A medieval treasure trove dating from around the year 1000 and which provides proof of a ‘money based international network’ in the northern Netherlands went on show at the archaeological museum RMO in Leiden on Thursday.
The treasure, consisting of four gold ear ornaments, two pieces of gold leaf and 39 silver coins was found in 2021 by a young historian on a metal detecting expedition in Hoogwoud, near Alkmaar in Noord-Holland.
‘The ornaments are a find of international importance,’ RMO curator Annemarieke Willemsen told the NRC . ‘They show that people in Noord-Holland had contacts at the highest level and were part of international trade network that used money.’
Made of 18 carat gold, the crescent shaped, earring-like ornaments carry engravings, one of which depicts a man’s head surrounded by rays. ‘That may possibly be Christ, pictured as Sol Invictus, or the unconquered sun,’ Willemsen said. They were probably not made for pierced ears but worn attached to a head dress, she said.
Style comparisons with German jewellery have shown the ornaments to date from between 1000 and 1050. The Dutch objects are special because they combine Byzantine elements, such as the crescent shape, with the filligree that was used in Germany and the engravings are typical for the northern Netherlands and Scandinavia, Willemsen said.
The silver coins were found to date from the 13th century and historians do not know what the link between them is.
The coins and gold were found within a five by five meter area ‘so I think they were probably buried together and the ornaments were heirlooms,’ Michiel Bartels, head of the department for West-Frisian archeology, said.
The area is usually described by historians as ‘an uncivilised egalitarian farmers’ republic’ but earlier finds of sarcophagi and a Viking ring have already shown the presence of an elite. ‘Someone must have buried the treasure to keep it safe,’ Bartels said.
The Hoogwoud treasure will be on show until June 15 and again from October 13 as part of a temporary exhibition called The year 1000.
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