Appearance was important to the Vikings, and there have been several archaeological finds of tweezers, combs, buckles and brooches. A 1,200 years old Celtic brooch found in Overhalla in Nord-Trøndelag County is so special that it gets international attention.
The brooch was “discovered” in the storage room at the British Museum in London, and it has triggered a number of reactions from the experts. The English newspaper The Observer recently wrote an article about the brooch and describes it as a “staggering find“.
The brooch is dated around the ninth century and was found in one of the many burial mounds in Overhalla municipality over a hundred years ago. It belongs to the “Cocks Collection”; a salmon lord who visited the district in the 1870s and 80s for fishing and hunting. He undertook excavations in the area, and took the items back to England. The treasures were probably donated to the British Museum after his death.
Now, the brooch has been preserved by the British Museum, and will be on display in London from March 6th. It is a Celtic brooch – which means it is either of Scottish or Irish origin. Scientists assume that it may have belonged to a shrine. It is either stolen or bought by Vikings in the 800s, and other finds shows great Viking activity in the district.
Around year 1000, the Arab traveler Ibrahim ibn Ahmed al-Tartushi wrote that he on a journey through Denmark observed that both men and women used makeup that made them look younger and prettier.
Even in the late 700s, the Vikings were trendsetters: In an anonymous letter from the period, a man exhorts his brother to follow the Anglo-Saxon tradition and not indulge in “Danish fashion with a shaved neck and blind eyes”. Blind eyes probably means long fringe.
The women wore colorful costumes with buckles, and embroidery was a highly developed art. Several Arab sources mention that the Vikings had a habit of washing and that they wore pretty clothes. The Arab Ibn Fadlan describes the Vikings as “tall as date palms, blond and ruddy.”
Other written material from the Viking period confirms that people were vain, and archaeologists have found combs, brushes, tweezers and buckles. Jewelry highlighted status, wealth and fashion consciousness.
Text by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
Sources: Namdalsavisa, Vikingenes Verden (Spartacus, 2013)
Photo: British Museum