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Oval brooch


Length: 10.700 cm

M&ME 1894,11-5,2

Britain, Europe and Prehistory

    Oval brooch

    Viking, 10th century AD
    From a barrow burial at Villa Farm, Vestnes sogn, Romsdalsfjorden, Norway

    Female costume jewellery

    This copper-alloy oval brooch is one of a matching pair found in a wealthy woman's grave. It is made in two pieces with an upper shell with openwork bosses and interlace decoration, and a lower shell with interlace animals in Jellinge Style in panels round the sides.

    Oval brooches, many of which are gilded, were made by a complex casting process involving the use of a wax model, clay moulds and a piece of textile which determined the thickness of the metal and often left an impression on the underside of the brooch. Finished brooches could also be used as models, and even copies then made of copies. As a result, the designs became standardized , but also often degenerating, as the details were reworked or altered. The discovery of fragments of the clay moulds has helped to identify centres of manufacture.

    Viking oval brooches have been found in areas settled by the Vikings right across northern Europe, from Ireland and Iceland to the Volga in Russia. They represent a development of the smaller, simpler type (such as an example from Tromsø, also in The British Museum) from the transition to the Viking period. Like them, they were usually worn in pairs to secure an overdress; strings of beads might be attached between them, or cosmetic or small domestic implements such as combs and shears hung from them on chains or cords.

    J. Petersen, Vikingetidens Smykker (Stavanger Museum, 1928)


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