Beautiful Viking gold artifact might just be the oldest crucifix found in Denmark

Viking-Gold_Oldest_Crucifix_Denmark_2Credit: VIKING MUSEUM LADBY

A crucifix discovered from the early middle ages is a rare enough find as it is. But even rarer is the scenario where the crucifix is of Viking make, and even predates the runic symbols of Harald Bluetooth who is often credited with turning the “Danes to Christianity”. Pertaining to the latter part, an amateur metal detectorist (as is often the case nowadays) discovered the above picture specimen in a field in Denmark. The exquisite gold artifact (called the Aunslev cross) flaunts its impressive form and craftsmanship by showcasing Christ with his outstretched arms encompassing the familiar shape of the crucifix. And date wise, the gold object is believed to be crafted in early 10th century AD (thus still corresponding to the Viking Age), and as such is probably the oldest complete crucifix (depiction) found from Denmark.

Now in case you are wondering, previously the historians thought that the oldest complete crucifix depiction was found among the massive rune-stones erected by Harald Bluetooth in 965 AD. But this new discovery predates the so-called Jelling stones by decades, thus suggesting that Christianity was adopted in Denmark earlier than conventionally conjectured. Interestingly, the potentially ‘history changing’ Aunslev cross is only 0.6-inches in height and weighs a bantam 0.45 ounces. In spite of such tiny credentials, the craftsmanship is intricate with embellished gold-threads and incorporation of filigree balls.

Now it should be noted that similar crucifix designs have been found in female graves in Birka, Sweden. Intriguingly enough, Birka (near Stockholm) is the very same site that also yielded the famed Allah-inscribed ring, thus suggesting the importance of this Viking Age trading settlement that connected Scandinavia with the far-flung realms like the Eastern Roman Empire and the Abbasid Caliphate via routes like Ladoga and Novgorod. To that end, the crucifix designs (like their Islamic counterpart) could also pertain to the Viking penchant for gold and precious metals, as opposed to any specific religious affiliation.

However Swedish archaeologist Martin Rundkvist has hypothesized that the aforementioned gold crucifix was locally made, probably near Hedeby in Denmark. His hypothesis is fueled by the fact that in spite of the trading pedigree of towns like Hedeby and Birka, many of the townsfolk were also active artisans. So in terms of date, the Aunslev cross in question here might just be the oldest crucifix found in Danish lands. In any case, the incredible Viking artifact will be displayed at the Viking Museum in Ladby till the Easter holiday (and then sent away for preservation and further analysis).

Viking-Gold_Oldest_Crucifix_Denmark_1

Reconstruction of Hedeby, in Denmark.

Via: DiscoveryNews

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