Image: Rene Laursen

A unique gold figurine in the shape of a woman, thought to be 1,500 years old, has been found close to a large Iron Age settlement on the Danish island of Bornholm.

Despite standing just 4.2cm (1.7in) tall, the figure is intricately detailed with her facial features and incised hair clearly visible. She is naked except for a patterned belt, and appears to be standing on tiptoe or jumping.

The artefact was found last month by a metal detectorist in farmland close to Smørenge ,and is now being studied by Bornholm Museum. It is the fifth gold figurine to be discovered in the field since 2009, but the first thought to represent a woman.

The newly-found figurine (far right) brings the total of gold figures discovered in this field to 5. Photo: Rene Laursen

With three figurines found within 5m of each other (16ft) and the other two 10-15m (33-50ft) further away – perhaps scattered through modern ploughing – it has been suggested that they could have been votive offerings deposited around an Iron Age shrine.

‘Smørenge is a rich and large Iron Age settlement, and finds of gold foil figures in this area are mentioned in books on history and archaeology as early as in the 18th century,’ Bornholm Museum’s Rene Laursen told CWA. ‘We think people chose this place because of its springs – perhaps the gold figures were sacrificed to the gods in the 6th or 7th century AD with wishes for good health, fertility, or a good harvest.’