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November 2019

Kõue wealth deposit from northern Estonia

Tuuli Kurisoo



In 2013 new landowner of a part of Kõue settlement site (Fig. 1) dug a trench next to the house for water pipes and found a bronze deposit consisting mainly of bronze ornaments from the 11th–12th centuries. Unfortunately, the finder realised that the objects were archaeological finds after he had disassembled and washed the objects.  He then contacted the National Heritage Board, who sent a Senior Inspector to the spot who collected the items. The find place was also archaeologically investigated by a small team of archaeologists and heritage specialists (Fig. 2).

Location of Kõue.
Fig. 1. Location of Kõue. Google Maps


Preparations for excavations.
Fig 2: Preparations for excavations. Foto: Ulla Kadakas

According to Paul Johansen, it is probable that Kõue village has been mentioned in Liber Censius Daniae, according to which a village Køy with 19 plough lands is said to have existed in the area of present Kõue.

The mixed nature of layers made it impossible to distinguish the traces of the original pit of the deposit: there were no indication of a burial or a construction. The wealth deposit may have been hidden in ground at the settlement, perhaps in a vicinity of some aboveground landmark or building, but no traces confirming this speculation were found.


Content of the wealth deposit and dating

The largest part of the find assemblage is a massive pectoral chain ornament (approximately 2 kg), which extended over the shoulders to the back.  It consisted of four rows of chains attached to lunula-shaped chain holders, which were divided with four rectangular spacers and a central plaque (Fig. 3).

Kõue pectoral chain
Fig. 3: Kõue pectoral chain Fotos: Tuuli Kurisoo

It is highly plausible that all twenty rumbler bells with may have belonged to the breast chain, because half of them had been preserved with chain fragments (Fig 4). Two bird-shaped and one rectangular openwork bronze pendant could also have been used to decorate the breast chain (Fig. 5).

Rumber bells.
Fig. 4 Rumber bells. Fotos: Tuuli Kurisoo


Kõue pendants.
Fig. 5 Kõue pendants. Fotos: Tuuli Kurisoo

Unfortunately, the Kõue breast chain had been hidden without decorative pins, which could help to clarify the time of concealment and the dating of the pectoral chain ornament.

Kõue neck rings belonged to the type of bronze neck rings with knobbed overlapping terminals, which usually have a faceted knob on one terminal and a ribbed surface with a hexagonal cross section and a tip resembling the head of a nail on the other (Fig. 6). All neck rings of this type are believed to have been made by one craftsman, who presumably produced them in the first half of 11th century.

Kõue neck rings.
Fig. 6 Kõue neck rings. Foto: Tuuli Kurisoo

Additionally two bronze beads (biconical and round) and remains of presumably a dozen glass beads (bi-conical, round and ribbed) made from green glass were found.  Also, a single cowrie shell was found, which may have been used in same necklace with the beads.

The find assemblage from Kõue belonged most likely to the period from the second half of the 11th century to the first half of the 12th century.



Ornaments, the compact nature of Kõue deposit and the find context refer to a single event of hiding. It is almost impossible to estimate whether it was hidden in emergency or found in their usual place of storage. But it is plausible that all the assemblage belonged to a wealthy woman and ornaments were probably hidden temporarily together with other valuables.

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