Length: 5.500 cm
Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100
Brooch in the Urnes style
Viking, 11th century
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).
S. Margeson, Viking, Eyewitness guides: no.50 (London, Dorling Kindersley, 1994)