In what may be of the most important Viking discoveries in recent times, archaeologists have uncovered an elaborately gilded horse bridle likely owned by a high-status individual of the early Viking Age, possibly a confidant to Gorm the Old, the first ruler of Denmark.
Originally discovered in 2012, the Viking burial site in Hørning, Denmark consists of two graves and a tomb that is believed to contain two or three burial chambers. Excavations have started on the first of the chambers, and so far, the archaeologists have been astounded by what they’ve found. Just outside the burial chamber was an elaborately gilded horse bridle, leading the archaeologists to surmise that the person buried within was of very high status.
Dubbed the “Fregerslev Viking,” the individual is believed to be from the early Viking Age. Merethe Scihfter, a project manager and archeologist at the Museum of Skanderborg told the Copenhagen Post, “The artefacts that we’ve already found are exquisite gilded fittings from a horse bridle. This type of bridle would only be available to the most powerful of people in the Viking Age, and we believe it might have been a gift of alliance from the king.” In fact, they believe the fittings date to 950 A.D., meaning that the Fregerslev Viking could have been the confidant to the first historically recognized ruler of Denmark, Gorm the Old, or maybe his rival.
The horse headgear was decorated with fine ornamentation and Viking bling—geometrical figures, weaving, herringbone and annular patterns. Along with the incredible horse harness, they found partially preserved organic remains of leather, and seven cross-shaped belt fasteners with animal heads at the raised center. While the excavations are in the beginning stages, archaeologists have already preserved the headgear with a bridle, silver-plated quillons (the cross-guard of a sword) and cheek-plates.
Archaeologists think this may be the most remarkable Danish finding since 1983. In fact, the importance of these findings has been compared discoveries like the Tollund Man (the most well-preserved prehistoric “bog body” in the world) and the Egtved Girl (a Nordic Bronze Age girl aged 16-18 whose remains were discovered in an oak coffin in 1921 in Denmark).
The two graves outside the tomb were already excavated in 2012—one did not contain any significant grave artifacts while the other housed an oak coffin with a single skeleton lying on its back with its arms at its side.
Managed by the Museum of Skanderborg, the excavations will continue on the tomb chambers in April 2017 and will feature daily guided tours. You can find up-to-date information on http://www.vikingfregerslev.dk/. Some of the discoveries will be on display at the Museum of Skanderborg from April 7 to May 7.