I ended my last post of Viking-Age style beads from Finland with a great example from Eura (Luistari) grave 390, which included a number of glass beads, but also these really interesting multi-segment bronze rectangular beads.
Although I don’t have anything like them in my bead collection, they really made me curious because of other examples I found with them.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was surprised to find so many different examples of beads from Viking-Age / Iron Age Finland, so this is the second part of that article.
Eura 835 (Luistari)
Grave 835 necklace – direct link from Finna.fi website
So… looking at those bronze long beads from grave 390, I was really interested to see this example from tomb 835 on the Finna.fi site. This is recorded as ‘necklace with 9 bronze beads and 8 bronze pendants and… it looks SO much (stylistically, not the actual pendant designs) to the 10th century German (Danish?) Hiddensee treasure necklace!
The 9 bronze beads are ‘multi-part’ are faceted. Finna.fi writes that eight of them are in three parts, and “together there are only two facets”. The edges are decorated with four dots each. They write that the beads are 18.5x30x7x7 mm – which I suspect is an error (cus that would make it four dimensional….)
Since the grave 390 beads are 6x6mm, length 25mm, I suspect that these are also cross-sectional square, 7x7mm, and that the length of the three-part ones is a total of 18.5mm. They write that the two-section (broken?) one is 7x7x13mm.
The 8 flat ornamented bronze pendants have an “osmotic knot”. Like the beads, there is also a dot decoration on the front of the carrying loop for the pendant. The pendants are about 31x28mm, “except for the fourth one on the lift, which” is 21x21mm. It looks like the very tip of this one has broken off or been squished down.
Fantastically, when found the cord that the beads ad pendants were strung on was still inside the bronze. The website didn’t say what the cord was made of. They also write (translated):
“When found, there were n: one marked on the back of the neck and n 2 and 3 front sides facing each other on the right side of the neck, 4,5,6 and 7 were on the front of the neck and 8 on its left side. At the far left of the neck was a two-piece bead and everyone else was always between the two pendants so that the ribbon ended in a three-piece bead.”
I interpret this to mean that one of the pendants was on the back of the neck of the deceased, with two more on the side of the neck on the right, one on the left side of the neck, and four more at the front of the throat. The two-piece bead was on the far left, and all of the other beads were between the pendants.
If the assumption thus is that the necklace completely encircled the neck, and is fairly complete, with lengths of one bead at 13mm, 8 beads at 18.5 mm, and assuming that the pendant top is approximately 7.5mm – this means the total length would be 221mm. So… 22 cm. However, the average neck circumference of a woman is about 34cm (according to a 2015 US article). SO… I suspect that the beads and pendants were on a cord, and the cord was tied onto the neck of the deceased. I speculate that the reason the one bead was off to the left side, is that the knot was placed missing one of beads when dressing the dead in her finery. OR it is also possible that the wearer was a child/teen.
I’ll be adding this into my spreadsheet as Fin835.
Similar but different…. Eura Luistari 95
Direct link from Pinterest – Luistari cemetery grave goods
I did a search for the Eura 835 grave as well, and could find very, very little. However, I did find this Pinterest image, with NO information (beyond the tags “Viking age, Finland, Luistari”) which makes me curious about the metadata that’s associated with this image to have it sync up with the search.
Looking at the necklace itself… It’s not the same necklace.
Grave 835 has 8 pendants and 9 dividers (8 triple, one double) while this has 5 pendants and 6 dividers. Also, while I think that the pendants are the same (same shape, number of holes, the outlines, etc…) the fourth from the left here is “damaged” in a different way from the “damaged” one in the 835 find.
The colour is different too – this one appears to have a lot of verdigris, while the other doesn’t – though this really could just be a matter of time.
The decoration on the dividing beads appears to be different as well – these ones appear to have a dot-in-dot design, versus the five dots. The dot-in-dot design is like the long metal beads from Eura grave 390, though those had five segments, versus the three segments here. While the bails on the 835 grave necklace pendants are very square and have the five dot design, the pendants on this one are more angular. I can’t really see the design on them.
This all leads me to suspect that this is a reproduction / imitation of the other necklace, or that the style was popular enough to have multiple versions made with multiple cast copper-alloy pendants and beads. (Follow up: I read on the Luistarin tutkimukset Facebook page that these types of pendants have been found in southwest Finland , and researcher Ulla Moilanen believes that they might have been made in SW Finland, with a number of finds from the Laitila area, (about 60km north of Turku) suggesting it may have been the center of the manufacturing area, and there were at least a few different casting molds. They also note that the total number of this artefact type has not been thoroughly studied yet, nor it’s distribution. )
OK… but now to the glass beads instead of the metal ones… This one is strung with a divider, a blue glass bead, the pendant, another blue glass bead, and then another divider… and repeated. After the last divider on each side there is a blue glass bead, a smaller yellow glass bead, and then the rest of the necklace appears to be made of blue glass beads in a variety of round and round-ish shapes, largely the same approximate size but not entirely. Could it be that the grave 835 necklace also was finished with beads and those beads were lost in the grave (or simply recorded elsewhere, and I wasn’t able to find the entry)?
The huge problem here – this is a direct upload to Pinterest – it looks like a scan from a book, because the left hand side is slightly blurry… as if the curve of the book laid flat on the scanner bed distorted the clarity. There is NO other information about this find – or the original source it was published in. 😦 Just because it came up in a search for the Luistari cemetery grave goods, doesn’t mean it was found there. While a lot of the jewelry in the photo is similar to other grave finds. The shield brooches are similar to the Eura grave 56, though not the same, the equal-arm brooch looks VERY similar to Eura grave 56, as are the rings. While the bracelets are not the same as grave 56, they still look very familiar, likely similar to other Finnish Iron Age bracelets I’ve seen in other finds.
A similar looking photo of different jewelry scanned from a book on Pinterest has Cyrillic writing, (from Pinterest.ru). The scan includes a necklace of gold foil-lined beads, pendants in the shape of a coin (but not coins), a clatter-charm with bells… but then also some other items that aren’t familiar as Finnish, so it’s possible that the book is a Russian book on Iron Age jewelry.
Where is this from???
So I visited the LEMPI-tietokanta – the database of artefacts from the Luistari cemetery. They do note that the database is a work-in-progress, and not everything has been listed. However, with the keywords “kaulakoru” (necklace) and “pronssi” (bronze) it immediately gave ONE result.
“The grave was located in an old field area, where the thickness of the soil was only 15-25 cm. The tomb was slightly tapering at the ends, rounded at an angle, uneven from the bottom. No remains were found in the coffin. The deceased was buried in the back position, head to the southwest, arms bent from the elbows so that the palms were at the shoulders.“
The grave goods included a beaded necklace with pendants, found “around the neck of the deceased”, round shoulder brooches, (the one on the right shoulder was upside-down), and a “flat-breasted” brooch (the equal-armed brooch?) found in the middle of the chest. There were also two bracelets on each wrist, and one ring on each hand. Sounds very much like this photo!
In addition to the jewlery, they also include a couple of corner decorations and loose spirals left on the apron, and near the waist there was an iron knife. Another knife was found over the neck of the deceased. Pottery was near the foot of the grave, in the north corner, which I think they indicate disintegrated into pieces when found.
“A fragment of a spiral ring (2066, in Map 5), a lump of iron slag (2067), bones, and remnants of a skull (2068-69) were found in the surface layer around the tomb, which may also be from this tomb. There was no sign of the upper part of the skull, although other parts of the upper body had survived, and since the tomb was remarkably low, it is very possible for the skull to enter the surface layers. The land filled with the tomb was a nail, a burnt piece of clay and iron slag (2098-2100).”
They describe the necklace with 38 blue beads, two double blue beads, 2 pieces of rectangular blue beads, and 2 yellow beads. Blue and yellow… again – sounds right….
They also describe 6 three-piece angular bronze beads decorated with dotted circles (16x6x6mm) and five bronze pendants decorated with osmotic knots. Ok… so this is definitely this find, right? They list this as Feature 18,000, extension 2088, Context Select 95. I searched for grave 2088 first (no luck) but then Tuija Kirkinen’s THE ROLE OF WILD ANIMALS IN DEATH RITUALS: FURS AND ANIMAL SKINS IN THE LATE IRON AGE INHUMATION BURIALS IN SOUTHEASTERN FENNOSCANDIA mentions grave #95 as a female grave… which then led me to Ulla Moilanen, PhD’s tweets, she mentions “In grave 95 at #Luistari, a knife was placed horizontally on the throat”…so it took a while.. but I’m PRETTY sure that this photo represents finds from Eura Luistari grave number 95.
So with that, I’ll be including this in my spreadsheet as Fin95
The beads (yellow and blue glass) are also so similar to other finds; it is fun to see how popular this dark blue glass teamed with yellow opaque glass was!
Ok… another one?
Another bronze pendant necklace – direct link from Pinterest
Pinterest is kind of evil. I also found this photo – and once again it’s a direct upload. Which means.. no source.
this one has a thick twisted neck band, two round shoulder brooches, a central round brooch, two bracelets, what I think is a ring….
…. and then that bronze pendant necklace again.
BUT.. like the previous one, this one is ALSO different.
Looking at the enlarged version of the photo, the pendants are more round than the other two examples, though they have the same outlining and nubs on the edges. They also have the central knot design. The bails look more like modern necklace pendant bails, and are very plain..
Instead of the (two) three or five segment rectangular beads, there appears to be wire spirals as beads dividing up the pendants instead. This is reinforced on the very far right side with three loose broken rings. Some of the dividing ‘beads’ are also broken – in different places, suggesting that the coil broke.
This necklace has seven pendants and eight dividing ‘beads’ made of spiral wire.
Although I don’t know the grave associated with this find, I feel it’s worth recording, so will be entering it in my spreadsheet as FinCoil
Eura 130 (Luistari)
Grave 130 beads, direct link from Finna.fi
Speaking of blue translucent glass beads teamed with yellow opaque glass beads…. another artefact from Finna.fi that I assume is from Eura. This is listed from Tomb 130, and includes a total of 128 beads found scattered. Most were round, with some slightly flattened, and a few more cylindrical (barrel) beads.
- 112 blue glass beads 5-6.5mm diameter
- 1 blue and white striped 5mm bead
- 7 turquoise round beads (again, I’m assuming this referes to colour, not material) 7-8mm diameter
- 6 yellow beads 5-6mm
- 2 white 5.5 and 7 mm diameter
Further searches for the probable grave 130 didn’t yield any results, however given that the previous two entries were confirmed as likely Eura graves, I feel confident that this one is too as it follows the same conventions.
I’ll be recording this in my spreadsheet as Fin130
Eura 359 (Luistari)
Another entry from Finna.fi, this find includes a large greyish-green bead “longitudinal” which previously I thought might have meant it was a melon bead. This is 15x12mm. It’s dated 800-1050, and is made of glass. Oddly, the other three items are not identified on the Finna.fi site.
Grave 359 beads – direct link from Finna.fi
This looks like at least one white-ish bead, a blue triple or …quadruple? glass bead, a broken white bead, and the melon bead.
Since I haven’t seen a lot of other melon beads in Finnish finds, I’ll just be recording it, as Fin359 on my spreadsheet.
Eura 1061 (Luistari)
Merovingian beads – direct link from Finna.fi
Again, another entry from Finna.fi, though this one is dated to an earlier time period, 500-800 CE.
What I find really interesting here, is that the orange-yellow beads are a fair bit different from the other beads I’ve seen so far for Finland Iron /Viking Age, BUT the multi-colour beads are vey similar to beads I’ve looked at from other countries. The beads are also substantially larger than the previous Finnish beads I’ve looked at.
Finna.fi describes this set of beads from tomb 1061 as being 20 glass beads:
- 20 (I think they mean 12) orange-yellow pony beads 7-8×11-12 mm
- 1 orange oblong (barrel) bead 18×19 mm (I think this is incorrect as well, and the bead is more likely 7-8mmx18-19mm)
- 2 blue beads 8x13mm
- 2 blue patterned with yellow and white 12x14mm and 13x16mm
- 2 blue beads patterned with red and white 19x17mm
- 1 blue bead patterned in red, yellow and white, 21x17mm.
It does identify that these beads were found scattered within the grave. For my spreadsheet this is recorded as Fin1061.
However… once again I had a very hard time finding information about this grave, so I opted to search in Finnish instead. It led me to Eura-Luistari Excavation Report by Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander (1991) where part of tomb 1061 had been destroyed during excavation. The skull survived however, and suggested the person was small in stature. Translating through Google, I think suggests that the grave included a small buckle, an iron knife, and buckles connected by bronze chain. Given the mention of chain, I suspect that “buckle” actually means brooch. However the report says that nothing else was found… no beads. However, in an index of photo negatives (not pictured), there is a reference to jewelry, knife, buckles, and chain from grave 1061, so it’s possible that the jewelry refers to the beads?
This same report refers to a “blue pearl” (English) – “sininen helmi” (Finnish) from grave 1185, found along with bronze spirals, earthenware, and a burnt bone chip. From this report, this is the only reference to “helmi” (bead) of the graves Pirkko-Liisa examined.
Karoniemi in Ruokolahti- South Karelia
A site dedicated to cultural heritage attractions in South Karelia writes about the prehistoric settlement at Karoniemi in Ruokolahti, and the artefacts found there. These artefacts are evidence of contact between different cultures, as glass beads from the Mediterranean were found. They note these as being luxury items, and include four photos of beads.
Unfortunately the images aren’t linkable, but they are all near-round, opaque, 3-4 colour beads.
- black with red and white
- white with black and red
- light jade green with black and red
- bright yellow with black, white, and red
Since I have several other entries of three-colour near-round beads, and I don’t have more information about this grave site, I wont’ be including these in my spreadsheet.
More beads.. no photos
Compared to finding out information about Swedish and Icelandic finds, finding out information about Finnish finds is frustratingly difficult. I suspect part of this is due to language – while Swedish and Icelandic both translate reasonably well using Google Translate, Finnish does… not. At all.
I also wonder if the ‘sex appeal’ of “Vikings” overshadows the not-Viking, Viking-era Finnish finds, and thus more attention and research goes to these other areas. Also, in the case of Iceland, a “younger” country – they had amazing historical record-keeping!
With all of that in mind, I’m opting to include fragments of information gleamed from my hunt for Finnish Iron Age beads… maybe to help with additional future rabbit holes. Since there’s not a lot of information in any of these sources, I’m opting to not include them in my spreadsheet.
In Sites, centrality and long-term settlement change in the Kemiönsaari region in SW Finland, Henrik Asplund writes that excavations in the Pre-Roman settlement of Paimio ( a municipality located in the province of Western Finland and part of the Southwest Finland region) uncovered a cemetery on a hill consisting of a field of stones. The oldest items are from the early Iron Age, but the cemetery was still in use during the Viking Age. It’s possible the site is even older still, as two fragments of flint arrowheads, like Bronze Age examples were also found on the site, but it’s possible that they originated from somewhere else.
The oldest grave was made of sandstone slabs, shaped into a rectangular cell approximately 100 cm wide by 200 cm long. It contained burned bones, a fibula, two shepherds crook pins of bronze, pieces of neck rings and bracelets, finger rings, pieces of bronze chain, and glass beads. Henrik speculates that these are the result of several burials, rather than the resting spot for one individual. Nearby was also an axe, spearhead, sickle knife and a bronze bracelet as well.
Further, in Sites, centrality and long-term settlement change in the Kemiönsaari region in SW Finland, Henrik Asplund writes that in the Iron Age cairns at the Strukankalliot site in Pyhtää, on the Gulf of Finland shore, there was a gold-plated glass bead found.
Kalmumäki cremation cemetery in Uusikaupunki
Vainionmäki A cemetary in Laitila
Pukkisaari cremation cemetery in Kouvola
Suotniemi inhumation cemetery in Käkisalmi
& Makasiininmäki cemetery in Janakkala
In Death, Destruction and Commemoration: Tracing ritual activities in Finnish Late Iron Age cemeteries (AD 550–1150), Anna Wessman references an unpublished M.A. thesis (Ranta, 1990) concerning glass bead material from this site. No further information is given.
Further, she references the Vainionmäki cemetary, where people have found “molten
glass beads and bronze jewellery, sometimes found fused to the bones in these cemeteries”.
In her paper, she also includes a photo (since it’s a PDF I can’t link to it directly) of a round brooch and a glass bead found during the excavation of the Pukkisaari cremation cemetery in
Kouvola. Unfortunately the photo is old, small, and black and white, and the shape/etc of the bead is impossible to identify.
At the Suotniemi inhumation cemetery in Käkisalmi, Anna notes that cremated bones were placed inside a wooden box, along with two pairs of partially melted brooches, bronze chain, bronze spirals, a knife, an ear-spoon, and glass beads. She adds that “Theodor Schwindt interpreted the cremations as belonging to two women.” The box was buried at the cemetery site.
The Makasiininmäki cemetery in Janakkala is close to the town of Hämeenlinna and was first excavated in the 1850s according to Anna, and artefacts have been dated between the 6th and 11th centuries. In the 1950s, an inhumation grave was found containing burned bones, including parts of the skull, some teeth, and a neck vertebra. Around the breast area, there was a small 12th century penannular brooch, a glass bead, and a small iron ring which is suspected to have been part of a necklace. A knife handle, and pieces of a sheath that had been decorated with bronze were also found, and some pieces of woolen cloth were preserved under the sheath.
Additional items had been used possibly to fasten the lid, including an iron hook, small knife, the cutting edge of a sword, and two spearheads. They’d all been bent downwards to act as brackets holding the edges of the coffin. Interestingly enough, unlike the likely 12th century coffin – the spearheads were dated to the 7th century… I wonder if this means that items taken from other grave sites were used as makeshift nails/brackets for another grave 500 years later?
Die Eisenzeit Finnlands
cover of die eisenzeit finnlands (direct link )
Frustratingly – the cover of Ella Kivikoski’s Die Eisenzeit Finnlands (The Iron Age of Finland) features a graduated string of beads with six coins on the longest strand. However… I can’t find ANY online copies of this book, in English or German!
Sarks Ancient Finnish Costumes
In 1984’s Ancient Finnish Costumes, there are a few mentions of beads as well.
When speaking about the Perniö graves, they note that:
- Grave 1 had over 30 beads
- Grave 6 had one bead
However no descriptions of any of the beads are offered, nor in how they were found in the grave.
Discussing Grave 9 at Tuukkala, they note that the shoulder brooch jewelry included bronze beads as terminals for hanging tubes. While reconstructions are often gilded, the originals they note were solid cast bronze. These bronze beads are likely similar to the ones found at the Karelia graves as well. They also note that Eastern Finland (which includes both the Tuukkala and Karelia graves) had some unique styles, including these bronze beads.
They also note that there are grave finds with chains from the 9th century, but it’s only towards the end of the 10th century that heavy chain ornamentation became ‘the fashion’. Instead they note that “a bead band was the most popular ornament of most Finnish women, and beads were imported from east and west.”
I also found some silver beads that I remember from the national museum in Finland, but I’ll be entering these in separately.
As I mentioned in my Brooches post, this is just one of a VERY long series of posts to help me date and place my Viking Age jewelry, all with the hope of a more historically plausible costume. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing many more items and the information I was able to find about them. Stay tuned!
If you’re finding this post well after the original publication date, you can follow the “Dating & Placing” tag to see more posts from this category.