Height: 23.000 cm
Width: 20.000 cm
Thickness: 0.900 cm
Prehistory and Europe
Viking, 9th century
From a barrow burial at Lilleberge, Namdalen, Norway
For smoothing linen
This whalebone plaque is decorated with a pair of openwork horses' heads at the top and incised, ring-and-dot and geometric designs. It was found in a burial beside a woman's body, with a pair of oval brooches and strings of glass beads on the chest.
It is thought that these plaques were used as boards for smoothing folds and seams in linen clothing with the aid of bun-shaped glass smoothers. They have been found mostly in northern Norway in rich women's graves. Occasional examples found in other Viking-settled areas, such as parts of Ireland and Scotland, are probably of Norwegian origin. Whales were hunted for their skins, meat and whalebone; they also sometimes stranded themselves or were washed ashore where their carcasses could be cut up.
R.A. Smith, A guide to the Anglo-Saxon and (London, British Museum, 1923)