The Secrets At The Bottom Of A Turkish Lake

Incredible | 3/24/20

We can learn so much about past civilizations from the artifacts and ruins they leave behind. We can tell how they prepared food from the cooking instruments and clay storage containers we find. We can learn how they lived from the ruins of old houses and temples. Sometimes relics from the past show up in the most unlikely of places—like at the bottom of a 600,000-year-old lake.

Keep reading to find out what archeologists found under those murky waters and why it was such an important discovery.

The Turquoise Waters In Turkey

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Photo by Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Photo by Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

This is a photo of Lake Van in Turkey. This is what the lake and the land surrounding it looks like today. The water is a stunning turquoise color and it’s flanked by some truly majestic mountains.

People have been coming to the lake for decades to admire the majesty of nature. The lake is located right next to an impressively tall mountain, lush green foliage, and an ancient church that sits on the edge of a cliff.

It All Started With A Volcano

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Photo Credit: natgeo
Photo Credit: natgeo

You might be wondering how this lake was formed. Well, back in ancient times, a volcano erupted and the flow of lava ended up blocking Lake Van’s outlet.

The water in this lake used to be able to flow back into the ocean, but now that the lava has hardened and blocked its path, it stays put right where it is. This lake is at a really high altitude: 5,380 feet above sea level. Most water would freeze at that altitude, but Lake Van is salty enough that it stays fluid all year round.

When The Tide Rises

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Photo by Sener Toktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Photo by Sener Toktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The volcano that created Lake Van erupted over 600,000 years ago. Back then, the earth was a much different place. Over time, the water level in Lake Van has continued to rise. It’s much deeper now than it used to be even 1,000 years ago.

Recently, a team of scientists and archeologists found a mysterious object at the bottom of Lake Van. It’s entirely possible that the artifact at the bottom of the lake was once on dry land, but the rising water eventually engulfed and sunk the structure.

A Series Of Fortunate Events

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Photo Credit: natgeo
Photo Credit: natgeo

Because of the way lake van was formed scientists have been studying this region for decades. These scientists have been trying to figure out more about how this lake came into existence.

They were also interested in the chemistry and geography of the lake. Because they were focused on the lake itself, they didn’t pay much attention to the structure lurking in its depths. If one momentous event hadn’t happened, that structure may never have been discovered.

An Old Kingdom

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Photo Credit: natgeo
Photo Credit: natgeo

This is a map of what the region around Lake Van looked like during the 9th century. The region has changed a lot over the years, and from this map you can see that Lake Van was once very close to Tushpa, the capital of Urartu. During the Iron Age, Urartu was a thriving kingdom.

The kingdom was active from 860-560 BC— at least, that’s what legend tells us. However, until recently, there has been no physical evidence of this kingdom ever existing.

A Team Of Experts

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Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Archeologists and historians had been studying the possibility of an ancient civilization in the Lake Van region for a while, and in 2017, a group of them decided to put their theories to the test. That year, a team of archaeologists, historians, and photographers traveled to Lake Van based on a hunch that they might discover something amazing.

The curious team thought that it couldn’t hurt to do some exploring. If they didn’t find any artifacts, maybe they would learn something new about the lake itself.

It Had Been Done Before

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

This wasn’t the first time that explorers had come to Lake Van in search of an old, ruined city. This lake had been around for hundreds of thousands of years, and researches have been curious about what might be at the bottom of it for centuries.

In the 1950s and ’60s, researchers had gone on a similar mission. And when they did, they found something pretty interesting. The 2017 team planned to finish what previous teams had started.

Taking Another Look

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

Years ago, back in the 1950s, scientists became aware that there might be some sort of ancient structure at the bottom of Lake Van. According to their research, a large structure was built during the Middle Ages between the years 476 and 1450 A.D. In the ’50s and ‘60s, scientists didn’t have access to the kind technology that we have now, that aids in making these types of underwater discoveries.

Now, we have the technology to discover what the scientists in the ’50s couldn’t.

The Best In The Business

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Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The group of archaeologists, photographers, and researchers couldn’t do their job alone. They needed to bring in some team members who were experienced divers. That’s why they teamed up with some of the very best divers in the area. They reached out to Yan Yüzüncü Yıl University. The University was funding an underwater excavations study related to Lake Van.

The divers from the university were eager to join the expedition and put their diving skills to good use.

A Lost Civilization

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

Even though Lake Van has been studied for years, researches and divers hadn’t yet been able to find any evidence of a lost civilization. drivers have found old bottles, bits of glass, some interesting stones, but no evidence of a castle or a city or even a community.

This team of researchers wasn’t expecting to find something as magical as the sunken city of Atlantis, so when they did, they almost couldn’t believe their eyes.

A Mind-Blowing Discovery

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

The team put on their diving gear and got their cameras ready. They dove deep below the surface of Lake Van, where they found the lost kingdom.

The entire research team was completely overwhelmed, as they knew the significance of this discovery. They hoped they would find something interesting, but to actually locate a 3,000-year-old building was beyond their wildest expectations. Their dive was about to result in uncovering ancient history.

The Search Continues

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

Deep in the water sitting on the floor of the lake was a huge castle that had been perfectly preserved by the salty water, after all of these years. The divers and researchers had searched long and hard, and this was the reward for their dedication. It was a moment that none of them would ever forget.

The head of the diving team, Tahsin Ceylan, had actually set out on a completely different mission, so he was especially surprised by this find.

What Else Is Below The Surface?

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

Ceylan wasn’t looking for a castle, he was looking for a monster. There was a rumour that had been circulating for centuries that there was some kind of mythical sea creature living in Lake Van.

Ceylan said, “There was a rumor that there might be something under the water, but most archaeologists and museum officials told us that we won’t find anything.” Do we think Ceylan could be on to something?

A Giant Castle

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

At the bottom of the lake, the ancient castle sat as though it were on dry land, in impeccable condition. The team wondered how the castle ended up at the bottom of the lake, so they started collecting clues to examine.

The castle walls were about 4 meters high and the structure was about a kilometer wide. The researchers wondered how a castle so massive could end up at the bottom of a lake without documentation as to what happened.

Finally, An Answer

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

This castle seemed to be evidence that the long lost Urartu kingdom actually existed. The team had unlocked new evidence that could teach us a great deal about the Iron Age.

The area around the lake was also known as the Kingdom of Van. It existed from the 9th to the 6th century BCE. The scientists on the team hypothesized that the kingdom had been destroyed due to rising water levels.

More Information About The Urartians

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

The scientists believed that when the Urartian people first built their castle, the water levels of the lake were dramatically lower. The people must have thought that it was a good idea to build their kingdom next to a water source, even if the water was brackish.

There are probably more Urartian structures at the bottom of Lake Van which means that there’s more exploring that needs to be done.

Crunching The Numbers

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

Some of the sections of the castle were still standing strong, while some walls had disintegrated into piles of loose rocks. Sections of the castle and the city surrounding it were found dispersed along the shore of the lake.

The scientists started looking at the quantifiable data. They measured all of the standing walls and wondered how deep they were buried into the floor of the lake. The more they discovered, the more questions they had.

Who Lived In This Castle?

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

The discovery of this castle answers a lot of questions, but it also brings up even more. The team wanted to learn more about the people who had constructed this castle. They also wanted to know who lived in the castle before it was swallowed up by the lake.

After inspecting the walls of the castle for some time, Ceylan’s team discovered a drawing of a lion etched into the rock.

People Had Differing Opinions

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

Back when Urartu was a thriving kingdom, they used a lion motif to represent themselves. At first, the archaeologists on the team thought that this was irrefutable evidence that this was an Urartian castle, but another archaeologist named Geoffrey Summers had a different opinion.

He said, “It looks more medieval than something from the Urartian kingdom.” If Geoffrey is right, it could mean that this castle was still standing (outside of the lake) during the medieval period.

Even More Experts

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

The researchers determined that some of the stones that the Urartians used to build their castle were originally made during the medieval period. The Urartians were recycling these materials from previously created structures.

An archaeology professor at Marmara University said, “The walls [seem] medieval or late antique period rather than Urartu. Urartian never used any material between ashlar wall stones to connect each other.” At that point in the mission, it seemed as though everyone had a different idea about who built this castle.

The Lake Van Scholar

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Photo Credit: Anadolu
Photo Credit: Anadolu

A moderately famous scholar named P. Hulin published a report on the ancient mystery surrounding Lake Van. He wrote, “a lofty wall of later than Urartian times runs under the lake.” So, some experts think this is a Uratian castle, some think it’s pre-Uratian, and some think it’s post-Uratian. So which one of them is right?

P. Hulin had a few more things to say about this intriguing and mysterious castle.

Ancient Inscriptions

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Prisma/UIG via Getty Images
Prisma/UIG via Getty Images

As part of his research, Hulin discovered inscriptions in artifacts found around Lake Van that spoke about the Urartian King, Rusa. The problem is, these writings had survived all kinds of weather over hundreds of years. The writing wasn’t as clear as it used to be.

Hulin was going to have to pull out all the stops if he was going to figure out what was originally written on those stones.

Rusa The Conqueror

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Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

King Rusa became the King of Urartu after his father, King Sarduri II died. While his father was still alive, Rusa was a conqueror who expanded the Kingdom of Urartu. During that time, he took over several Anatolian territories.

Once Rusa became king, however, his conquering days would come back to haunt him. You can’t just take somebody else’s land and expect them to be okay with it. There were consequences on the horizon.

A New Era And A New King

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Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Now that King Rusa was on the throne, the Assyrians had an idea. They appointed a new king by the name of Tiglath-Pileser III. That king instructed his people to regroup, build up their strength, and prepare for battle.

He was going to take back the land that had been taken away from him. He wasn’t going to be a weak leader like the king before him was. He was prepared to fight back.

A Power Struggle

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DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

King Tiglath-Pileser III was preparing his loyal subjects to take back the land that King Rusa’s father had taken control of when he was on the throne. Some researchers thought that this was the moment that the Urartian castle disappeared into the lake. Maybe some kind of battle broke out and the castle was completely displaced.

We may never know what really happened to that castle, but we can test all of these theories against the evidence found in the lake.

A Fierce Fight

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CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images
CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images

When King Rusa took over the Urartian kingdom from his father, he had to immediately fight off King Tiglath-Pileser III’s troops. These people had been training for a battle, and it was abundantly clear that nothing (short of brute force) was going to stop them from taking their land back.

Fights over land ownership dominate much of history (and much of current affairs, if you think about it). Land has always meant power, and people have always wanted power.

The Rewards Of Hard Work

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Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The Urartu kingdom was invaded time and time again, and it had to repair itself each time it was attacked. After all of these battles, the kingdom was gradually deteriorating. Each time, the kingdom needed more resources to make the repairs.

King Tiglath-Pileser III’s army was breaking down the Urartu kingdom bit by bit. They saw their efforts working, and believed that with patience and diligence, the kingdom would fall and the land would be theirs for the taking.

The Urartians Finally Admit Defeat

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Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Urartu people were suffering. They were running out of money and resources and they were growing tired of defending themselves. Eventually, they were forced to admit defeat. They handed over their land and their castles to the people of Assyria.

King Rusa spent most of his reign at war with the Assyrians. In the end, he lost both his kingdom and his mind. He couldn’t keep the land he had conquered and felt totally defeated.

Even More Research

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Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The discovery of the ancient castle at the bottom of Lake Van as attracted many scientists, archaeologists, researchers, and divers to the area. Everyone is determined to find out more about this mysterious structure and how it ended up so far below the surface of the lake.

There is so much more to discover about this massive artifact. Hopefully, the experts will be able to come to a consensus and tell us more about the Urartian people and their kingdom.

It Began With A Stroll

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Visitjuelsminde.dk
Visitjuelsminde.dk

Sometimes, people are just in the right place at the right time. That was exactly the case for Terese Refsgaard, a dental assistant and archaeological enthusiast. While she wasn’t working as a professional archaeologist, Refsgaard still managed to discover something that was so amazing it left several researchers and archaeologists in disbelief.

Terese Refsgaard took a routine walk every day. Being an archaeological enthusiast, however, she was usually in search of treasure. It was during one of these walks that she discovered something incredible that many people believed to have been lost in time.

Meet Terese Refsgaard

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

Terese Refsgaard works as a dental assistant but has always had a deep interest in archaeology. Ever since she was a little girl, she loved exploring, as she is a very curious person. In her youth, Refsgaard spent her free time looking for stones that looked different from others and would imagine that they had carvings from ancient times.

It was her curiosity that led her to make a discovery in a bog that would amaze everybody. When word of her discovery got out, professional archaeologists intervened to properly investigate her findings.

Archaeology Is Her Passion

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

Terese Refsgaard never would have imagined that her hobby as an amateur archaeologist would take her this far. Whenever she had free time, she was usually out exploring, as finding new things was what she really enjoyed doing.

While she had discovered some things as an amateur archaeologist, none of her past discoveries would come close to what she found one day on her walk. That day, she was ready to head back home when she found something that she couldn’t believe.

She Worked With An Archaeology Group

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

As an amateur archaeologist, Terese Refsgaard had become involved with a group that holds events for hobbyists like her who can work together on actual archaeology sites. By doing so, she learned a lot from her peers and mentors while also getting experience in the field that she probably wouldn’t have had if she was working alone.

It was her knowledge from her involvement in these groups, that she was able to correctly handle and unearth what she found. What she found that day were items that linked the past and the present, providing some much-needed answers.

Why Hjarnø?

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

Hjarnø is a small Danish island located on the east coast of Jutland in Hedensted Municipality. The island is 1.9 miles long with a total area of 1.24 square miles and a population of 104. However, there is a reason why Terese Refsgaard was on this small island.

The island is well-known for its history of having artifacts such as arrowheads and other items discovered beneath its muddy earth. Yet, Refsgaard wasn’t interested in finding arrowheads, she wanted to discover something with much more meaning, and that’s exactly what she did.

Right Out Of A Fairytale

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

Growing up, we all heard fantasy stories about a character walking alone, only to stumble upon something of great value that they were destined to find. But those are just stories.

However, in the case of Terese Resfgaard, those stories were going to become a reality as she was destined to find something on that island. What she would find had been hidden for centuries, waiting for her to stumble upon and unearth it.

The Right Spot On The Island

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Visitjuelsminde
Visitjuelsminde

Upon arriving on the small island of Hjarnø, Terese Refsgaard was surprised to see that she wasn’t the only amateur archaeologist to have the idea to go to the island. Slightly dismayed by the number of other people, she decided to make the most out of her day.

There are several hotspots on the island, where numerous discoveries have been made before, but Refsgaard knew that’s where the other archaeologists would most likely be. She knew if she was around other people she was less likely to find something, so she gambled and went somewhere nobody else knows.

Branching Out Her Own

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

Terese Refsgaard was well aware of the island’s reputation of being a hotbed of discoveries where many artifacts have been unearthed in the past. Clearly, she wasn’t the only person that knew about the abundance of items on the island, as there were many people that had come with the same hopes as her.

She decided to not follow the rest of the explorers no matter where they were heading and set off on her own. Little did she know her decision would lead her to find one of the most amazing discoveries in the island’s history.

The Right Place At The Right Time

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

While everyone else continued to look around in crowded areas, Terese Refsgaard began walking toward the ocean with her metal detector. Considering that this was her hobby, she wouldn’t have been all that disappointed if she came up empty-handed.

She knew that if you expected to find something every time that you went looking, it would be quite a discouraging hobby. However, fortunately for her, she was in the right place at the right time.

Ready To Get To Work

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

Thanks to her work with her archaeological group, Terese Refsgaard knew the necessary steps to begin unearthing something that could potentially be precious. She also knew that this was no time to rush her work and that it might take some serious time if she wanted to do everything the proper way.

She began her investigation of the area, checking every inch of the area she mapped out. As she moved at a snail’s pace, her metal detector began to ring louder and louder until she seemed to be directly on top of it.

Digging Very Carefully

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Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images
Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Once Terese Refsgaard was convinced that she had something of worth, she knew that it was time to dig, but with extreme caution. As an amateur archaeologist, she knew that you can’t just go digging in the ground like it’s a sandpit, so, she began working slowly and carefully making her way into the ground.

She dug as slowly as possible, continuously sifting through the dirt in hopes of finding anything of importance. Not only did she not want to destroy an artifact but she didn’t want to miss it either. Then, she found something.

Not What She Was Hoping For

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

After carefully digging into the earth, she finally had found what she was looking for. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what she had hoped for it to be. Instead, to her dismay, all she found was a piece of stray metal. Laughing to herself about her “discovery,” she thought about abandoning her location and going to one of the more populated areas.

Instead, she decided to stick to her original plan and continue exploring the area away from everyone else. It was this decision that led her to discover a piece of history that shocked numerous researches.

Sticking With It

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Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/picture alliance via Getty Images
Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/picture alliance via Getty Images

While she was disappointed that she had only found a piece of scrap metal, she didn’t think that it was the end of the world. She didn’t even think she would find anything at all and the excitement of possibly finding something was enough for her to keep going.

She knew that her decision to search near the coast had been random at best, but she picked up her materials and decided to push forward, towards one of the greatest discoveries on the island.

Moving On

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

As it turns out, the area that she was exploring wasn’t all that large, so it didn’t take Terese Refsgaard very long for her to cover the entire area with her metal detector. As she was finishing up her scanning of the area, she began to feel like there wasn’t anything there.

However, after taking a much-needed break, she heard the sound of her device once again. She had found something but figured that it wasn’t anything of importance.

Another Chance

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

Without wasting time, Terese Refsgaard began digging under where her metal detector had signaled. As she dug, she still didn’t find anything and feared that she had been led astray once again.

However, after placing the metal detector on the spot once again, she learned that there was actually something there. She realized that it must be deeper than she originally thought and continued to dig further and further down.

Attracting Attention

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Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook
Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard / Facebook

After digging for what felt like forever, some people even came over to help. However, Terese Refsgaard didn’t realize that people had started coming over from all over, curious about what she was going to dig up. Regardless of how tired she was, she kept going because she had a feeling inside her that this wasn’t going to be last time.

Finally, she found it. She screamed in excitement alerting even more people in the surrounding area. She held something in her hand as she jumped around wildly. She had just made the discovery of a lifetime.

An Amazing Discovery

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Velje Museums
Velje Museums

Amazingly, the amateur archaeologist discovered over 23 pieces of jewelry. However, it wasn’t just any kind of jewelry, which would have been incredible as well. No, this jewelry was over 1,500 years old.

This was confirmed by the researches that came later to help Terese Refsgaard finish excavating and take the discovery to a whole new level. On top of that, the jewelry has a very interesting origin, something that nobody saw coming.

Real Old Gold

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Velje Museums
Velje Museums

According to Mads Ravn, the research head of Vejle Museums, the pieces of jewelry that Terese Refsgaard had unearthed date as far back as the 6th century, a time that even predates the Viking period.

He claims that “Years can go by without amateur archaeologists finding gold, and some never do, so this is amazing.” Refsgaard had managed to accomplish the impossible and this was just the beginning of her adventure. Her entire world was about to be turned upside down.

More Than Just Gold And Jewelry

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Vejle Museums
Vejle Museums

While the first thing she found may have been gold jewelry, there was certainly more where that came from. As she kept digging, she found several other artifacts including beads, pendants, a needle, and gold coins which clearly were used as currency during that time.

Not only had she discovered something as valuable as gold, but her discovery helped answer several questions that still lingered in the archaeology community. Her find is considered to be one of the most important in the area of all time.