Archaeological Museum in Stavanger surprised as jewelry from grave of Viking woman appears at its door

Photo: Archaeological Museum, UiS

In early July, the Archaeological Museum in Stavanger, Norway, was surprised by an unexpected contribution from the public – a person left jewelry typical of a housewife from the Viking Age at the doors of the museum.

Archaeologist Kristine Orestad Sørgaard hardly needed to take a look at the jewelry to date it. 

“This find ‘screams’ Viking Age. Both the oval buckles with silver plating, the straight-armed buckle, and the two bracelets are typical of the period. In addition, the woman had pearl jewelry with over 50 pearls,” she said.

The oval buckles held the harness dress up and are characteristic of women’s graves from the Viking Age. They were used in pairs with a third buckle, which held the shawl or cloak. The pearl necklace was worn like a link between the two oval buckles.

Archaeologists date the find to early Viking times, especially because of one of the pearls, a mosaic pearl, which dates from around 850 CE, The Viking Herald reports

Viking Age object

The objects were found in Frafjord in Gjesdal Municipality in Rogaland. The site itself is very interesting for researchers.

“In Frafjord and the southern parts of Ryfylke, a lot of objects have been found from the periods before the Viking Age, but very little from the Viking Age itself. Getting such a piece is therefore very valuable for the history of the area,” archaeologist Barbro Dahl, who has done many archaeological investigations in the region, stated.

Among the pearls are also silver and gold foiled pearls, which probably mimicked real silver and gold. Such pearls were very popular in Viking times.

Lost knowledge

Unfortunately, the people who donated the jewelry to the museum did not know when, how, or exactly where the jewelry was found.

“That is what we will not be able to find out, as professionals did not have the opportunity to investigate the site when the discovery was made. It is sad since we have missed the opportunity to get a lot of important information, such as information about the most remarkable of the pearls – three pearls of blue glass,” Sørgaard stated.

Three blue glass beads belonging to the Frafjord woman are several hundred years older than the other beads.

“Either this is an heirloom, or the find is mixed with another find from another, much older grave. We will never know,” Sørgaard said, emphasizing that it is important that private finders of ancient objects report their findings as soon as possible.

The archaeologist says that it is, unfortunately, a common misconception that landowners have to pay for the investigations if discoveries are made on private land.

“The fact is that the state covers expenses for archaeological investigations if you are going to build a detached house, garage, or something else that is intended for private use,” she pointed out.

International contact

According to archaeologists, this type of jewelry was typical of housewives in the Viking Age.

“The Frafjord woman belonged to the upper strata of society because not everyone was fortunate enough to wear such jewelry. The jewelry showed not only what status she had in this life but also what social position she would take in life after death, and were thus important social markers, not only on earth but also in the afterlife,” Sørgaard explained.

The Frafjord woman’s jewelry testifies to flourishing international contact and trade in the area. Oval buckles were mass-produced in cities such as Kaupang and Ribe, while several of the pearls may have originated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Norwegian cultural heritage

Finds that are older than 1537 must be reported and submitted to Norway’s Cultural Heritage Service.

Norwegians with objects lying around at home who wonder if the objects are valuable heritage are encouraged to reach out to experts.

For finds in Rogaland, people can contact the Archaeological Museum at the University of Stavanger. In the rest of Norway, they should contact their county council, which will help them find the proper expert contact points. 

“Such discoveries represent Norway’s cultural heritage and are pieces in the puzzle of our common past. We really appreciate this donation,” Sørgaard stated.

Anyone who delivers antiquities to the Archaeological Museum at the University of Stavanger receives a diploma with a photography and information about the age and purpose of the object.

Source: The Viking Herald / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayTravel

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