Dutch Historian Finds 1,000-Year-Old Treasure


Sol Invictus on gold earring | Image by Archeology West-Friesland, Fleur Schinning

A young Dutch treasure hunter has struck gold.

Lorenzo Ruijter, also a historian, made a rare discovery of 1,000-year-old golden jewelry in the small northern city of Hoogwoud.

According to an announcement by the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden) on March 9, the 27-year-old uncovered a unique medieval treasure consisting of four golden ear pendants, two strips of gold leaf, and 39 silver coins.

As Ruijter explained to Reuters, he had actually made the discovery with a metal detector two years ago. But he had to keep it to himself as experts from the National Museum of Antiquities cleaned, researched, and dated the objects.

Experts believe that the treasure was buried around 1250. At that time, many of the gold pieces were already two centuries old. This makes the artifacts from the High Middle Ages, doubling the significance of the find since gold from this period is extremely hard to find.

Although no one has figured out who might have buried the treasure and why, experts at the National Museum of Antiquities have one hypothesis.

Hoogwoud was a significant location during the mid-13th century war between West Friesland and Holland, two feuding states in what was then a loose assemblage of towns and what is now the Netherlands.

As Ruijter related to Reuters, it could be that a powerful individual buried the valuables to safeguard them during the conflict and planned to recover them when the situation became safe again.

Now, the treasure belongs to Ruijter, who has temporarily loaned it to the museum so that others can come and behold this once-in-a-lifetime discovery.

Ruijter has been treasure hunting since he was 10 years old.

“It was very special discovering something this valuable, I can’t really describe it. I never expected to discover anything like this”, Ruijter told Reuters.

According to his academic page, Ruijter’s historical research at the University of Amsterdam focused on the 17th-century Dutch corsair and privateer Cornelis Jol. His exploits against Spanish and Portuguese fleets in search of treasure cost him a leg and earned him two nicknames: El Pirata and Pegleg.

Leave it to a scholar of piracy to unearth one of the most significant finds in recent years.

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