Viking full beaded necklace

Beaded necklace from a woman's grave

Beaded necklace from a woman’s grave

In my previous post I showed you a full necklace from the Iceland National Museum which was glass, amber, and rock crystal. (Pictured above). This was from a woman’s grave which included a great number of grave goods including jewelry and tools.

Grave goods from a Viking female grave

Grave goods from a Viking female grave

I haven’t seen many examples of full necklaces, so wanted to include a post showing this off.

National Museum of Iceland
Suðurgata 41, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
+354 530 2200

Although this was one of the only fully beaded necklaces (rather than the half-necklaces hung from apron brooches which I’m refering to as “festoons” for the most part) at the museum in Iceland, the museum display in Victoria, BC that I visited a month later, which comes from a museum in Sweden had a number of these fully beaded necklaces. Could this be a fashion trend that was more prominant in one area than another? With beads being ‘expensive’ were there more ‘wealthy’ wearers in Sweden than in Iceland? Or is it a matter simply of what has been discovered and what survived to be discovered?

Fully beaded necklaces of  trade beads.

Fully beaded necklaces of trade beads.

There was a display of four different fully beaded necklaces.  These were of a variety of different materials, including this necklace with additional wire-and-bead ‘pendants’.

The necklaces below were all found at Birka, and the museum write-up says that they were made of glass, rock crystal, carnelian, amber, silver, gold foil, and silver foil. One of the full necklaces is from a cremation, which turned the carnelian beads white.

The display about these beads said:

“Viking Age traders prized beautiful beads, which could be sold in Scandinavia for very high prices. Ibn Fadlan, and Arabic envoy who encountered Norsemen on the Volga, early in the 10th century, wrote that they would pay as much as one dirhem (an Arabic silver coin) for one single bead. These beads were most likely made of carnelian or rock crystal, semi-precious stones which are mainly found in the Caucasus and the area around the Black Sea.”

“Other raw materials and beads were found closer to home. Amber could be gathered from the beaches of souther Scandinavia and along the Baltic coast. Archaeologists have found Viking Age workshops that produced beads of glass, precious metals or amber at several locations in Scandinavia, particularly in Ribe in southern Denmark.”

Full necklace and other grave goods from a upper class child's grave. The display noted that when children's graves were found, they rarely have grave goods.

Full necklace and other grave goods from a upper class child’s grave. The display noted that when children’s graves were found, they rarely have grave goods.

There was also a display from an upper-glass female child’s grave.  It was found at Birka, Sweden. The grave included a whetstone pendant, a knife and scabbard, a ceramic vessel, a bronze bell, an iron key, and the necklace which is glass with silver and gold foil. There are 19 small beads in multiples of two, five, and six, plus two long golden-coloured bars/beads. They look a lot like pearls!

About some of the other grave goods, the museum write-up says “bells might have been used as protection against evil forces and/or as toys”. They also note that the key indicates that, had she lived, she would have grown up to “take on the role of Lady of the House”.

2 comments on “Viking full beaded necklace

  1. Very interesting, rare information. Much appreciate it! especially because I can’t visit these museums by myself 🙂

  2. Thank you for these pictures. Too many of the photos online only show the really amazing beads, not the examples made up of more basic beads. But I really think it is valuable to see the examples that are possibly more typical. This is a very valuable thing you are sharing.

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