From the quest for The Holy Grail to the heist of Kim Kardashian’s 20-carat diamond engagement ring, it’s safe to say that some of the most legendary treasures in history may never be found.
However, even despite being able to search everywhere on the planet, thanks largely to Google Earth, there are still some pirate treasures and missing royal jewels out there waiting to be discovered at exactly the right moment. And many times, this will happen all by chance…
When the earliest inhabitants of a tiny island called Hiddensee first arrived during the Middle and New Stone Ages, they had no idea what their new home was hiding. Unbeknownst to the settlers, neighbors from the North had already come across Hiddensee – and left behind something incredible.
Sea Faring Isle
Located to the west of the island of Rügen, Hiddensee lies on the German coast in the Baltic Sea. Today it is home to only about 1,300 inhabitants, but during ancient times, many great ships likely passed by the tiny isle. And with some mariners from the North, they carried fantastic treasures…
Hidden on Hiddensee
Hiddensee was not well known for any hidden treasures, or anything, for that matter, until great tragedy came in the late 1800s. Earlier in the 19th century, Hiddensee settlers built schools, churches, and even an abbey. But much of their work would be destroyed just years later.
The years 1872 and 1873 will forever be remembered as the most pivotal time in the tiny island’s history. With no protection from the choppy waters of the cold sea, a series of terrible storms nearly wiped out the island during this time…
Split in Half
The first storm that took place was so bad that it broke the delicate island of Hiddensee into two sections. In fact, the entire middle part of the island was so flooded that it could only be saved by extensive building measures by Hiddensee residents.
Repair & Restore
After the second disastrous flood in 1873, it was time to rebuild the storm-ravaged island. However, in the wake of the devastation of their destroyed home, no one on Hiddensee had any idea what the terrible tragedy would lead to…
After the Storm
While working to restore the immense damage caused by the flooding, one of the most stunning archaeological finds would soon present itself. By chance, the terrible storm, which had brought such heartache to the tiny island, had also uncovered a long-buried treasure.
Hundreds of years earlier, Vikings traveled through the Baltic Sea on vast ships, carrying with them their most valuable items. And for many Vikings, this meant hoards of precious metals and jewels that could be lost forever when a ship was destroyed by inclement weather…
Discovery of 1873
Or at least until the next great storm washes it back up again, that was! In 1873, after the great flooding, a treasure washed out on the beach of Neuendor. The treasured discovered completely by chance by a puzzled local fisherman, whose life was about to change forever.
Neither the fisherman nor anyone on the small island, or anyone throughout Europe for that matter, had ever seen anything like the precious discovery before. The storm had recovered at least 18 different artifacts and both their historical and monetary value was completely priceless. It was the first discovery of its kind and it was a very big one…
The treasure consisted of 14 different pendants, a brooch, and a neck ring — and they were all made of pure gold. The total was about 600 grams of gold and it was truly a hoard of treasure, likely being protected for someone very important.
10th Century Pieces
The treasures were inspected and found to be manufactured in the second half of the 10th century, known as the late Viking Age. The gold jewels were connected with nobility of southern Scandinavia and was believed to have belonged to the family of the Danish King Harald Gormsson, who was better known as “Bluetooth”….
Long Live Bluetooth
Today “Bluetooth” is referred to as the Bluetooth wireless technology that enables cable-free connections between computers, cell phones, and so many other electronic devices. However, the name comes from Harald Bluetooth, the great king who unified Denmark and Norway, much like the devices we use today.
Fit for a King
And it would make sense, as the accidentally-discovered Hiddensee jewelry was truly fit for a king. The larger pendants were all made in a similar style with braided bands. Others had beaded knots and ornaments that were created by mixing little gold splinters with charcoal in a crucible…
The pendants included both Norse pagan and Christian symbols and the elongated, twisting shapes of the objects were very common amongst artifacts from the Viking era. Each of the 14 pendants had crosses with a hollow tube at the top so the chain could go through and was shaped like a bird’s head.
Animal symbolism was quite popular in Viking history and the animal head in the center of the pendants were likely the head of an eagle or an owl. Yet, there are some scientists who note Greek-Byzantine influences and others believe it could be the god Thor’s hammer from northern mythology…
When it was discovered in 1873, no other Hiddensee-type jewelry had ever been found before and the Viking jewels were some of the most beautiful certifications of Scandinavian goldsmith art that had been discovered to date. The Viking goldsmith art consisted of the finest intertwined gold wires, tender rosettes, and tiny up-strewn balls of gold granules.
With some imagination, one can even see snakes with artfully entwined bodies or four dragon heads facing each other on the extremely-detailed pieces of art. It’s no wonder why people from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea all wanted to get their hands on a piece of Viking jewelry during the 12th and 13th centuries…
A replica of the Hiddensee treasure can be seen on display at the Hiddensee Local History Museum, located on the tiny island, which gets a small share of tourism each year. Since the discovery of the gold hoard in 1873, the original 16 Viking Age artifacts have been presided over by the Kulturhistorisches Museum of the Hanseatic town of Stralsund, Germany. The treasure is estimated to have an insured value of more than 70 million Euros and remains the largest discovery of Viking gold to date.
One Storm Away…
Even today, the island of Hiddensee and its residents are threatened to divide into a southern and a northern part, something which can only be avoided by extensive coastal preservation. This leaves some treasure hunters to wonder what else may be hiding along the coast of the tiny Baltic Sea isle…