What This Danish Woman Found May Change History

Terese Frydensberg Refsgaard, a dental assistant and amateur archaeologist, made a key find on Hjarnø Island, Denmark after exploring the land for hours with a metal detector. Read all about her amazing discovery.

Terese, The Amateur Archaeologist

It was autumn in 2018. Terese thought that she was there only for recreation. She didn’t know that on the island of Hjarnø, in the Horsens Fjord area off the eastern coast of Jutland, there were some unexpected treasures awaiting discovery. She was in the right place at the right time. Since then, many researchers, scientists, and archaeologists have been talking about how her discovery may redefine history.

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A leisurely walk is a lovely way to relax. In fact, it has been proved that walkers showed reductions in heart rate and diastolic blood pressure. Luckily, while Terese was walking through the island of Hjarnø with her metal detector, she came upon something so remarkable that led people from all over the world to talk about it…but what was it?

A Dental Assistant

Terese had a job as a dental assistant. Fortunately, that day her work did not involve providing diagnostic information, helping the dentists manage dental and medical emergencies or preparing the treatment room. It involved a major discovery. Of course, she wasn’t using dental hand instruments when she made it. She was with her metal detector.

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The world was thankful that Terese knew how to use a metal detector as well as her metal dental hand instruments since her find contributed to extend and broaden the historic knowledge of the world. But…what did she find? What could it be that caused professional archaeologists to get to the country and examine it?

Since Childhood

When she was a child, Terese enjoyed exploring and finding new things. She used to discover different types of rocks, pebbles, and stones. That’s the reason why she ended up engaging in amateur archaeology. However, when Terese chose the Danish countryside to look for treasures and stimulate her interest, she had never imagined that her hobby as an amateur archaeologist would take her this far.

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While Terese had discovered some objects as an amateur archaeologist, nothing could have been compared to what she found that day. Indeed, that day she was ready to return home when things changed completely. Who would have thought that she would be the one who was going to find something so valuable for history?

The Team

After spending some time out in the field, Terese was invited to get involved in an archaeology group. Joining this group allowed her to unearth the past while learning a lot from her peers and mentors and getting experience in the field. It is believed that working alone in the field makes the task more difficult and you may ruin a find.

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The members of this group, who take part in several exploring events held by some organizations, not only share their passion for archaeology but also, altogether, they act as a support system when it comes to being out in the field looking for new objects. There is no doubt that they want to preserve the world’s archaeological heritage!

Hjarnø Island

It was November and Terese had the opportunity to search the island of Hjarnø, located just on the coast of mainland Denmark. This is a flat moraine island from the last glacial period whose shape is slowly continually changing. The main part of the island is covered with fields and only by Hjarnø town, on the northern part of the island, there is a small hardwood forest.

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Although it is not a big isle, this place is a juicy field for explorers. In fact, Hjarnø island is well-known for its history of having various ancient objects discovered beneath its muddy earth. However, Refsgaard wasn’t interested in finding only ancient objects, she wanted to discover something else, and that’s exactly what she came across.

Hjarnø Island, Land Of The Unexpected

This island has an exciting history. Did you know that in 2008 archaeologists found unexpectedly remnants of a stone structure on it? After analysis and tests, it was determined that the materials dated all the way back to the year 5200 B.C! What’s more, many arrowheads were found dating back to 9500 BC. So…is this the juiciest land for explorers?

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Whenever new things are discovered, scientists and archaeologists can go back to Denmark’s ancient origins and trace Denmark’s history back to the past. Nowadays, you can visit many museums in Denmark which exhibit those new things discovered which include archaeological finds from as far back as the Paleolithic Age and prehistoric artifacts. So… Did Terese’s finding make a major contribution to this cause? Of course, Yes!


Terese and her team imagined uncovering a similar bombshell like the discovery of the remnants of the stone structure or the arrowheads. So, once settled on the island, they split off walking in different directions in order to cover more ground. Terese set off on her own without knowing that sometime later she would make the discovery of her life.

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This Danish blonde girl took her metal detector and started sweeping it across the soil for hours and hours, as the rest of the archaeologists did. Later, while she was looking around, she noticed something weird beneath the muddy earth. That’s when she decided to start digging…This girl never imagined that her decision would bring a lot to the world’s history…

One Beep Was Enough

All archaeologists know that despite not finding anything, they have to carry on looking. Sometimes, it can be a bit discouraging looking for things and not finding anything but, luckily, Terese was determined to find something and she did. She heard the beep. Her metal detector was making a clear sound. Terese did not doubt and continued digging…

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Taking into account that digging was a part of her hobby, she wouldn’t have been all that disappointed if she had come up with her hands empty. So, she continued digging. She wanted to know what was making the detector rang. While she was moving the soil, she realized that it might be deeper than she originally thought and continued to dig further and further down.

Moving Soil

Archaeologists are really careful when it’s time to unearth the stuff they find. As Terese knew that she had found something, she dug slowly and cautiously, trying to preserve whatever was there. Because of her previous experiences with the archeological group, she knew that hurrying up and being anxious might lead to the destruction of the stuff completely.

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Terese pushed her shovel into the ground. She carefully examined the soil. She began to feel like there wasn’t anything there when something caught her attention. At that moment she forgot that she was really tired after hours of walking. Everything started to make sense… What did she find? It was not a fossil or an old rock, or was it?


And there it was! She screamed in excitement letting people in the surrounding area know that a new discovery had been made. She grabbed it with her hand and started to jump around in an uncontrolled way. And she did so, without even knowing that she had just made a discovery that would bring archaeologists from all over the world to Denmark.

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This amateur archaeologist made a remarkable find on this muddy land without even imagining the impact that it would have on history. Many archaeologists spend all their lives trying to make such a discovery. But let’s uncover the mystery. What was this Danish enthusiast holding in her hand that led many historians to be in a state of disbelief?


Gold! Terese discovered relics that came from the most masterful craftsmen from the past. To be precise, this young lady found 32 pieces of jewelry dating 1,500 years including gold and pearls. Some of the pieces of jewelry exhibited patterns and designs not previously seen. What a discovery for an amateur archaeologist!

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The pieces were found in good condition and covered with intricate loops. Some of them contained precious stones inlaid in the center. They were considered to be completely unique. While the first thing she found included gold jewelry, there was certainly more where that came from.

Not Only Jewelry

So what else did Terese find? The gold included beads, pendants, a needle and even small gold pieces that were used as currency during the Iron Age! Undoubtedly her find led researchers and other archaeologists to answer many questions that had not been answered till that moment. It was an incredible discovery dating as far back as the 6th century.

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Imagine that one day you are walking across an island in Denmark with your team and a metal detector and your decision and effort cause an impact on the world’s history. How would you have reacted? What would you have done with your discovery? Now, it was time to investigate the relics properly.

Taking A Look At The Relics

Once the relics were picked up, the analysis and investigation tasks started. The archaeologists could hardly believe the treasure found that was before them. Looking closely, they confirmed that the jewelry consisted most of the gold —27 of the 32 pieces that were discovered were made of pure gold— but another detail confused them. Something not known about the history of Hjarnø —at least— until that date.

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So, let’s see what we have up to now. An island, an amateur archaeologist, a metal detector, a team, some researchers, 32 relics…that’s a lot, right? However, there is more. Terese’s find revealed that people from Hjarnø had contact with the British Empire? Mmm nope. Terese’s find revealed that people from Hjarnø had contact with the Russian Empire? Mmm nope. Let’s find out what these researchers concluded.

A Long Time Ago

The gold relics found were thought to date from just before the Viking period in which tribes were constantly stealing and stashing loot all over Europe. Indeed, it was believed that they dated back to the 6th century. So who exactly buried all these pieces? And Terese’s find gave us the answer! The discovery made by this dental assistant suggests that people from Hjarnø had contact with the Roman Empire.

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The researchers were able to make the Roman connection thanks to the unique patterns and designs of the gold. Their conclusion was also supported by the fact that other types of objects including arrowheads that were most likely washed up onshore and then buried in the soil had been found on Hjarnø Island.

A Researcher’s Opinion

Mads Ravn, a researcher from the Vejle Museum, suggested that the relics were of Roman origin and that Early Danes must have traded for them.

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,” Ravn said.

But why did they hide them?

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There exist two theories. Some believe that the relics were buried in a hurry so as to hide and protect them during times of threat or a turbulent situation and intended to be collected again once the threat passed (the thing is that somebody might have forgotten to pick them up). Other people, however, believe that the relics are an offering intended to remain buried as a gift to the gods.

A Volcanic Eruption

Why was the offering made? Many researchers believe that the offering could have been a result of the volcano eruption that took place in El Salvador. Many people believe that the offering was intended to placate gods and end the dry summers and gloomy skies that followed the volcanic eruption. After the volcanic eruption, the sky was full of ash as well. But this theory has not been entirely confirmed.

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Although the catastrophe occurred thousands of miles away in El Salvador, its consequences spread all the way to Europe leading to such dry summers and gloomy skies. What’s more, this terrible catastrophe killed over 100,000 and displaced more than 400,000. But nobody in Europe knew about it. That’s a strange piece of information, isn’t it?


The volcanic eruption not only harmed the country of El Salvador but also its consequences spread enough to affect other parts of the world. It is believed that Denmark’s weather, for example, was affected in such a way that it was really difficult to survive during those periods. According to the 6th century Syriac Chronicle, there was “great despair among the people.”

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Everything leads to thinking that the relics could have been offered in exchange for richer and more abundant harvests and for the survival of inhabitants. “The sun gave forth its light without brightness,” wrote the Byzantine historian Procopius, “and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.”

The Power Of Gods

People on the island might have thought that the gods were punishing them with famine and decided to make the offering. Of course, they did not know that a great volcanic eruption had taken place in another country. And if they would have known, could have they imagined that the eruption would have an impact on climate change and therefore on their harvests? Luckily, these relics won’t be buried beneath the ground anymore.

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Imagine poor summers, poor crops, ash in the sky, black and grey dark clouds… Undoubtedly, the inhabitants of the island would sacrifice their gold in order to get good summers, abundant crops and a bright and cloudless sky… What would you have done in their place? You know what they say, “Give and you will receive”. So were the things left on purpose there or did somebody forget to collect them?

Where Can You Find Terese’s Discovery?

Terese Refsgaard’s finds are on display at The Vejle Museums and the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. There were also displayed at the Museum of Cultural History some time ago. Such relics are continued to be examined by archaeologists and researchers nowadays. What’s more, this young woman is still contributing to the investigation of these relics.

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Since the importance of the discovery and that the relics are open for the public, people come from all over the world to look at them and formulate their hypothesis. Not all visitors know much about history, however, they know that these relics have redefined it. There is no doubt that the items found will be subject of study for archaeologists for the decades to come.

Still An Amateur Archaeologist?

Terese Refsgaard must feel quite proud of her find. Many researchers and archaeologists have recognized her effort and dedication and told her that her discovery is startling and without precedent. Her discovery not only helped to find gold but also to answer history questions. So, is Terese still an amateur archaeologist?

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Definitely not! While Terese continues working as a dental assistant, it will not be so fair to see her as an amateur archaeologist. In fact, there is no doubt that this girl is more motivated to dig, even more than she was in the past. The hobby has finally paid off. She is happy that she could help to extend the world’s historical knowledge.

Another Metal Detector Enthusiast

There is another metal detector enthusiast, Brad Martin of Green Mountain Metal Detecting! This man has looked for and found all types of forgotten treasures. However, none of those finds compare to what the best discovery of his life was.

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While many metal detector enthusiasts choose sandy beaches, Brad always goes to Vermont. Since he has developed a friendly and harmonious relationship with the people of the area, Brad has always been able to access to land owned by the private sector. So, was the discovery of Brad Martin of Green Mountain Metal Detecting as good as Terese’s one?


In Vermont, visitors can see mountains, forests, lakes, reptiles, species of fish, colorful birds, among other animals. One day, Brad decided to hike into one of such mountains located in an area where there existed the ruins of an old building. While he was there, he came across a huge hole in the ground. What did he find inside the hole?

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Did he find an animal? Did he find an exotic kind of plant? Did he find out that the hole was empty? No! Luckily, he found the remnants of the building’s basement and thousands of old stone walls in poor condition. Did he head back to his house? Did he decide to give up? Of course not! He started looking deeper inside the hole…

Treasure hunter

At that moment, Brad started to feel that his next discovery was close. However, he could have never imagined how right he actually was. Do you think that Brad, this metal detector enthusiast, felt like Terese when she was at the point of discovering the relics? We would never know but we can imagine that they might have experienced the same feeling.

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He heard the beep. His metal detector was producing an audible sound. So, ready, steady, go! Brad started digging… That morning when Brad set off with his metal detector, he was hoping to find anything that would make his day archaeologically worthwhile. Fortunately, he found something that was beyond his expectations and extremely worthwhile.

What A Discovery!

So what did this young man find? Another relic? Gold? No…He found a tombac button! And how old are these buttons? It’s known that these buttons made of a smooth metal were popular in the 18th Century. According to some websites. A tombac button is a brass alloy with high copper content and zinc content. It is malleable.

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The word tombac ( or tombak) originates from Indonesia and it came to Europe when Dutch traders returned with local metal products made of tombac alloy. The origins and features of these buttons are usually subject of debate on many metal detecting forums.

Discoveries Continue…

This button was not the only thing that Brad found that day. Brad’s next discovery was this valuable copper coin. Although the surface had become damaged through time, Brad came to the conclusion that it was either a British halfpenny or a coin from an early colony. Either a British halfpenny or a coin from an early colony, it was such a discovery!

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Although the landowner said someone detected this area in the 1990s but didn’t find much, Brad decided to keep on looking. And he took the right decision. First, the tombac button. Then, the copper coin! Although it was very worn when it fell out of someone’s pocket and the soil conditions weren’t kind because all detail is gone, it was such a great discovery.

Don’t Judge Too Quickly

And discoveries go on taking place! When Brad Martin of Green Mountain Metal Detecting held this object on his hand, firstly he believed that it was an old clock hand, Later, he identified it and said that it was probably the trigger-guard plate from an old musket. He concluded that because of the object’s weight. Brad was completely baffled by this discovery. But this has not yet come to an end…

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So, fortunately, one day Brad took his metal detector to the Vermont woods and mountains and in exchange, we had two fantastic objects that help to understand the world’s history: a tombac button popular in the 18th century and the trigger-guard plate from an old musket. But, was there anything else?

Heads Or Tails?

Suddenly, the metal detector rang again. Was there another button beneath the ground? Nope. It was even better. Brad dug and pulled…a coin out of the ground! A few minutes later, while he was holding the coin on his hands, he could see that the face of the coin showed King George II and the word “CONNEC”. That led him to the conclusion that…

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It was a Connecticut copper from 1785-1788 which had a good value. But when everything seemed to have come to an end, Brad did not know that there was still a treasure awaiting discovery. Brad decided to head back. As he was leaving, he heard a beep that was coming from his metal detector. In fact, the metal detector rang out a strong 79.

Silver Coin

Brad started digging again. The higher the sound, the more valuable the object beneath the ground is likely to be. After making it neat by rubbing his hand over it, Brad noticed that it was an enormous silver coin in good condition. Once it was perfectly cleaned, Brad saw that the object was a Spanish Eight Reales coin from 1780.

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Brad Martin of Green Mountain Metal Detecting realized that this coin was one of the most counterfeited coins in the world during its circulation. He came to that conclusion after conducting some research. He also learned that Britain heavily counterfeited this coin in order to damage the Spanish economy during the Anglo-Spanish War, 1796-1808.

Next Find

Brad’s discovery is probably fake. The low number and green patina are the features which tell us the secret. However, Brad doesn’t care. Even though it isn’t silver, it’s still from the time period and its history is what matters.

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There is no doubt that a metal-detector enthusiast never gives up, much less after finding a tombac button and a coin both on the same day. So, while you are finishing reading this article, we are not sure about what is beneath the ground but we already know that Terese and Brad are out there looking for new things that may change history!

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