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The Legendary Nibelung Treasure

On February 2014, an amateur metal detectorist has discovered a trove a gold and silver dating back to late Roman times in a forest near Ruelzheim in the western German state of Rhineland Palatinate. The silver bowls, brooches and other jewellery from ceremonial robes, and small statues that adorned a grand chair - valued in total at about a million euros (£825,000) - seem to have been buried in haste in about AD 406-407, when the Roman Reich was crumbling along the Rhine. The Battle of Mainz (AD 406) a key event in the collapse of imperial control, took place not far from the treasure site. Could the haul be part of the "Rhinegold" of Norse and German sagas that inspired Richard Wagner's opera “The Ring Cycle"? Axel von Berg, the state's chief archaeologist said: "In terms of timing and geography, the find fits in with the epoch of the Nibelung legend." 

Part of the treasure trove found near Ruelzheim

Although it is the stuff of myths, the story is based on the downfall of the Burgundians in the 5th century. The Nibelungen were the royal family of the Burgundians, a Germanic tribe that settled in the Rhine Valley. According to the legend, the warrior Hagen killed the dragon-slayer Siegfiried and sank his treasure in the Rhine. The river has shifted its course many times over the centuries, so the treasure need no longer be under water.

The opulence of the artifacts suggested that they were owned by someone of wealth and standing, possibly a prince. There are leaf-shaped solid gold brooches which may have decorated the coat of a nobleman or a Roman governor. A set of silver-plated statuettes may have decorated a military commander’s chair, while a solid silver plate is inlaid with gold and precious stones.

The haul is now in the state cultural department in Mainz, but officials suspect the finder may have sold some of it, possibly to a buyer abroad. "The spot where the find was made was completely destroyed by the improper course of action," the department said in a statement.

Fortean Times Magazine vol.317 August 2014: "Archaeology - Nibelung Treasure?";

Pic Source:
Fortean Times Magazine vol.317 August 2014: "Archaeology - Nibelung Treasure?" page 14

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