The Gold From Vittene

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As the first reader-submitted pic, my buddy Lars Lundqvist has sent me a snap of himself taken by Klas Höglund in October 1995. Lars is happy in this picture, the reason being that he’s just found the object he’s holding. It’s a large plough-mangled Continental gold neck ring of the first few centuries AD, and it’s part of the Vittene hoard.


The first part of the hoard to surface was a filigreed gold torque of the Celt-dominated final centuries BC. The finder took it home and hung it in the broom cupboard. Years passed before he finally got round to showing it to an archaeologist, our sadly departed colleague Ulf Viking. He of course promptly went apeshit over it, called in Lars and Klas, and the rest is Västergötland archaeological history.

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The manufacturing dates of the gold objects from Vittene are spread out over centuries, indicating that they had accumulated at a Continental sanctuary until the place was sacked by marauding Germans in the 5th century. The ring in the picture is too large to be worn in any sensible way by people, but it would have sat quite comfortably on a cult statue. With my mentor Jan Peder Lamm I was given an opportunity to handle the hoard at the Museum of National Antiquities shortly after it was found, and I visited the site in 1998 with Ulf Viking, so I have a special central place in my heart for Vittene.

Lars has done a lot of work on the 1st Millennium central places of Västergötland, a really voluptuous central area separated from Östergötland by Lake Vättern and the wooded heights of Hökåsen. He’s also worked in Halland, directing the excavations at the famous magnate’s farm of Slöinge. He’s my kinda guy.

The Vittene project has spawned a considerable number of books, reports and papers, so I’ll confine myself to referring to the latest contribution, that happens to be in English unlike most of the others.


Rasch, Monica. 2004. The gold-treasure from Vittene in southwest Sweden. Eds Perea et al. Tecnología del oro antiguo. Europa y América. Anejos del Archivo espaŮol de arqueología 32. Madrid.
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Comments

  1. #1 Karen
    January 8, 2007

    THAT’S Lar’s happy face?

  2. #2 Martin Rundkvist
    January 8, 2007

    You’re right, he doesn’t look happy. I guess he’s either zonked out by a massive finds overdose, or simply awestruck.

    “Lars”, BTW, is what was left of “Laurentius” after non-Latinate Medieval Swedes had had their way with the name back in the day.

  3. #3 Ex-Art Historian
    January 8, 2007

    There is something about being able to physically touch artifacts that creates a connection that can’t be duplicated through any amount of distant study.

    I wrote my Master’s thesis on a tomb from second-century BC China called Mawangdui. It was a “water tomb” which meant that it had filled with water very soon after the tomb was sealed and between the ceramic coating of the tomb filtering the water and the toxic lacquer in the tomb, the contents were very well preserved, the occupant’s last meal was still in her stomach. The tomb also contained rolls and rolls of gorgeous silk including embroidery in many brilliant colors.

    During my thesis writing, my university sponsored an international convention on Chinese and Central Asian archeology. I was assigned to assist a curator from the Hermitage in newly-renamed St. Petersburg. One afternoon we were talking about my thesis and he pulled me into an empty room and with great secrecy pulled a small glass vial out of his pocket which contained some sections of the embroidered silk of Mawangdui. He had stopped in China on the way to the conference and his old friends there had given him the samples.

    It was increadible being able to touch these small, 2×2 cm swatches of 2100 year-old silk. A moment I will not forget.

    Andrew

  4. #4 Martin R
    January 8, 2007

    Mawangdui? “Horse common-surname correct”? My Chinese is crap.

    You’re absolutely right about the magic of ancient places and objects. Though as I wrote in a forthcoming paper, I’d happily swap an entire prehistoric cemetery for the phone number of one of its dead inhabitants…

  5. #5 tbell
    January 8, 2007

    Andrew. Are you talking about the Han tomb with the museum in Changsha? That woman was so well preserved she wasn’t a mummy but a corpse. And the silks from that tomb *are* incredible.

  6. #6 Lars L
    January 10, 2007

    Martin, not zonked out, I was just a bit flabbergasted by the fact that ancient gold objects could be that big. You know, after a few years fiddling with those tiny little gold foils… Karen who – Jones!? (Lars L)

  7. #7 Martin Rundkvist
    January 10, 2007

    Haha, of course! Lars found Halland’s first guldgubbar, at Sloinge, minuscule embossed gold foil figures.

  8. #8 Lars L
    January 10, 2007

    For those who might be interested… http://hem.passagen.se/lalu0144/sloinge/slo_home.htm

  9. #9 JG
    June 27, 2007

    Is not the the large ring in the picture very similar to the ring from Havor on Gotland, which was stolen from a museum about 20 years ago?

  10. #10 Savon
    June 27, 2007

    I’ve heard that it will be possible, if it isn’t already, to visit the Vittene site as tourist or as a “dreamer”.
    I’ve heard that Per-Arne Ryderup is working with that project for Trollhaettan. There will be signs there and so on. Nice!

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