In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists in Scandinavia announced on Wednesday that they have uncovered the earliest known reference to Odin on a gold disc found in western Denmark last year. Lisbeth Imer, a runologist with the National Museum in Copenhagen, expressed excitement about the find, noting that this was the first time there was definitive proof of worship of Odin as early as the 5th century. This is at least 150 years earlier than a previous reference to the Norse god on a brooch that was found in southern Germany and dated to the second half of the 6th century.
But this wasn’t just any old disc. The gold artifact was part of the Vindelev Hoard, a hoard of approximately one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of gold that was discovered in a small village in central Jutland. Among the hoard were several medallions as large as saucers as well as Roman coins that had been fashioned into jewelry. Experts say that the cache was likely buried 1,500 years ago either to hide it from enemies or as a tribute to the gods. One particularly interesting find was a golden bracteate, a thin, ornamental pendant that carried an inscription which read, “He is Odin’s man.” Experts believe that this may refer to an unknown king or overlord.
Of course, the real star of the show is the runic inscription on the gold disc itself. Imer remarked that this was “one of the best executed runic inscriptions that I have ever seen.” For those who may not know, runes were symbols used by early tribes in northern Europe to communicate in writing. To have found an inscription of this length was particularly unique, said Krister Vasshus, an ancient language specialist. He noted that “every runic inscription (is) vital to how we understand the past.” Indeed, such rare finds allow experts to glean valuable insights on religion and society during that time.
Odin was one of the main gods in Norse mythology, well-known for his association with war and poetry. During the Viking Age, from 793 to 1066, Norsemen known as Vikings were known for their raiding, colonizing, conquest, and trading throughout Europe. They even managed to make it to North America. The Norsemen worshipped many gods, each possessing their own unique traits and properties. As Imer notes, “That kind of mythology can take us further and have us reinvestigate all the other 200 bracteate inscriptions that we know.”
All in all, this is a truly fascinating finding that sheds light on the complexities of Norse society during that time. It just goes to show that you never know what hidden treasures the earth may hold!
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