May 21, 2024

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Denmark: An 1,800-year-old miniature of Alexander the Great was found

Denmark: An 1,800-year-old miniature of Alexander the Great was found

“I almost fell out of my chair,” Danish archaeologist Frederik Oldenburger says of the moment he realized he was looking at a small bronze portrait of Alexander the Great found in Denmark.

Oldenburger added in his comments to Live Science that the piece “contains typical features of Alexander the Great, such as his distinctive wavy hair and ram's horns.”

It was discovered by metal detectors Finn Ibsen and Lars Danielsen, who were surveying a field outside Ringsted, a town on the island of Zealand, 50 kilometers southwest of the Danish capital, Copenhagen. The bronze was given to the West Zealand Museum where Oldenburger works. It is approximately 2.7 cm in diameter and is made of bronze alloy.

A bronze alloy image of Alexander the Great was found in a field in Denmark. (Photo: Western New Zealand Museum)

The miniature dates back to around 200 AD. This places it around the same time as the Roman Emperor Caracalla who ruled from 198 to 217 AD.

“We know that he was absolutely obsessed with Alexander the Great and was interested in him and inspired by him, because he was the greatest conqueror of his time,” Oldenburger explains. Oldenburger adds that Caracalla “often dressed in the same style and was believed to be the incarnation of Alexander the Great.” “Caracalla is also the only emperor of his time to be depicted with a shield containing an image of Alexander the Great.”

Although the Roman Empire at that time did not extend as far north as Denmark, trade and commerce between the Romans and the north and east was common. During the reign of Caracalla, a major battle took place between the German armies in Danish Jutland. Excavations revealed that many of the shields used in the conflict were decorated with images of warriors, according to a statement issued by the West New Zealand Museum.

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Despite being located some 2,000 kilometers away from his birthplace in Macedonia, such an image of Alexander the Great has already been found. The newly discovered piece is almost identical. “But this one is a little thicker and made of cast bronze, not silver plated,” Oldenburger says. “Bronze also contains a high percentage of lead and was manufactured using an alloy often found in [ρωμαϊκά] Bronze statues. It is possible that a small statue was melted to create this image.

Portrait of the Roman Emperor Caracalla who often imitated Alexander the Great. Illustrated with a shield containing a portrait of Alexander the Great. (Photo: Münzkabinett der Staatlichen Museen, Berlin)

“This is a unique discovery in Scandinavia associated with one of the most famous figures in world history,” Oldenberger says.

With information from Cosmos, Live Science