In Denmark, a man with a metal detector recently made a small—but spectacular—find: a rare Viking crucifix pendant dating back to the 10th century. According to Discovery News, the tiny gold cross is thought to be the country’s oldest crucifix. This ancient discovery suggests that Danes might have converted to Christianity earlier than experts previously thought.
The well-preserved cross measures 1.6 inches high, and is forged in the shape of Jesus Christ with his arms outstretched on the cross. It was found in the town of Aunslev, Østfyn, by a metal detector hobbyist named Dennis Fabricius Holm. Holm had an afternoon off work, and decided to take his machine out for a spin. While walking in the fields around a church, “I came suddenly on something,” Holm told Danish news source DK (translation via Google Translate). “Since I cleared the mud and saw the jewelry, I have not been able to think of anything else.”
Holm posted news of his discovery on social media, The Independent reports. Viewers told him to take it to a museum, and the crucifix is now under the care of experts at the Viking Museum Ladby.
According to the Ladby Museum, the pendant is historically significant. It’s older than the famous runestone found in the Danish town of Jelling, etched with a figure on a cross, which commemorates the Danes’ conversion to Christianity by Scandinavian king Harald Bluetooth. Dating back to roughly 965 CE, it was thought to be the earliest depiction of Jesus on a cross in Denmark. The newly discovered crucifix pendant, which was likely made between 900–950 CE, changes that notion.
“The figure can … help to advance the time when one considers that the Danes really were Christians,” Malene Refshauge Beck, a curator and archaeologist at the Østfyns Museum in Kerteminde, Denmark, told The Independent. “Simply because one can say that the person who carried it here no doubt embraced the Christian faith.”
The crucifix was likely worn by a Viking woman, although the Ladby Museum said in a release that their experts haven’t determined “whether the cross was to show that she was a Christian Viking or was just a part of a pagan Viking’s bling-bling.”
The pendant will be showcased at the Ladby until Easter, and then it will be sent to a conservation lab. This summer, it will be part of a museum exhibition highlighting other Viking objects found in Denmark with metal detectors.
[h/t Discovery News]