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Mini Marvel: 1,800-Year-Old Bronze Portrait of Alexander the Great Discovered in Danish Field

1,800-Year-Old Mini Alexander the Great Portrait Found in Denmark Field
Source: Museum West Zealand

A miniature bronze portrait of Alexander the Great has been uncovered by metal detectorists on an island in Denmark.

Apr. 24 2024, Published 1:02 p.m. ET

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A miniature bronze portrait of Alexander the Great has been uncovered by metal detectorists on an island in Denmark.

Finn Ibsen and Lars Danielsen made the remarkable discovery during a survey in a field outside Ringsted, a city on the Danish island of Zealand. They then turned the artifacts over to Museum West Zealand, as reported by the Danish news outlet TV2 Øst.

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The bronze fitting, identified as a bracket, has a diameter of approximately 1 inch. It is made of a bronze alloy and features an engraved portrait of a man with wavy hair wearing a crown of twisted ram horns, according to a statement from Museum West Zealand.

Archaeologists immediately recognized the image as that of Alexander the Great, the renowned leader of the ancient kingdom of Macedon, whose empire stretched from the Balkans to modern-day Pakistan before he died at the age of 32.

The piece “has the typical attributes of Alexander the Great, such as his distinct, wavy hair and ram horns," said Freerk Oldenburger, an archaeologist at Museum West Zealand, speaking to Live Science. "The image is almost identical to another bracket portrait found years ago that contains the same stylized image."

This previous piece, also a metal bracket, was discovered by a different group of archaeologists in Jutland, Denmark. It was found among a cache of weapons and likely served as an "ornament worn on a silver shield mount — it was a way to show off," Oldenburger explained.

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"It's quite a remarkable piece," Oldenburger said. "When it showed up on my desk, I nearly fell out of my chair because it's almost the exact same portrait as the other, but this one is a little more coarse and is made of cast bronze and not gilded silver. The bronze alloy also contains a high lead content and was made using an alloy often found in [Roman] bronze statuettes. It's possible that a statuette was melted down to make this portrait."

Although researchers are unsure of the piece's function, they believe the fitting dates to around A.D. 200 and could have been worn as a "decorative disc for a shield" or as a bracket affixed to a sword belt, according to the statement.

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"This was around the same time as Caracalla," a Roman emperor who reigned from A.D. 198 to 217 and “was completely obsessed with Alexander the Great and was interested and inspired by him, since he was the greatest conqueror of that time period," he added.


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