Norwegian Family Looking For Lost Earring Stumbles Upon Viking Relics Instead

Published October 4, 2023
Updated October 6, 2023

The extraordinary find confirms a long-held belief about Viking settlements on the island of Jomfruland.

Jomfruland Viking Brooches

Facebook/Cultural Heritage of Vestfold and Telemark CountyThese two brooches were once used to secure the straps of a woman’s dress.

When Jan Erik Aasvik’s mother lost an earring in the garden of their home on Norway’s Jomfruland island, he decided to pull out a metal detector and scour the yard for the missing jewelry. But when the device started beeping near a tree, he dug up two 1,200-year-old Viking relics instead.

“Fantastic Viking Age find on Jomfruland!” the Vestfold and Telemark County Council’s cultural heritage department exclaimed in a Facebook post.

Aasvik stumbled upon two bronze brooches: one large oval brooch and one smaller circular brooch. According to Live Science, the brooches were characteristic of the ninth century and were decorated with engravings of animals and other elaborate patterns. Because they also have traces of gold, archaeologists believe that the brooches were once gilded.

Aasvik Family

Facebook/Cultural Heritage of Vestfold and Telemark CountyThe Aasvik family reacting to their remarkable find.

As archaeologist Vibeke Lia explained to Live Science, the brooches were probably used to fasten the shoulder straps of a woman’s halter dress. She also speculated that they were so well preserved because they ended up in a yard and not on a farm, where they were saved from farmers plowing their fields.

But that’s not the only reason they’re so remarkable.

The discovery of the ninth-century brooches also suggests that Jomfruland was settled during the Viking Age (793 to 1066 C.E.), which means that people had lived on the island for longer than previously thought. Though there’s documentation of settlements on Jomfruland since the Middle Ages, the brooches indicate that the island’s history is much older.

As Live Science reports, experts have long suspected as much. Researchers had previously uncovered large piles of rocks, or cairns, in the southwestern part of the island, which could certainly be evidence of Viking activity. The cairns may have acted as “claims” on the island’s territory.

But this was just a theory until the discovery of the bronze brooches, which do indeed suggest that Vikings settled on Jomfruland long ago.

Experts have lauded the Aasvik family for notifying authorities about the find, but they’re not sure what will happen next to the family’s yard. Archaeologists will have to see if the site is in danger of deterioration or not.

Hole In The Yard

Facebook/Cultural Heritage of Vestfold and Telemark CountyThe Aasvik family immediately notified authorities of their find.

“If it’s safe there, then it will probably not be dug but preserved where it is,” Lia explained to Live Science.

The discovery by the Aasvik family is just the latest historic artifact to be uncovered using a metal detector in Norway. Last month, a Norwegian man made the “gold find of the century” while using his metal detector on the island of Rennesøy. Erlend Bore, 51, was walking with the device because his doctor had told him to get more exercise when he stumbled upon a cache of nine gold pendants, three gold rings, and 10 gold pearls that once formed a necklace. The incredible finds are from around 1,500 years ago.

Discoveries like these just go to show that history’s treasures are all around us. Keep your eyes peeled — and your metal detector close at hand — and you never know what sort of incredible relics you might stumble across.

After reading about the Viking brooches found in Norway while a family was searching for a lost earring, see how a Norwegian family discovered a 1,100-year-old Viking grave while renovating their house. Or, learn about the Norwegian woman who found a gold Viking ring among the cheap costume jewelry she’d ordered online.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.