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Reins guide


Length: 13.100 cm

Britain, Europe and Prehistory

    Reins guide

    Viking, 9th-10th century AD
    From Anga on the island of Gotland, Sweden

    Horse-harness fitting

    This copper-alloy openwork fitting was for guiding the reins of a horse when pulling a waggon or sledge. Both sides are decorated with Borre Style animal masks in relief and interlacing bodies. The fitting was probably originally gilded, like the fragment of a similar example found in a field at Cliffe, North Yorkshire in 1997. The type is mainly found in Sweden, but the spread of Viking settlement and culture would explain the discovery of similar objects so far apart. A number of Swedish runestones record the names of local men who had joined the raids on England.

    The fitting would have been attached by the perforated lugs round the base to a wooden bow. This was strapped across the shoulders of the horse as part of the harness. The reins would have passed through the two large, circular openings on either side of the centre. These fittings are sometimes found in pairs, indicating two horses would have been harnessed together.

    D. Kidd and L. Thunmark-Nylén, 'James Curle of Melrose and his collection of Gotlandic antiquities', Fornvännen, 85 (1990)