This entry was first published over the cell-phone network on my old site, without pix, on Monday 9 April.
This morning I woke up in an unexpected and not very welcome winter wonderland. Driving the 2.5 hours to Linköping on summer tyres was scary. But the snow was gone by lunch. An icy wind persisted.
I’m writing this from the kitchen of a little house we’re renting at the hostel in Mjölby. Today my crew of six did 27 person-hours of metal detecting at our site in Kaga parish, collecting about a hundred objects, most dating from the past three centuries. Only one can be dated before AD 1100, which would be a big disappointment but for one thing. We have found something extremely rare and unbeatably relevant to my research!
At top-level aristocratic manor sites of the later 1st Millennium in Scandinavia, minuscule gold foil figures are found, guldgubbar. They’re embossed with images of men and women, singly or pairwise, embracing and kissing. When found in situ, they are often associated with the posts carrying the roof of the mead-hall, venue of cultic feasts and political summits (for a particularly fine example from Uppåkra in Scania, see the current issue of Antiquity). The images have been interpreted as gods or heroes, the embracing pairs as mythical divine ancestors of royal lineages, perhaps the god Freyr and his chaos-giant wife Gerd.
Gold foil figures are exceptionally light-weight, replacing the more massive bracteate pendants when the Byzantine gold coin supply dried out at the shift to the Vendel Period c. AD 540. So light are they that they don’t trigger a metal detector. What does trigger a detector is the bronze model on which the figures were embossed. The number of such models found to date in all of Scandinavia is in the single digits. And today team member Niklas Krantz added one to that number!
Unusually, the Kaga model found today depicts a single woman. Looking at the model, she’s facing right, chin held high and proud. Her hair forms a large knot at the back of her head and then cascades down her back. She’s wearing a long dress with a train, a shawl over her shoulders, pointed shoes and
indistinct pectoral jewellery . Her right hand is visible, held close to her chest, thumb pointing rearwards and the fingers upward. A proud sister of Queen Wealtheow!
This is simply a mindblowing find, an instant classic. I am so proud and thrilled to have taken part in its discovery!
Update 14 April: Mats W of the VoF forum has published a tracing of the motif, pointing out that the lady’s feet are curiously far to the right, and that the box with three circles in the lower left-hand corner may be a stool she is sitting on.
Update 2 May: I’ve made a tracing of my own, shown below.