In an earlier post I showed some repoduction Viking Age beads from two of the museums I visited in Iceland. Today I’d like to share with you some of the authentic finds of Viking Age festoons, and the beads that made the festoons from the Iceland National Museum in Reykjavik.
These half-necklaces are from different dig sites and discoveries, and unless noted, did not have dates attached to them; only that they were from the Viking Age.
I’m not sure if the festoons were found with the beads in the order that they’re displayed or not – though I would have to presume they were.
In the photo above (and at the top of the page) the festoon displayed was found in a woman’s grave. The description only said that it was from before 1000 CE.
The next festoon wasn’t strung, but instead the beads were laid flat. This display area was very dark, and the contents inside were found from a discovery in southern Iceland. In 1104 Mt. Hekla erupted, burying farms in this area under pumice, and preserving them until discovered. The remains show what life was like about 200 years after Iceland’s initial settlers – and gives an indication that styles of festoons… didn’t change much!
This next display included a number of different jewelry goods and personal items; beads, bracelets, combs, brooches, and necklaces. The display is about the “Norse and Celtic Cultural Inheritance” and talks about women in the Settlement Age who came from other places in the Nordic world, bringing these goods with them. The write up included “Most of the preserved artifacts indicate a common fashion in clothing and ornaments.”
The display discussed all of the necklaces together, writing “Necklaces were often worn by women. Most of the beads are glass or amber, while some are stone. One of the necklaces includes two Cufic silver coins from the 10th Century.
This suggests to me that the festoons are either from the 10th Century, or perhaps afterwards.
These beads in the necklace above were HUGE – I’d say the largest was possibly the diameter of a twoonie, though very thick.
Another necklace/festoon. The teal and dark blue beads are about the size of modern Pony beads.
A different view of the same necklace – this time with a bit more light…
National Museum of Iceland
Suðurgata 41, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
+354 530 2200
The Settlement Museum didn’t have any displays of full necklaces/festoons, however they did have a number of bead examples and included a write up which said:
“Over a thousand glass beads have been unearthed in Iceland from farm sites and heathen graves. Some of the bead types can be dated with considerable accuracy, and glass beads are the principal evidence for the long-houses at Aðalstræti and Suðurgata dating from the same period. Beads were sometimes threaded together into necklaces.”
The longhouse on display at the Settlement Museum is was inhabited from 930-1000, though parts of the wall were built prior to 871 (+/- 2 years), however the beads are not specifically dated in the museum display.
The doughnut-shaped beads (like the green one above, and blue one below) is very similar to the blue doughnut-shaped beads I used in my own festoon, while the double bead (in bright yellow) is similar to the triple beads I bought in the Iceland National Museum’s gift shop.
Minjasafn Reykjavíkur – The Settlement Exhibition – Reykjavik 871 +/- 2
Aðalstræti 16, Old West Side, Reykjavik, Iceland
+354 411 6370