of bowl (or oval) brooches are rarely found intact, especially in cultivated lands where agricultural equipment often leaves just fragments.
Bowl brooches were worn by Viking women at or below each shoulder, both as a fashion accessory and as a practical accouterment as they held in place whatever they were wearing.
Since these brooches always come in pairs, it suggests that another matching item should accompany the one recently found by Per Erik.
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