Miscellaneous viking pendants

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Pendants in Christian Scandinavia

Once Scandinavia had largely converted to Christianity (ie in the eleventh century), the wearing of necklaces (and particularly amulets) became a predominantly female action. In Birka, only a single grave out of the excavated 1100 contained the body of a man that could be associated with a cross pendant, and a study of male and female graves found only that in a group of 36 amulets attributed to male graves only 2 were crosses.

Pendants in Pagan Scandinavia

Miscellaneous pendants

Small male figures of men in horned helmets performing religious rights have been found. Amulets representing legs, chairs, strike-a-lights, spears, scythes, men on horseback and spades have also been found. Pendants with chains and webbed feet were popular amongst the Fins and Russians and were probably hung from chains between the paired brooches.

Sheets of copper alloy - cut into lozenge shapes with runic inscription on them have been found - one from Gorodisce, Russia has the phrase "May you not lack manhood" carved on it.

Moon shaped pendants as evidenced in the Gnezdovo hoard are rather Slav orientated pieces, as are the open work pendants with animal ornamentation which have been found.

Adapted strapends and mounts

Vikings were well known for adopting mounts and strapends into brooches/pendants. Most of the very far eastern goods from Birka have been turned into female decorative dress items. The belt end from the Khazar (Crimea) or Volga Bulgarian area from the 8th/9th century has been adapted by the addition of both a ring in one of the rivet holes and a pin attachment at the back.

Amber and jet carved animals

A small number of animals/birds have been found in Norway. A small amber bird has been found at the chieftains settlement of Borg, Lofoten, an amber bear carved so the rear legs grip the bear's throat comes from Oysund, Meloy, and a gripping beast comes from Sogn og Fjordane - the latter is carved from jet - the raw material coming from Whitby. Other carved animal pendants are also evidenced from Norway.

Snakes and ammonites

Snake stones - prehistoric ammonites were kept as amulets. However, not only did the fossil have meaning but copies were fashioned in jet, wood, silver and gold. Two made of jet are known from York and Longva, Norway. A silver one is to be found in grave 844 Birka and there is a gold one from the Hon hoard, Norway.

Credits: with thanks to Caroline Buckley.