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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

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disc pendant

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Circular gold repoussé pendant with a beaded wire rim and ribbed suspension loop, below which is a beaded wire strip and three collared granules in triangular formation. Two plain and two beaded concentric ridges surround an equal-armed cross, on each arm is a human face-mask with beard and moustache, facing the centre, which contains a spotted quatrefoil knot. The spaces between the arms each have a two-strand interlace triquetra.


  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 7thC
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 3.4 centimetres (including the loop)
  • Curator's comments

    Webster & Backhouse 1991
    Repoussé disc-shaped pendants of this type with Style II decoration are found in a number of female graves, mostly in Kent, and represent an Insular development of the Scandinavian bracteates imported into England during the sixth century. Face-masks appear on various sixth-century brooch types in purely pagan contexts, but here the cruciform arrangement may well have a Christian significance, and recalls similar bearded heads on Lombardic gold foil crosses (Speake 1980, fig. 12k).
    An amuletic rather than a purely decorative function for this piece is likely and the ambiguous iconography with its mixture of Christian and pagan motifs reflects the duality of belief current in the period immediately following the Conversion.
    Select bibliography: Smith, R.A. 1923, ‘A Guide to the Anglo-Saxon and Foreign Teutonic Antiquities in the Department of British and Mediaeval Antiquities, British Museum’, London, 57, pl. III no. 1; Jessup, R., 1950, ‘Anglo-Saxon Jewellery’, London, 122, pl. XXIX no. 9; Speake, G. 1980, ‘Anglo-Saxon Animal Art and its Germanic Background’, Oxford, 70, pl. 130, fig. 12j.


  • Bibliography

    • Marzinzik 2013 112-113 bibliographic details
    • Webster & Backhouse 1991 8 bibliographic details
    • Speake 1980 pl 13o bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited: 2013 26 Jul-16 Oct, Germany, Paderborn, Diozesanmuseum, Christianisation of Medieval Europe

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: MCS8273

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