Mar 20, 2007
In 1820, a farmer found the crystal amulet in the grave of a noblewoman on the island of Funen. Together with coins and other items in the grave, archaeologists were able to date the grave to about 300 AD.
As part of major project to reorganise the museum's collection, however, Peter Pentz, a curator and archaeologist at the National Museum, examined the 3cm sphere of crystal and noticed that it was unlike anything found in Denmark.
Upon closer inspection, he noticed what seemed to be an upside arrow. Drawing upon his knowledge of early Christian imagery, Pentz began to wonder: could this arrow in actuality be an anchor? A sign used by early Christians?
Pentz discovered another etching on the amulet - the word ABLATHANALBA. Such a word was believed to have mystical powers in early Christian ceremonies, suggesting that its owner had a connection to early Christian beliefs.
Pentz thinks it's possible. She was most likely not the typical porridge eating woman who slaved every day to carry water from the nearby well. Instead, she was of a higher class and probably wore woollen textiles dyed in strong colours.
He admits that his hypothesis takes him out on a limb. The tiny crystal ball could have changed hands many times. And maybe it belonged to somebody else and was merely placed in her grave to help her on her journey in the after world.
The residents of Funen, for example, had ties to the Black Sea and Balkans where many people converted to Christianity early on. As far back as 100AD, people in that region were becoming Christianised. By the 4th century, many Christians populated the area.
So the chance exists that some form of trade existed between the two regions. And that a woman prescribing to an early Christian faith could have come to Denmark long before Harold Bluetooth took credit for converting the Danes to Christianity.