Working with the Gothenburg Historical Society’s metal detector group at Sättuna near Linköping in the spring of 2007, I was fortunate enough to be on site when Niklas Krantz found the thirteenth gold foil figure die known to scholarship. These dies were used in the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries to make tiny images of gods or rulers out of gold foil. The beauty of the dies is that the figures themselves are too small and light to trigger
a metal detector. Not so the dies. And finding one of them is more interesting than finding a foil figure, since the die documents a site where the figures were actually made. These are generally interpreted as the seats of petty kings.
The other day, Danish school teacher and metal detectorist Jannick Nielsen found yet another foil figure die! Unless I’m poorly informed, his find is number 14. It surfaced on western Zealand, a large island where at least two dies have been found previously. Jannick’s die belongs to the common type which depicts an embracing couple. Norwegian historian of religion Gro Steinsland has published an influential interpretation where this motif is taken to represent the marriage between an Aesir god and a giantess, being the mythical ancestors of the era’s royal lines as documented in extant genealogies.
Thanks to Jannick for permission to publish his photograph. For more Danish detectorist goodness, see www.detekt.dk.