An ancient Viking treasure was found inside a lump of soil in eastern Norway during a 2021 archaeological excavation, the Miami Herald reported Thursday. Norway’s museum of cultural history issued a news release about the artifact in March.
Upon X-raying the lump, experts identified gold and bronze metals. After cleaning away the dirt, they found an intricate piece of metal jewelry that they determined was once a buckle or possibly a brooch.
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The buckle features a series of interconnected loops that appear to depict an animal. Some believe the figure could be a lion encircled by serpents, while others believe it could be a horse or dragon. The artifact would have been made with a clay mold—an indication that it was mass-produced.
It is unclear who would have worn the accessory or exactly for what purpose.
Based on the style, however, researchers believes the piece dates to roughly 1000 CE. It would have been popular among the vikings of modern-day Norway, before the spread of Christianity.
Vikings throughout Scandinavia were forced to convert to Christianity around 900 CE, wherein it became the dominant religion around 1050 CE. While Viking culture was known for including animals in its designs, Christians opted for more abstract decoration.