Vikings advanced in jewelry design

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Not only did the Vikings build legendary vessels and extraordinary wood carvings for their time, they also were highly advanced in their design and production of jewelry.

Norway's Museum of Cultural History is selling replicas of jewelry linked to discoveries from the excavations at Kaupang. This brooch, in Oseberg style, dates from around 900AD. PHOTO: Kulturhistorisk Museum/University of Oslo

A doctoral candidate at the University of Oslo who was defending her thesis this week has (literally) unearthed evidence of large-scale jewelry production in the Viking town of Kaupang around 1,150 years ago.

Unn Pedersen told newspaper Aftenposten that the production was similar to that found at Viking settlements at Birka in Sweden and Ribe in Denmark and in Dublin and York, but unparalleled in Norwegian context.

Pedersen said the Vikings used imported raw materials of high quality and knew how to work with gold, silver, copper, pewter and bronze, along with lead. “They must have had good training and long experience,” Pedersen told Aftenposten.

Craftsmen in Kaupang produced large quantities of bracelets, pins and harnesses for horses, both for wealthy customers and “folk flest” (the masses), said Pedersen (external link), responsible for discoveries made at the Kaupang excavations near Larvik from 2000 to 2003. Archaeologists at Kaupang found forms used for the jewelry-making, revealing which items were relatively mass-produced.

“Among the most exotic we found was a jewelry model made of lead for a cross-formed piece made of either gold or silver,” Pedersen said. “A nearly identical product, also in gold, is known from Skåne in Sweden. The jewelry the upper class used was of higher quality and mostly made of gold and silver.”

The Kaupang excavations also have revealed ties to settlements at the time in today’s France, confirming the Vikings’ ties to and contacts in Northern Europe and elsewhere in Scandinavia.

(For more Viking news this week, click here.)

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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