Viking Armbands – Museum exhibits

From the Saga Museum in Reykjavik

At the Saga Museum in Reykjavik there were several figures wearing armbands/bracelets. Rather than do a post for each of the displays and all of their various elements, I thought I’d organize the photos by the items of interest.

First settlers of Iceland

Armband on one of the figures representing one of the first Icelandic settlers

Armband on one of the figures representing one of the first Icelandic settlers

The first example is one of the figures representing one of the first settlers to Iceland. He has a twisted arm band on what looks like just below his elbow. This band appears to have a large bulb in the middle – similar to another armband that I have a bit better of a photo below.

He also has a bracelet-height arm band worn over his sleeve just above the wrist. It looks like a flatter kind of bracelet – with a stamped or engraved pattern in it.

While the upper arm band looks like a pewter colour, the bracelet-height armband looks like bronze.

The female armband on the wax figures representing the earliest settlers of Iceland in the Saga Museum

The female armband on the wax figures representing the earliest settlers of Iceland in the Saga Museum

The female, above, has a similar kind of below-elbow arm band, which looks like a flat band (not twisted) also with a bit of a decorated bulge.

I wonder if the choice to put them on the arm below the elbow was a deliberate choice, or a matter of where the items they could get would fit on the already-existing wax model over the reproduction clothing? It seems like a good location if using the band to help hold up pushed-up sleeves, but not so much for general wear, where I would think something worn at the bicep would fall less frequently/easily.

(warning, this is an image-heavy post!)

Below are some photos of the couple in context from the museum

The wax figures representing the earliest settlers of Iceland in the Saga Museum

The wax figures representing the earliest settlers of Iceland in the Saga Museum

One view

The wax figures representing the earliest settlers of Iceland in the Saga Museum

The wax figures representing the earliest settlers of Iceland in the Saga Museum

Another view

The wax figures representing the earliest settlers of Iceland in the Saga Museum

The wax figures representing the earliest settlers of Iceland in the Saga Museum

The Lawspeaker & Conversion

Thiking Viking in the Saga Museum

Thinking Viking in the Saga Museum

The character pictured above has two arm bands, both worn just above the wrist, both over clothing.

Another arm band

Another arm band – also note the unusual sleeve seams

Here’s a bit of a closer view, where it looks like the arm band was molded to get the sort of reverse-scalloped design on both edges. This looks like a peweter-colour as well. I also thought the sleeve design was interesting, and it’s most visible in this photo where you can see the two unusually placed seams.

The Law-Speaker at the Saga Museum

The Law-Speaker at the Saga Museum

I didn’t get great photos of the Law-speaker character, due to how far away the wax figure was (and how dark the museum exhibit is) but it kind of looks like a wrap-around or coiled bracelet, again in a pewter tone, and worn above the wrist, over clothing.

The Law-Speaker at the Saga Museum

The Law-Speaker at the Saga Museum

Vinland

The wax figure representing discovery of Vinland in the Saga Museum

The wax figure representing discovery of Vinland in the Saga Museum

The figure pictured above is part of a display representing the Viking Age discovery of “Vinland” (Canada). He wears pewter-tone arm bands on both arms, below the elbow, over his under-tunic.

A twisted armband on the camping Viking figure

A twisted armband on the camping Viking figure

A closer look at the arm band shows it’s a twisted band, with a decorated ball in the middle. The ball is decorated with tiny additional balls in this case.

The wax figure representing discovery of Vinland in the Saga Museum

The wax figure representing discovery of Vinland in the Saga Museum

Another character representing “Vinland” is pictured above. His arm bands are again pewter-toned, worn above the wrists, and over clothing. His are flat and decorated with what looks like stamping.

On those grapes….

So, “Vinland” makes people think of wine/ grapes. Then that gets argued, because Newfoundland isn’t exactly known for being a grape-growing area…   From the Academic Edition of the encyclopedia Britannica, “In the 1960s Helge Ingstad adopted the view of the Swedish philologist Sven Söderberg that Vinland did not mean “wine land” but rather “grassland” or “grazing land.” ” But… grapes DO grow in Newfoundland according to the Dark Cove Cottage & Vinyard in east-central Newfoundland. Likewise in the Vinland Voyager they suggest that it’s possible that the Viking explorers might have found grapes in Newfoundland, as the climate was about 5 degrees warmer 1000 years ago.

 

Armband on one of the Vinland wax figures

Armband on one of the Vinland wax figures

Battle scenes

Scene from a battle at the Saga Museum

Scene from a battle at the Saga Museum

The scene above from the Saga Museum is a battle scene, and the fallen figure is wearing an arm band, also in a pewter colour, also above his clothing, but in this case over both a shirt and a bracer, and about mid-way between wrist and elbow. This style is twisted, but appears to have animal-head clasps.

Armband on the fallen fighter in the scene from a battle at the Saga Museum

Armband on the fallen fighter in the scene from a battle at the Saga Museum

 

Sagamuseum – The Saga Museum
www.sagamuseum.is/
Grandagarður, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
+354 511 1517

From the Iceland National Museum

Bracelet or arm band from a female grave, as displayed at the Iceland National Museum.

Bracelet or arm band from a female grave, as displayed at the Iceland National Museum.

So now that I’ve looked at the Saga Museum and it’s interpretations, I thought I’d also show some exhibit items from the National Museum of Iceland, illustrating real finds.

The photo above is from a female grave, and was listed as a bracelet or arm band. It looks like a wide cylindrical “wire”, shaped into a bracelet, and with flattened ends.

Bracelets and combs from the museum

Bracelets and combs from the museum

The front bracelet is flat, with a stamped design (a triangle with three dots, which apparently is quite common for decoration) and terminal ends. The one in the back is a bangle-style, solid, with no decoration.

On the combs

Although this post isn’t about combs, in case anyone was curious, I thought I’d include the write up in the Iceland National Museum discussing the combs:

“Combs are often found in graves implying that hair dressing was important. One of the combs was found in a grave in South East Iceland, the other two are spot finds.”

The display was on the Norse & Celtic Cultural Inheritance, and were only listed as “Settlement Age” for Iceland.

National Museum of Iceland
www.nationalmuseum.is
Suðurgata 41, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
+354 530 2200

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