Friday, 10 December 2010

'I Will Make You Brooches and Toys for Your Delight ... '

... wrote Robert Louis Stevenson in his posthumously published Songs of Travel (1895). While Stevenson promised to make them 'Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night', those vagabond Vikings also appreciated the delight of brooches, but made them more prosaically from shiny metals. I have for some time been interested in the work of Jane Kershaw who has studied metal-detectorist finds from recent years, particularly those in a Scandinavian style and those which which were most characteristically worn by women. Jane has recently received her doctorate for this work, and published a solid, academic summary of her results in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 5 (2009). A shorter and more accessible version can now be read online, in the November/December 2010 issue of British Archaeology. As Jane points out, the bulk of finds come from Lincolnshire and Norfolk. While this partly reflects possible find-spots in these predominantly agricultural regions, the East Anglian finds in particular shed new light on Viking activities in that area, where there is comparatively little other type of evidence in the form of place-names or sculpture. But such items are also found elsewhere in the Danelaw, and the picture shows my nearest example, a late 9th- / early 10th-century copper alloy trefoil brooch found in Nottinghamshire. It has suffered in the last thousand years or so - you have to imagine it when it was new!

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