Viking round brooches at the Saga Museum

Round brooches on her shoulder at the Saga Museum

Round brooches on her shoulder at the Saga Museum

In my research thus far about Viking garb, it looks as though round brooches to hold up apron dresses were different in different areas where they were found. This suggests that different areas had different fashion trends for their brooches. The brooches show on this figure in the Saga museum are round instead of oval, which was apparently the style found in and dated to ‘Luistari, Eura, Finland, ca 1020-1050AD’ – Source: Quiet Press

Viking-style round broaches at the gift shop in the Turku Castle

Viking-style round broaches at the gift shop in the Turku Castle

Likewise, when I visited the castle museum in Turku, Finland, it was round brooches they had in their gift shop, not oval ones.

Further to this, I found a map via a poster on the forum biodiversity who posted the picture below, (Original source unknown) suggesting that the location of different gravesite finds of different brooch styles can suggest different ethnic groups.

The map shows that the “Gotland” style animal-head brooches were sporadically found in gravesites, mainly in Sweden. The oval “tortoise” brooches were found all over Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark, with additional finds in the UK and elsewhere. The round Finnish circular brooches were found primarily in Finland and the closest edge to Sweden, with sporadic finds in the nearest area. There have been no finds of these round brooches in Norway or the UK (where most of the original Icelandic settlers came from) nor Iceland itself.

Locations of Viking Age brooch finds

Locations of Viking Age brooch finds



Note: though I find nothing wrong with it at all, below is an image of a wax figure depicting a bare breast. If that offends you, I suggest you skip to another post.

So… with that in mind I have a bit of a curiosity of why this figure is depicted with round brooches in the Finnish style.
Added to that, I have some curiosity about how her apron-dress is held up.

Like several of the other figures, she wears the equivalent of two pieces of fabric for her apron dress. It’s sideless, and is held up only at the shoulders with the brooches, and tied at the waist with a belt.  Take a look though at that shoulder closest to you… the pin is holding up the back of the apron dress, even though the front of the apron is hanging loose, because it’s pinned to the shoulder of the underdress.

Round brooches on her shoulder at the Saga Museum

Round brooches on her shoulder at the Saga Museum

This figure is supposed to represent Freydís Eiríksdóttir, one of the first women in “Vinland” (L´Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada) and a heroic tactic during a fight with natives. Theoretically, such a tactic would have been an impromptu decision, and the idea of being able to unpin the apron dress, let down the front, undo the gathered neckline of the underdress, and then re-pin the back of the apron dress back up to the front of the underdress seems a bit far-fetched. The story from the Saga Museum is below:

“In The Saga of Eric the Red we learn how Freydís accompanied her husband to Vinland on an expedition led by Þorfinnur Karlsefni and his wife Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir. When they reached Vinland they soon encountered the native people and begun to trade with them. However, during such an exchange of goods a bull owned by Þorfinnur went on a rampage and the natives who had never seen such a beast before immediately took up their weapons. A skirmish ensued in which natives appeared to have the upper hand and Þorfinnur and his party begun to flee. Freydís reprimanded the men in no uncertain terms for their cowardice and tried to encourage them to make a stand but they ran as fast as they could into the cover of the forest. Freydís eventually followed the men but since she was pregnant she soon begun to slow down and loose sight of them. She ran past the body of a certain Þorbrandur Snorrason who had been slain by a blow to the head with a rock, and then saw the natives preparing to attack the Viking party with a battery of rocks and stones. As they pursued the Vikings the natives suddenly came across Freydís and surrounded her. Fearlessly, she seized hold of Þorbrandur’s sword which lay beside his body, opened her tunic to reveal one of her breasts and held the sword tightly against it. This bold gesture seems to have frightened the natives and they ran of terrified by what they apparently thought was an evil omen.” – Saga Museum

So – is the suggestion that Freydís took the time to arrange her garments during a battle? Is the suggestion that the apron dress was pinned to the underdress at the back and the front was looped to the brooch? (You’d need fairly noticeable loops on the apron dress front to go over the pin face.) Or… is the display flawed?

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Sagamuseum – The Saga Museum
Grandagarður, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
+354 511 1517

3 comments on “Viking round brooches at the Saga Museum

  1. annina-g says:

    Thank you for posting!

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