Brooch in the Urnes style

Viking, 11th century AD
Found near the village of Kiaby, Skåne, Sweden

Female costume jewellery

This copper-alloy brooch is in the form of a ribbon-bodied animal entwined with interlacing tendrils. The combination of both broad and thin lines of ornament and scrolling loops is typical of the Scandinavian Urnes Style. This style is named after the wooden carvings at the church of Urnes, Norway. It shows the highly accomplished, final development of Germanic animal art in Viking regions before it merged locally into early Romanesque art. The Romanesque style came into fashion throughout western and northern Europe at the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Variants of this type of brooch are found throughout Scandinavia and they were probably used to fasten a woman's shawl or cloak by means of a pin on the back. But little is known of female costume at this time because of the lack of burials with grave-goods.

The animal does not represent any particular species, but may show Christian influence as a symbol of the struggle between good and evil. For example, a great beast is shown in combat with a serpent on a carved stone at Jelling, in Denmark. On the second side of the stone is a scene of the bound Christ and, mainly on the third side, there is an inscription recording the conversion of the Danes to the new religion (around AD 965).

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Brooch in the Urnes style

Viking brooch in the Urnes style

 

More information

Bibliography

L.G. Bertelsen, 'Urnesfibler i Danmark' in Aarbøger for Nordisk Oldkyndig (Copenhagen, 1992), 345–370 (with English summary)

S. Margeson, Viking, Eyewitness guides: no.50 (London, Dorling Kindersley, 1994)

S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)

I. M. Røstad, 'En fremmed fugl: “Danske” smykker og forbindelser på Østlandet i overgangen mellom vikingtid og middelalder' in Viking-1, 75 (, 2012), pp. 181–210 (with English summary)

Dimensions

Length: 5.500 cm

Museum number

Britain, Europe and Prehistory
1982,0602.1

Location

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