Oldest reference to Norse god Odin discovered on Danish gold treasure

Streaming HUBMarch 11, 2023

Scandinavian scientists said on Wednesday they have identified the oldest known inscription referring to the Norse god Odin on part of a gold disc discovered in western Denmark in 2020.

Lisbeth Immer, a runologist at the National Museum in Copenhagen, said that the inscription represents the first concrete evidence of Odin worship from the early 5th century – at least 150 years before the previous oldest known reference, which was found in a brooch. . Southern Germany and dated to the late 6th century.

The disc, discovered in Denmark, was part of a hoard of approximately 2.2 pounds of gold, which included large saucer-shaped medallions and Roman coins made into ornaments. It was discovered in the village of Vindelev in central Jutland, and has been dubbed the Vindelev Hoard.

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Experts believe the cache was buried over 1,500 years ago, either to hide it from enemies or as a tribute to appease the gods. A golden clasp – a type of slender, ornamental pendant – bore an inscription that read, “He is Odin’s man,” possibly referring to an unknown king or overlord.

Imer said, “This is one of the best executed runic inscriptions I have seen.” Runes are symbols that early tribes in northern Europe used to communicate in writing.

inscription "he is odin's man" The top of a figure's head is seen on a golden stelae discovered in Vindelev, Denmark, late 2020.

The inscription “He is Odin’s man” is seen on the head of a figure on a golden bracket in Vindelev, Denmark, late 2020. (Arnold Mikkelsen, National Museum of Denmark via AP)

Odin was one of the main gods in Norse mythology and was often associated with warfare as well as poetry.

More than 1,000 bracts have been found in northern Europe, according to the National Museum in Copenhagen, where a trove discovered in 2020 is on display.

Christer Washus, an ancient language expert, said that because runic inscriptions are rare, “each inscription is important to how we understand the past.”

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“When an inscription of this length appears, it is in itself astonishing,” said Washus. “It gives us some pretty interesting information about religion in the past, which also tells us something about society in the past.”

During the Viking Age, which is believed to have lasted from 793 to 1066, seafarers known as Vikings raided, colonized, conquered and traded extensively across Europe. They also reached North America.

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The nomads worshiped several deities and each of them had different attributes, weaknesses and characteristics. Based on the sagas and some rune stones, details emerged that the gods had many human qualities and could behave like humans.

“Such mythology may lead us further and further to the point that we should re-examine all the other 200 Bracteate inscriptions,” Immer said.

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