Newbie metal detectorist thought he found chocolate coins. Turns out he struck gold | CBC Radio

Erlend Bore had only been using his metal detector for about a month when he struck literal gold.

The Norwegian scientist was giving his new toy a whirl on the island of Rennesoey, near the city of Stavanger, Norway, in August when it went off and he spotted something "really yellow" in the soil. 6 Oz Candle Tins

Newbie metal detectorist thought he found chocolate coins. Turns out he struck gold | CBC Radio

Until that moment, most of his unearthed treasures consisted of rusty nails and tin cans, so he figured, at best, it was simply the aluminum foil wrapping of some chocolate gold coins.

"I'm really calm and preparing for another disappointment," Bore, 51, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.

"Then there's a lump of dirt, and I lift it — and it collapses into loads of golden bits, pearls and rings."

Far from a discarded candy wrapper, Bore had stumbled upon what Ole Madsen, the director of the Museum of Archaeology at the University of Stavanger, called "the find of the century in Norway."

"I'm very happy," Bore said. "And also to see the archaeologists being happy is great."

At first glance, the buried treasure looks like a small pile of gold coins. But upon closer inspection, it's actually nine gold pendants with horses on them, three rings and 10 pearls.

Together, they make up "an exceptionally splendid necklace, which was crafted by skilled goldsmiths and worn by the most powerful individuals in society" about 1,500 years ago, Håkon Reiersen, an associate professor at the museum, said in a university press release.

The pendants are called bracteates and Reiersen says they date from around 500 AD, during what's known as the Migration Period, a time of turmoil and mass migration in Europe.

"This period likely marked a crisis with crop failures, worsening climate and plagues," Reiersen said. "Based on the location of the discovery and findings from similar contexts, these were most likely either hidden valuables or offerings to the gods during that dramatic time."

Sigmund Oehrl, who also works for the museum and is an expert on bracteates, said that about 1,000 have so far been found in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

But the museum says these are the first ones discovered in Norway since the 1800s.

Oehrl says bracteates usually bear symbols of Norse god Odin healing the sick horse of his son — a myth that was seen as a "symbol of renewal and resurrection, believed to offer protection and good health to the wearer."

The pendants Bore found, however, feature a horse alone.

"The horse's tongue hangs out, and its slumped posture and twisted legs suggest that it is injured," Oehrl said.

"Similar to the Christian symbol of the cross, which was spreading in the Roman Empire at the same time, the horse symbol represented illness and hardship, but also hope for healing and new life."

Bore didn't know that summer day exactly what he'd stumbled upon, but he did know exactly what to do.

Under Norwegian law, objects from before 1537, and coins older than 1650, are considered state property and must be reported to a state archeologist or historical society.

So Bore and the farmer who had given him permission to explore his land gently wrapped the treasure, stored it on a blue plate, photographed it and reported it to the appropriate authorities.  

"It paid off being really well-prepared," Bore said. "I have a scientific background and a PhD in microbiology, so I'm used to checking what to do before I start."

To a certain extent, he's been preparing for this his whole life. As a child, he says he dreamed of being an archeologist. 

"I was really wanting to be that and wished very much for a detector. And my mother actually got me one, which was quite difficult at that time, but it was not really good, so I didn't use it much," he said.

"So I got back to the idea."

With files from The Associated Press. Interview with Erlend Bore produced by Katie Geleff

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Newbie metal detectorist thought he found chocolate coins. Turns out he struck gold | CBC Radio

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