So after Dating and placing my Viking Age style beads… now what?

In my previous post, I outlined what kinds of beads I would be looking for out of my large glass bead collection.

In short, I sorted through thousands and thousands of beads, picking out shapes, colours, and sizes I thought “felt right”… then divided them all by colour, and then looked at my list to pull out the documented shapes, sizes, and opacities that I had evidence for. I also pulled out some wonderful melon beads, dotted beads, striped beads which I was super happy to find in the collection.

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Dating and placing my Viking Age bling – Summary and moving forward

Viking Age reproduction beads from Finland

Viking Age reproduction beads from Finland

So I started this project wanting to try to make more of my jewelry more historically informed – choosing beads that resemble beads found at Viking Age grave sites (etc) rather than just stringing together pretty beads.

As I started making my spreadsheet, there were so many beads that were represented by so many different places though. When I thought of how in the world I was going to sort them (so I could ‘easily’ just grab a pile and be confident they belonged together) I became overwhelmed.

So instead, I decided to start first with my pieces that are less common – my silver (etc) jewelry – and then make plans based on those.

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Necklace inspired by Icelandic Viking bead examples

Icelandic-inspired necklace

Icelandic-inspired necklace

After going through my glass beads (ones I’ve collected over several years as well as ones I was given by a friend), I began the process of stringing up a few necklaces for different costumes, with one of my areas to focus on being Viking Age Iceland.

I’d separated all of my workable beads into different baggies, each holding different variations (example: dark green transparent in one, dark blue opaque in another, silver & gold lined beads in another, etc) and then included slips of paper informing me which type of bead (sphere, double, melon, etc) would be appropriate for which location.  I did keep it quite broad “Viking age” and by country, rather than getting into specifics around items that were found in specific areas of each country. Continue reading

Two necklaces inspired by Finnish bead examples

Necklace inspired by historic bead examples

Necklace inspired by historic bead examples

After going through my glass beads (ones I’ve collected over several years as well as ones I was given by a friend), I began the process of stringing up a few necklaces for different costumes, with one of my first priorities to Finnish Iron Age examples.

I’d separated all of my workable beads into different baggies, each holding different variations (example: dark green transparent in one, dark blue opaque in another, silver & gold lined beads in another, etc) and then included slips of paper informing me which type of bead (sphere, double, melon, etc) would be appropriate for which location.  I did keep it quite broad “Viking age” and by country, rather than getting into specifics around items that were found in specific areas.

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Dating and placing my Viking Age style bling – beads from Finland (part 2/2)

a third set of beads from grave 390, direct link from Finna.fiI 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 website

Grave 835 necklace – direct link from website

So… looking at those bronze long beads from grave 390, I was really interested to see this example from tomb 835 on the 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. 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):

Eura 130 (Luistari)

Grave 130 beads, direct link from

Grave 130 beads, direct link from

Speaking of blue translucent glass beads teamed with  yellow opaque glass beads…. another artefact from 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, 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 site.

Grave 359 beads - direct link from

Grave 359 beads – direct link from

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

Merovingian beads – direct link from

Again, another entry from, 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. 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.

  1. black with red and white
  2. white with black and red
  3. light jade green with black and red
  4. 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

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.”

Silver beads

I also found some silver beads that I remember from the national museum in Finland, but I’ll be entering these in separately.

Stay tuned

Dating and placing beads for Finnish Iron Age (Viking era) costuming

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.