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Metalworking

Viking Age
Belt Strap

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“Whilst I waited for my sons to make my grave, I saw them become like mighty Thor. For they build my mount to such heights, only Thor’s magic belt could have given them that strength.”

This small, but striking, golden object once decorated the end of a leather strap, perhaps belonging to horse riding equipment, armor, or a belt.

 

This testimony to 9th-century craftsmanship carries a mystery through the images that decorate it, beautifully executed in Borre-style, one of the Viking Art styles.

 

Are they eagles staring back at us, or goats? Or creatures from beyond our living world? And how would its shapes have affected those who saw it thousands of years ago? To pursue questions of an object’s origin is to untangle the minds of those who made and wore them.

Line by line, we can draw back the fog of time.

 

What do you see in the swirling shapes?

Viking Age spur and strap mount

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“My kin set these with me, so I may ride as Odin did. See its gripping shapes, where beast and man are one. My feet know the way where the hooves may go. There and back again.”

This beautiful spur, used for commanding horses, was discovered by chance in 1887 during plowing activity. Alongside it was found a strap mount belonging to it, which was attached to the leather. It was made by a skilled Scandinavian goldsmith sometime in the second half of the 9th century and both are decorated in the Borre-style, one of the Viking Art styles. 

 

Did you know that variations in art styles help archeologists identify and date the sites they find? Borre-Style for example is assumed to have lasted roughly between the year 850-950, a rather precise window of time.

Art styles may even help us understand and expose the dynamics of trade networks and the exchange of ideas during the Viking Age.

 

Follow the inspiration, and you will understand the people.

Viking Age Sword

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"Xristos, ruler, herder, ever waning sun. Reach out to me, and I shall take your hand with one, as I offer my sword with the other. Here I lie, awaiting your command, to rise again.”

The Langeid sword is maybe the most famous sword in Norway. That’s saying a lot, as nearly 3000 Viking Age swords have been found in Norway! It was found in a burial from the 11th century, and it is as close to a magical sword as you will ever come.

 

It’s a result of true master craftsmanship, this sword would have bitten deep in whatever it set its teeth. On the pommel the true mystery lies. It is covered in strange symbols and markings that have yet to be deciphered, perhaps a combination of Greek and Latin, as well as other symbols. Some seem Christian in significance; others remain beyond our understanding.

 

What visions do you see as you look upon this blade and the symbols it carries?

Viking Age Brooch

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“In my youth, they sang of ancient days, when gods walked with mortal man, and Gunnar’s music died in a sea of snakes. To those days I shall slither, here at the end of everything.”

This brooch has so much going on that it can be confusing to look at. Yet, when you take a moment, you can see slender creatures crisscrossing one another in what seems almost like a dance. 

The art style is comparable to the Jelling style, a Viking art style, dating between the years 900 and 975, respectively.

 

However, it also carries elements of other art influences, fitting with the overall theme of entanglement. Again, you may be struck by the question of what it all symbolizes, what ancient stories are we missing out on? 

 

Perhaps this brooch helped someone, long ago, identify with a certain narrative, and become part of it. Or does it carry within it the power of those creatures it displays?

Look at its lines and imagine a world of myth and wonder.

Golden Viking Armband

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“In life, I served my lord, for which he gifted me many treasures. Most precious was this arm ring, binding me to him into the beyond. Deep in the ground, I hid it, where I too shall return.”

This impressive bracelet is made from solid gold and belongs not to a grave, but the biggest golden Viking hoard ever discovered. All finds together make up for 2.5 kilos of gold!  
Even more strikingly, the objects in the hoard come from all over the world, even as far as modern-day Istanbul. 

But not all that is gold glitters, and such deposits may hide dark stories. Why was it hidden, and why did no one come to pick it up?

Perhaps plunder, or panic, or just a little something for uncertain times to come. It seems we have ourselves a burial without a body, a crime without a witness.

 

Yet, no one would throw away such a treasure in haste or vain. What do you reckon happened, those many long years ago?

Frankish Brooch   

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“In life, I took this while I traveled to Frankish lands. Those mighty lords stood tall, and I will forever stand as they did. From their limbs, we build our own kingdom.”

These so-called trefoil brooches were popular in the Viking Age and inspired by jewelry that Scandinavians encountered in the Frankish realms (roughly modern-day France and parts of Germany). 

 

This brooch was probably a repurposed sword fitting, made into exotic jewelry which would have been a very visible testimony to the wearer’s success. It may have even carried some echoes, or feelings, of power belonging to distant lands. By absorbing, imitating, or mixing, the cultural expressions Scandinavians encountered, their own ideas about status, religion, and life gradually transformed.

 

The Viking Age is at its core a time of change, and nothing reflects change like the objects we use to express who we are.

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