It isn't always a professional archaeologist who can dig up history-changing items. Hobbyists like you or me can stumble upon something great. That was exactly the case for Terese Refsgaard, a dental assistant and archaeological enthusiast. She wasn't working as a professional archaeologist, yet Refsgaard still managed to discover something that was so amazing it left several researchers and archaeologists in disbelief.
Her discovery was so significant that people all over the world are talking about it. Read on to see her incredible find and be inspired to go out digging for yourself!
Terese Refsgaard Was Just A Hobbyist
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.
She Was Involved With An Archaeology Group
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.
Archaeology Was a Hobby For Her
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.
Why Was She Searching In Hjarnø?
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.
Something Out Of A Storybook
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.
Choosing Where To Go On The Island
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.
Setting Off On Her Own
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.
Then, Something Happened
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.
She Was Ready To Get To Work
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 With Extreme Caution
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.
A Harsh Reality
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.
Not Giving Up
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.
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.
A Second Chance
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.
A Crowd Began To Gather
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.
The Discovery Of A Lifetime
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.
The Gold Was Centuries Old
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.
There Was More Than Just Gold And Jewelry
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.
Connection To The Roman Empire
While it was Terese Refsgaard who had personally made the discovery without the help of any professionals, she didn't quite know what she had found until the find was analyzed and studied by professional researchers. After being studied, it was revealed that 27 of the 32 pieces that were discovered were made of pure gold.
Head researcher, Mads Ravn, explained that "The find suggests that people from Hjarnø had contact with the Roman empire," something that wasn't always agreed upon until now.
More Evidence On The Island
Although Terese Refsgaard's find is one of the most important ever discovered in the history of the island, there has been other evidence that points to Ancient Rome. However, her find helped solidify the idea that the island once had communication with the Ancient Empire.
People have also found other kinds of artifacts including arrowheads that have most likely washed up on shore and are then buried in sediment. Only then are they later excavated by people like Refsgaard.
Used As An Offering
Apparently, according to some scientists and archaeologists, it's highly possible that the gold and other artifacts found on Hjarnø was an offering to appease "angry gods." This theory is believed by many because it's one of the assumptions that makes sense considering how the gold remained undiscovered for so much time.
Also, why the island would have Roman gold and other goods in such close proximity could only mean that they were put there together intentionally.
Further Roman Connection
Ravn further discussed the connection with the Romans stating that "People connected to the Romans probably took part in raids there, so our find is a small legacy from a turbulent time in world history in which gold speaks its own clear language."
Gold was constantly used as an offer to their Gods because they found it to be extremely important to themselves, so they assumed that their Gods would find it equally as appealing. So, gold was frequently used as a form of "sacrifice" in hopes to appease them.
Their Patterns Were Also Very Roman
Furthermore, the gold is believed to be Roman because of the jewelry patterns and designs which are described as "In terms of craft, they are completely unique, with gold markings that almost form spirals [...] That is evidence of a high level of skill."
Romans were known for their skills with working with gold even as far back as the 6th century, and the patterns match what has been found in Rome, so it only makes sense that the gold would be of Roman origin.
More People Support The Offering Theory
While at first, it was thought that the gold discovered may have been an offering by some people to the Gods, over time, more people have begun to support this idea. For example, one researcher who writes for Phys.org also commented on this theory.
He states that "We think that it was a typical offering made in the hope that the gods could help those who buried the treasure through a difficult time. And we know that it dates to the 6th century."
What Was The Offering For?
Given the time period of the treasure found, it is believed that the possible offering may have been a result of the El Salvador volcano eruption that occurred around the same time. Still, researchers aren't entirely sure.
Phys.org writes, "Was it intended to appease angry gods and end the poor summers and dark skies following the El Salvador volcanic eruption? Or was it thanks to the ultimate collapse of the Western Roman Empire a few decades earlier, whereby the gold was brought to Denmark by returning 'new rich' aristocrats, who defined a new ritual practice and religion based on the Nordic Gods? We do not know."
About The Volcano
Apparently, the eruption that the researcher was discussing was a volcano that erupted in El Salvador which killed over an estimated 100,000 people immediately and displaced more than 400,000 more.
The event of the volcano's eruption was so massive that not only El Salvador was affected but areas throughout the entire world. The impacts from the volcano would also be felt for years after the initial eruption of the mega-volcano.
It Was Written About In History
Interestingly enough, according to the Byzantine historian, Procopius, the sky was filled with ash for over a year after the volcano had erupted. Even in places as far away as the Byzantine Empire.
Procopius writes, "The sun gave forth its light without brightness, and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear." After analyzing the eruption using modern science, the volcano is considered to be one of the most severe and destructive volcanoes in all of history.
The Eruption Led To Climate Change
Researches tell us that the devastation of this natural disaster was large enough to immediately affect a large portion of the world, but also sparked climate change in the following years. It is believed that in Denmark, there would have been poor summers and failed harvests, making it extremely difficult to survive during those times.
Various Roman sources describe the sun as dark during the day and, according to the 6th century Syriac Chronicle, there was "great despair among the people." This could have led to the offering of the gold for better harvests and survival of their people.
The Artifacts Can Be Seen In A Museum
Today, Terese Refsgaard's findings are still studied frequently by archaeologists and researchers. People come from all over the world with the hopes of getting a chance to look at this amazing discovery with their own eyes and study it themselves.
Today, the gold is on display at The Vejle Museums and Museum of Cultural History, up until January 2019. It is then expected to be moved to the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. They are open for viewing to the public.
Refsgaard Is Proud Of Herself
Still in shock after her discovery, Terese Refsgaard has admitted that she's quite proud of her accomplishments. She's been told by countless researchers and archaeologists that what she did was nothing short of a miracle.
She didn't just find gold either but helped provide answers to gaps in history that were previously unknown. The discovery changed her life for the better, validating her as more than just an amateur archaeologist, and making all of her hours of work well worth it.
After making her unbelievable discovery, Terese Refsgaard spent time working with museums and fellow researchers to understand what it was exactly that she found. She then spent some time in the spotlight telling her story and explaining what it was.
However, she still currently works in her dental profession although she's still passionate about archaeology. She still knows that there's plenty more to find out there in the world and doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon. While she knows she'll never beat her previous discovery, that's not stopping her from trying.
The Impact Of Her Find
Yes, Terese Refsgaard may have found some buried treasure from long ago, but scientists, researches, and historians find it to be much more important than that. To them, Refsgaard helped contribute to understanding ancient people and ancient cultures. She helped provide answers to who was communicating with who and why some people did what they did.
Her discovery gave the scholars one of the missing pieces that were once lost but have now given us a deeper understanding of a part of the past. Many questions were answered all thanks to Refsgaard and her metal detector.
Reflecting On Her Story
If Terese Refsgaard's discovery of some gold pieces on the small island of Hjarnø had such an incredible impact on the way we view history, it puts into perspective how little we actually know. Also, since she found her treasure in a place where no one else was looking, maybe we need to reconsider where we think clues to the past are always located.
We may think we know a lot about the past, but in reality, we probably know much less than we think, but it's up to researchers and enthusiasts like Refsgaard to help us learn more.
She's Excited To Share Her Findings
In early 2019, a new exhibit opened in Denmark titled, "Guld & Koas". Refsgaard's gold discoveries were featured in the exhibit, and she was elated to be able to display her findings for all to enjoy. Translated into English, Refsgaard posted, "There have been the sweetest and brightest archaeologists from the start to the end."
She continued, "It's been a long, hard, exciting, and secret journey which has cost sweat and tears, and now it's all culminated with a nice exhibition for children and adults." She couldn't believe that comedian/journalist/author Anders Lund Madsen stopped by to check it out.
Wondering If She Should Have Kept Herself Anonymous
Refsgaard's findings have gotten her a lot of attention, and like most people who are thrust into the spotlight, she wonders if the people who want to be friends with her are there for the right reasons. On Facebook, she went so far as to question whether she should have included her name in the findings at all.
Translated from Dutch, she posted, "Everybody wants a piece of the cake. That's what it's like to be stupid, naive, and gullible. Well you get smarter. In the future, I'm 100% anonymous about my findings. You know even in the heart what you found."
She's Proud to Be Danish
The people of Denmark don't make major headlines as often as they'd probably like. With a population of 5.77 million, there are fewer people in Denmark than in New York City. So when news of Refsgaard's gold discovery started making its rounds, she was not only proud of herself but proud to represent her country.
She posted, "I have carried a big secret since May 2016 and it is with pride and humility that I finally, finally can put a well-deserved sentence for it and present it to the Danish people."
She Has A Following of Fans
A lot of people admire Refsgaard's work and positive attitude. She's made friends on Facebook who enjoy following her exhibits and her life. Many leave positive comments on her posts like "You do well and find exciting important things that would otherwise be saved and forgotten for our story."
And, "Can I come with once? I'm totally ready to find some gold." She always takes the time to respond to comments and answer questions.
She Gets People Excited About Archaeology
Some people have a genuine interest in archaeology, but the general population doesn't think much about it. It's rare that important pieces of history are discovered, and many archaeologists even go decades without ever finding anything extraordinary.
Refsgaard has been able to get people excited about what's buried below. People follow along as she explains the significance of findings. It's clear that Refsgaard is passionate about her hobby and she's inspired many people because of it.
She Considers Herself Lucky
When Refsgaard's followers get excited about the prospect of finding gold and want to know if she's found anything lately, she's quick to keep them in check and explain that it's extremely rare and special to make a finding as she did in Hjarnø.
She told one follower, "It doesn't hang like that on the trees. Many have gone 30-40 years and never found ancient gold." She's also shared, "Imagine once you've been so lucky to be able to contribute with this to Denmark's story. More findings to follow..."