RAM Vikings – A Woman’s Grave

Beads and coins from a Viking Age woman's grave.

Beads and coins from a Viking Age woman’s grave.

Two years ago in May 2019 my mum and I took a trip to Edmonton to visit the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) specifically to see the touring Viking Exhibit from Denmark. It’s taken me some time to get through the photos (and remember to post) but over the next while I’ll share some of the highlights from the exhibit, hopefully to help any other reenactors or costumers get inspired for their own future projects!

Today’s post is all about the dress ornaments of an aristocratic Viking woman.

The description of these grave goods described this as the ornaments making up the full attire of an aristocratic Viking woman, with “two oval gilt brooches of copper alloy” flanking a string of multi-coloured glass beads along with “various pendants”.

Beads and a pendant  from a Viking Age woman's grave.

Beads and a pendant from a Viking Age woman’s grave.

The grave is from Lerchenborg, Zealand, Denmark, and is dated 850-950.

Beads and coins from a Viking Age woman's grave.

Beads and coins from a Viking Age woman’s grave.

Grave goods came from many places and also include:

  • A silver denarius coin from Western Europe, (wikipedia tells me that Denarius coins are Roman Imperial Coins 27 BC-476 AD, though perhaps they just mean it’s a Roman empire coin?)
  • Two coins from the Arab world.  The metals from the coins came from Afghanistan or Central Asia.
  • An additional European coin they didn’t identify the origins of
  • A carnelian bead from India.
  • Mercury used to fashion the jewellery came from Spain.
  • A silver equal-armed brooch.
  • A silver chain.
  • Beads of silver, copper alloy, glass, rock

“The pieces collected from many lands were fashioned together to adorn the lady in life, and in death, to tell the story of Viking exploration.”

Bead & coin photos

There are such a wide variety of beads here that I really wanted to capture some of them – along with the coins.  There are beads similar to what I have seen as African trade beads, the serpentine stripe beads, solid coloured beads, melon ‘pinched’ beads, tube beads, clear glass beads and solid opaque ones, faceted beads…

I also find it interesting that they’ve displayed the necklace as though the coins were perhaps used as pendants on the necklace, but not all of them have holes/etc as far as I can see.

The wire loops with beads on them, creating pendants – oddly are not displayed as though they were part of the necklace dressing the dead woman – so is it possible that they were not strung originally as part of the grave goods, but rather put in separately?

Brooches & chain photos

The chain looks like it’s loop in loop chain, which seems fairly simple. The brooches on the other hand are very ornate – and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen similar ones from other exhibits, and have certainly seen reproductions that are similar as well. The equal-arm brooch though is something that I don’t see a lot in reenactment circles, so I would have liked to know more about it too!

Isn’t that always the way with museum exhibits – there’s just enough information to tease… but not enough to answer all the questions I might have!

Stay tuned for so many more photos from this exhibit… even if they are 2 years late!

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