July 15, 2018 was just another family day out at Lake Vidöstern for the Vanecek family. Nothing out of the ordinary had been planned, but something quite extraordinary was about to happen to an eight-year-old girl by the name of Saga Vanecek.
“I like to walk around finding rocks and sticks in the water,” she later explained to Radio Sweden.
While fishing around for pretty pebbles to see how far they would skip across the water, as well as interesting pieces of driftwood, her hand closed around an odd-shaped item.
She pulled it up out of the sandy lake bed and realized at once that it looked like a sword. Saga waded across to where her father was cooling off in the lake.
“It looks fragile,” was his first thought, after which he decided that he and his daughter should take the find to be looked at by the proper authorities. They took it show Annie Rosen, an archaeologist at the Jönköping County Museum, who quickly realized the item’s significance.
Mikael Nordstrom, Head of the Cultural Heritage Department of the Jönköping County Museum, believes the sword is about fifteen hundred years old. It measures thirty-three inches (eighty-five centimeters) long and has a wood and leather sheath.
Despite its age, it appears to be remarkably well preserved for what would actually be classified as a pre-Viking item.
Recent drought conditions have meant that the water level in the lake is unusually low, which likely helped bring the sword to light.
In the days following Saga’s amazing find, a team from the Jönköping County Museum, the County Administrative Board, and members of the Swedish Metal Searchers Association conducted further searches of the area.
A piece of metal jewelry was discovered which was dated to approximately 300-400 AD.
It is hoped that further searches may bring to light other artifacts that could help to tell the story of the sword in the lake. Conservators are already working on the sword to tease out its secrets, and it will be at least a year before the sword is ready to put on public display.
“Why it has come to be there, we don’t know,” said Mikael Nordstrom, “but perhaps it’s a place of sacrifice.” At first the Museum team thought the sword might indicate that there was a burial ground near the lake, but no evidence was found to support this theory.
The Vanecek family are originally from Minnesota in the United States. Saga spent the first seven years of her life in Minneapolis before she moved to Sweden with her family just last year. They were vacationing at their summer house by Lake Vidostern when she made the discovery.
Friends of the Vaneceks have joked that finding the ancient sword means that eight-year-old Saga is actually Sweden’s true Queen and “Lady of the Lake,” in reference to the legends of King Arthur.
“It was very cool and a bit scary,” said Saga, referring to the sword.
The Museum asked the Vaneceks to sit on their news at first and not say anything on social media, to deter treasure hunters.
The family was recently given the green light to share their exciting news, and enthusiasm for the story has caught the imagination of many across the world. Saga has been hailed Queen of the Internet, among other things.
Asked about Saga’s hopes for the future, her father said that she would like to become a doctor or a vet, or perhaps an actress in Paris, but will still retain an interest in “old stuff.”