Viking Age reproduction beads from Finland
In my continued project of dating and placing my (mostly) glass bead collection – sorting out beads that will be ‘historically informed’ for my costuming moving forward, I also really wanted to include Finland.
Of course, Finland Iron Age isn’t Viking… but I wanted to pull some of the beads from my collection that will work with my Finnish costume as well, rather than putting all of them into my Viking bling bag. Since I think Finnish Iron Age jewelry is more defined by copper-alloy jewelry rather than beads, the few beads that are represented by artefacts, I want to at least isolate so I don’t use them elsewhere.
Eura Luistari 1260
I’ll start off with this photo from Pinterest from the Finnish National Museum.
The majority of the beads are opaque dark blue. I’m unsure if these are all single round beads, or if there are doubles and triples as well. There are opaque bright yellow round beads – and perhaps double and triple beads in this glass as well. The spacing of the beads is what makes me believe that many of these are doubles or triples, along with singles.
These same beads are common in other locations as well.
Each strand has a central bead too, and although it’s hard to tell from the photo, it looks like each are opaque two-tone near-round beads.
The lower strand also appears to have round silver-lined clear beads as well.
Finna.fi has multiple listings for artefacts from grave 1260, including: (translated)
“Bronze round copper buckle. 2-animal. Behind the buckle are parts of a rusty iron needle and remnants of a twill and plain woven textile”. (KM27177:28)
Eura 1260 artefacts – direct link from Finna.fi
- “Chain carrier, spiral-headed, cast in bronze. Stepped decoration, fastened with an iron ring to the buckle KM 27177: 27. Two chains attached to the second lower loop with spiral rings, one chain attached to the other loop via a single ring”. (KM27177:30)
- “A chain carrier, such as KM 27177: 30, was attached to the buckle KM 27177: 28 by an iron ring and a bronze spiral ring. One lower loop has one iron ring attached to it and the other has an iron ring and a bronze spiral ring. KM 27177: 32 bronze chains are attached to these.” (KM27177:31)
- “Bronze chains, triple, cross-linked to the chain carriers listed above (KM 27177: 30-31). The chains are made of three-helix spiral rings with a diameter of approx. 10 mm.” (KM27177:32)
Finna.fi notes that on/near the jewelry were:
Decayed bones under the chains and neck ring, twine and plaited ribbon on top of the chain and above the bracelet, twine on the right side of the chain, twine and cord under the chains, and twine, plated ribbon and twine on the chains and partially under the chain carrier. There were also loose rings from broken chain. Textiles were also still evident, including plain weave fabric and parts of broken bronze rings, a small piece of plain weave fabric with a piece of chain, other textile and organic matter under the chain, twine and plain weave fabric and wood under the chains, twine and woven fabric at the wrist.
For my spreadsheet I’ll call these FinNM. A reconstruction of this jewelry and the outfit can be seen here.
Finnish necklace and jewelry – direct link from Pinterest
direct link from hagedisenhain.de
Bead-maker Hagedisenhain.de has a number of different beads that they say are based on beads found in Finland, dated between the 9th and 11th centuries. However, unfortunately they haven’t included ANY references to say where the finds were, any kind of context, how many were found…
Nor do they share any deviation from the original style they might have taken. While the technique to make these beads might not have changed TOO much, I have no idea if the colours are the same, etc.
So… it’s pretty useless as a research site. Still, I was happy to see lots of the multi-colour dot-beads that I have from a trip to BC were represented. (Oh, and they also have those silver and gold foil beads so popular in Viking Age finds!) Since the beads from Hagedisenhain.de don’t have any real information, I’m not including them in my spreadsheet. However they look a lot like the ones below….
Gulldynt, Vöyri (Guldyntistä)
Gulldynt, Vöyri beads – direct link from website
From the Finnish National Museum’s website come these beads from Gulldynt, Vöyri. (Or Guldynt) They were found inside a brass bowl, along with bronze and silver jewelry along with other metal objects.
Along with glass beads, the necklace contains shells, beads thought to be made of one, and a bead of white agate in the middle. In a close up photo, the shells look like cowry shells, but are VERY worn down, as if they had been plucked from the water after years of being eroded by the sea and sand.
This necklace was dated to the Vendel Period in the 550–800s, but the museum notes that the beads as displayed here, are not in the original order of stringing.
From some of those closer views, the necklace appears to contain:
- The single central agate bead; irregularly squashed round bead, soft white
- Two unusual opaque cube beads, white with green crossing designs, with a variety of yellow dots.
- Two ‘squashed’ round opaque beads with a red base, white lines on the top and bottom, white dots with teal stripes inside, and then smaller yellow dots. All the dots are irregular.
- A single red ‘squashed’ round opaque bead with large open overlapping white O’ shapes, and risen blue transparent dots
Close up on the Gulldynt necklace. Direct link from website.
- A single red ‘squashed’ round opaque bead with layered white and red flush dots, with a raised blue transparent dot over each of the layered dots, and a white stripe at the top and bottom of the bead
- Two red ‘squashed’ round opaque beads with layered white and red flush dots, with a raised blue transparent dot over each of the layered dots
- Two red ‘squashed’ round opaque beads with layered white and red flush dots, with a raised grey transparent dot over each of the layered dots
- Seven black opaque squished round beads with overlapping O shapes in white, and white flat dots inside the Os
- Two opaque squashed circle red beads with a black stripe running horizontal on the bead, with overlapping white Os, with a white dot between each O topped with a turquoise dot. At the place where the O’s overlap, there’s an additional turquoise dot.
- Two opaque red squished round beads with alternating black/yellow/black layered dots
- Five small red opaque squished round beads with light blue translucent raised dots
- Three small red ‘squashed’ round opaque beads with layered white and red flush dots, with a raised turquoise transparent dot over each of the layered dots
- Three small plain red opaque pony beads
- One small opaque red (or brown) and white striped barrel bead
Close up on the bone and shell beads on the Gulldynt necklace. Direct link from website
- Five small opaque red beads with white figure 8 designs (overlapping Os?)
- Three small opaque red and white striped squashed round beads with a meandering blue squiggle
- One small blue opaque bead with yellow dots
- Four opaque blue and white pony beads
- Approximately 22 round bone flat beads of various sizes. From the close up, it’s possible that these are doughnut beads, where the hole comes from the removed bone marrow.
- Two well-worn cowry shells, as beads, rather than charms – the hole goes through the flat open side of the shell and out the back, rather than just at the top of the shell.
This necklace was found near the village of Bertsby (Bertby) in 1849. Bertby is along the western coast, near Vaasa.
I’ll be recording this find in my spreadsheet as FinGull
Direct link from Pinterest
The Gulldynt site contained both a settlement with a central square and manor house, as well as a burial ground. Other interpretations have suggested the site was a place of worship -however interpretations are difficult due to extensive looting and land reclamation (according to a translated wiki page.) A survey in the 1930s identified at least two house foundations from the Iron Age.
Excavations in the area have happened several times since the 19th century; mostly recently in the 1980s. Finds are dated from around 400-800 CE, and the finds are “the richest of their kind in Finland”. These finds include animal-adorned jewelry, Byzantine gold coins, kauris snails from the Indian ocean. (Cowry shells)
Writing mainly about the Levänluhta bog/pond graves, Anna Wessman contrasts the graves of her focus with the Gulldynt finds, stating that they contained imported jewelry and weapons decorated with ornaments “belonging to Salin’s style I and II.” The graves at Gulldynt also included Roman gold coins, a Vestland-type cauldron, cowry shells, and numerous glass and amber beads.
… which I think means I now need to search for amber bead finds too!
In The Olsztyn Group in the Early Medieval Archaeology of the Baltic Region, Mirosław Rudnicki comments that the beads with “crisscrossing glass threads” and colourful dots found at the Gulldynt site were of Frankish production, and disseminated all over Europe, gaining the most popularity in Bavaria.
Vöyri necklaces – direct link from Finna.fi
This necklace is also listed in the Finna.fi website as KM68:1i, along with two other very similar necklaces, all from the same area. KM2891:15 and KM2910:1 have very similar beads KM68:1i is listed as “height: 215.0 mm x width: 140.0 mm” which… I don’t really understand.
KM2891:15 is listed as “diameter: 110.0 mm” (which would make the circumference 34.56cm) and “Thirty pearls, of which 3 are green, 4 are blue, 1 is the largest gray agate and the others are brown. Of the latter, the larger ones are mosaic pearls (mosaic beads), the smaller ones are evenly colored.“
Since many of these beads are the same as the other necklace, from the same location – I won’t be including this one or the next one in my spreadsheet specifically.
KM2910: 1 is listed as “Forty-nine (49) pearls, several of which are brown (of which 21 are yellow with brown, small and without speckles, others larger with mosaic ornaments, etc.); 11 blue, of which 4 faceted; 5 greens; 1 yellow. Most of the big ones are variegated.” with a diameter 15.0 mm (I think that means 15cm) (which would make the circumference 47.12cm
Eura 56 (Luistari)
Grave goods from the Eura woman’s grave (no. 56) Direct link from website
From grave number 56 from Luistari, Eura comes this coin-embellished necklace as seen on the Finnish National Museum website. The Luistari cemetery was discovered in 1969, when sewage work was being conducted. Excavations to the site were done between 1969-1992, and they discovered that the cemetery had been used for almost 800 years, holding over 1,300 people. 400 of these graves have been examined, with the oldest dating back to the Vendel Period, circa 600–800 CE.
The museum states that grave goods were common, however during the Viking Age (circa 800–1050 CE), the number of jewelry items and utility goods increased. However, many graves were found on this site with no grave goods, particularly from the later years of its use, when Christianity began influencing burial traditions.
Grave 56 held a woman, referred to as “the Eura Queen” by the excavation director Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander. (or, according to another article, I read “Eura Matron” / Euranemäntä in Finnish) Based on coins that were part of the woman’s grave goods, researchers know what she was buried sometime after 1018, while radiocarbon dating also confirms she was buried in the early 11th century.
Along with grave goods, some of the woman’s jawbone and teeth survived, along with some bones of her upper arm, forearm, fingers, hip, and shin bones. Based on these bones, they estimate the woman was 165-170 cm tall, and had been buried on her back with her “arms bent over her waist”. Based on analysis of the surviving teeth, they estimate she was about 45 years old when she tied, and tooth enamel and hip joints suggest she suffered from a deficiency disease in childhood, and had signs of osteoarthritis.
Her grave jewelry included a necklace with 34 glass beads, 11 coins, and 2 silver pendants. The museum photos aren’t close enough on the beads to get a great sense of what’s all included, but
there appears to be:
- 1 opaque yellow melon bead
- 1 opaque blue melon bead
- 7-11 opaque barrel beads which are either dark red or brown
- Several opaque yellow and blue multi-colour beads
- Several opaque solid blue beads
- Several opaque solid yellow beads
There may also be one gold-lined bead as well, but it’s hard to tell from the museum photos.
Eura 56 necklace, direct link from Finna.fi
Additional information from Finna.fi indicates that the necklace is 800-1050 (Viking Age) rather than getting more into the coin dating. However, they say that there are 35 vs 34 glass beads, which includes:
- 13 long, reddish-brown barrel-shaped beads decorated with yellow and white streaks and spots
- 8 blue double beads decorated with yellow
- 3 flat round blue beads
- 2 blue near-round beads, one 12x10mm, one 9x6mm
- 2 yellow “floral pattern” beads
- 1 yellow plain bead
- 1 yellow barrel bead
- 1 yellow “longitudinal” – which I think is a melon bead
- 1 golden barrel bead (a gold-foil lined bead)
- 1 red 9x6mm near-round bead
They also suggest that the layout of the beads is how it was found, rather than a scattered find, though this might be a translation misunderstanding. Oddly, Finna.fi doesn’t include any details about the coins themselves.
I’ll be recording this find in my spreadsheet as Fin56
Of the 11 coins, 10 are dirhams, the newest of which is from 1003/1004, and the rest are all from the 10th century. The 11th coin is from Augsburg, German, struck in the beginning of the 11th century. Also found in the grave was a penny struck during the reign of Cnut The Great in Hertford, England dating 1018-1024. This was found a bit further away from the other coins, so it’s uncertain if it was part of the original necklace or not, however it had been perforated to be used as a pendant.
Note – they have decided to display this last coin with the necklace in the photo below.
The museum does not go on to describe the two additional non-coin pendants, but they’re both round with central designs, similar to shields. They also don’t discuss if the Dirham coins are authentic, or reproductions made during the 10th/11th century, which I know from previous research is a possibility. A different page on the Finnish National Museum’s site also discusses imitation /reproduction coins from within this time period.
“Reproductions and imitations of coins have also always been made. Around the year 1000, coins were produced in Scandinavia according to English models. Coins were probably also imitated in the region of Finland. However, these imitations were not made for financial gain, but the signs of use on the coins and the fact that they are most often found in graves indicate that the imitations were worn as jewellery. The creators of the reproductions may have made intentional or unintentional mistakes due to a lack of literacy, language and writing skills.” – https://www.kansallismuseo.fi/en/digitaalinen-kokoelma/tutkijan-valinta/viikinkiaikaiset-rahat-suomen-loydoissa
The museum describes the woman’s jewelry as from the Viking Age, and typical of those found in Southern Finland at that time. In addition to the coin and bead necklace, a pair of embellished shield-like brooches were used at her shoulders to fasten her dress, and chains hung from these. From those chains, women of this time would hang additional pendants – in this case the woman wore bells. She also wore an equal-arm brooch on her chest, typically believed to fasten cloaks, or cloak-like garments. On her wrists she wore twisted bronze bracelets, and she also had two rings on each of her hands. (These copper-alloy adornments attributing to the survival of the bones in these areas.)
As an additional rabbit hole, I found this paper on Classifying Iron Age Bells, Pellet Bells and Bell Pendants by Riitta Rainio – but I chose not to dive into that rabbit hole quite yet…
Grave 56 jewelry including brooches, chains, bells, and the beaded coin necklace. Direct link from website
More about this grave
Although it’s not directly related to the beads, I also wanted to record more information about this grave for future use – since working on Finnish Iron Age costuming is something I’m really interested in.
This grave was found in 1969, in an area that was very dense with graves. The individual was buried approximately 80 cm deep, and the grave perimeter was quite large – approximately 250 x 110-120 cm. She was laid upon a wooden platform – pieces of which were preserved under the grave goods. This platform was covered in a layer of wood and birch bark, and subsequent burials were later made on top of her grave.
In addition to jewelry, she had a small knife hanging from her belt, and the museum website states that in their prehistory exhibition, the decorative bronze-plated knife sheath was replaced by a similar sheath found at the Osmanmäki cemetery (KM2700: 58), because the Eura woman’s knife sheath was very fragile and fell apart. However, they note that fragments of cat’s fur had been preserved within the sheath, and remains of deer skin and fabric were found under the sheath – preserved by the metal decoration. The hair of several animals has been identified from the grave, including deer, bear, bear, otter, weasel and cat, though they didn’t indicate where. the bear, otter, or weasel hair was found.
In additional searches, I found a 2020 article by Tuija Kirkinen, Krista Vajanto & Stina Björklund entitled Animal hair evidence in an11th century female grave inLuistari, Finland in the Archaeological Textiles Review which went into MUCH more detail about the fur found, and indicated some was deer, reindeer, otter, brown bear, and lynx or domestic cat. I wanted to record this for potential future reading, but… it’s way off topic for this current rabbit hole.
Under the apron’s hem there was a piece of cloth trimmed with tablet-woven braid, and there were also traces of tablet weaving at the woman’s waist. Her apron has square decorations made of bronze spirals. The acidity of the Finnish soil decomposes organic materials like bones, plant fibers, wool and leather – these are are mainly only preserved when they are in contact with copper-alloy objects, since the substances produced by oxidation slows down decomposition. Textiles (and bones) from grave 56 are as well-preserved as they are thanks to the abundant bronze objects in this grave.
Square decorations made of copper-alloy coils from the Eura woman’s apron. Direct link from website
Next to her femur, the woman had a pair of shears, and at her feet lay a sickle. There was also a broken clay vessel which may have contained either food or drink, perhaps left as either a burial offering or as part of a burial ritual. Additionally an iron object, likely a horse bit, was in her gave as well.
There were also traces of a headdress (they don’t indicate which kind), a cloak, a bit of naalbinding (mittens perhaps?) and fur (again, without any context, I’m not sure if they mean fur trim on a garment, or the aforementioned bits of animal hair found in the grave.
Eura woman’s dress reconstruction – direct link from website
Based on the grave findings, the museum reports that over 100 reconstructions have been made since the 1970s. They determined that the fabrics were plant-dyed (of course) including heather, birch, bedstraw, and woad. The lower dress was blue, while the outer dress and apron were both green. The belt which secured the apron and outer dress was tablet woven, and was red.
However the video on the website says heather, birch, madder, and woad dyes were used – madder providing the red needed for the red belt. They also display the reconstructed apron in soft white, rather than the green indicated in the text.
Eura 118 (Luistari)
Grave goods from Eura 118 (?) – directly linked from the Finna.fi website
I’m not 100% sure if this find is from Eura at the time that I write this, as “Eura” is just a note as a tag in the artefact description, and the write up about it on the Finna.fi website only includes that it’s from “Tomb 118”. The beads are dated 800-1050 CE.
The site describes this as a necklace that was scattered upon discovery. Made of glass beads:
- 11 round blue beads (4-6 mm in diameter)
- 11 blue “beads in two parts” (I’m interpreting this as a double bead) (4-6 mm in diameter, approx. 8 mm long)
- 3 blue beads “in three parts (a triple) (4-5 mm diameter by approx. 13 mm long)
– for a total of 25 blue beads, plus:
- 2 light blue beads 5 mm diameter by 9 mm long (another double bead)
- 4 turquoise beads (I assume they mean colour, not the stone) – one round 3 mm, one cylindrical (barrel) 3×3 mm, and one double bead 4mmx10mm.
- 3 green round beads, 3mm diameter
- 11 yellow beads, 8 of which are round 5-7mm, three double beads 5-6.5mmx10mm
- 3 reddish round beads, 4mm
- one “water coloured” round 6mm bead (I don’t know what this means)
- 5 beads made of silver. 1 is round, 6mm, 3 are double beads 4-6 mm x 8-10 mm, 1 triple 5mmx15mm. These might be silver-foil lined beads, but I’m recording them as silver.
- 5 gold-plated beads, 2 round 5-6mm, 2 double beads 6mmx11mm, and one triple bead where the measurements aren’t provided. I suspect these are gold foil-lined beads instead.
- 1 red cylindrical bead (barrel) 4mmx8mm.
– for a final total of 60 beads. Looking at an enlarged version of the photo, I believe of the two necklaces displayed in the photo – that the description relates to the TOP necklace – since I can count 2 yellow double beads in it, but not in the lower necklace.
Tomb 118 also included a clay vessel which contained 3 beads
- 1 blue round, 4.5mm
- 1 green round 3mm
- 1 double gold-plated bead 6mmx11mm (Again I suspect this is the gold foil-lined bead)
The photo attached to this listing however doesn’t include these three additional beads, unless they’ve been incorporated into the necklace. (The photo is far too small to start counting beads…)
I’ll be recording this in my spreadsheet as Fin118
I did a search to see if Tomb 118 was indeed a Eura grave, and had a really hard time finding additional references to this grave – BUT.. found Tuija Kirkinen’s University of Helsinki PhD Thesis, Between Skins; Animal skins in the Iron Age and historical burials in Eastern Fennoscandia. (2019) references grave 118 (along with grave 139) as a small child’s grave in Luistari in Eura. (The full thesis isn’t available, but this is referenced here.)
Eura 390 (Luistari)
Like Eura 118 above, I am assuming this is another Eura grave find, because it’s tagged with “Eura”, but only states ‘tomb 390’ in the artefact description. Like their other posts, they only date this to “Viking Age”, 800-1050.
Eura 390 beads, direct link from Finna.fi
This find includes 22 (mostly) glass beads, but the description does not include how the beads were found, or where in the grave. It includes 22 beads in total:
- 15 round blue beads 5x5mm -7x7mm
- 3 blue double beads, 5x7mm, 5x9mm and 6x10mm
- 1 purple double bead 5x8mm (I think this is one of the first indications of purple!)
- 1 light green double bead 5x9mm
- 1 silver-foil lined double bead 5x9mm
plus a “two part bronze bead, 7x10mm” – I don’t know if this means it’s a double bead, or if it’s a hollow bead made of two halves secured together. Looking at the photo – I don’t see this bead, nor can I count it. I won’t be including it in my spreadsheet.
I was wondering how long this finished necklace (?) would be, so with the assumption that eight of the round blue beads were 5mm and seven 7mm, the finished length of this with all the beads pressed right up against one another would be approximately 14 cm long. I suspect that there are more of the larger beads, but still at only 14 cm long, this is NOT a fully beaded necklace – scale is difficult to tell from the available photograph for SURE. (And the fact that they’ve assembled it in a loop is also misleading.)
I’ll be recording this in my spreadsheet as Fin390
second grave 390 find, direct link from Finna.fi
In addition to the necklace (?) beads, there was a second find of beads attributed to grave 390. This includes 10 roundish blue glass beads, approximately 5mm by 4-6.5mm
Assuming the average bead was 5x5mm, the total length would be only 5cm long. These beads look so much BIGGER in the photo without context!
Like the previous beads, there is no indication if these were found scattered, or all in one area, nor their proximity to the other beads. However, given that they’ve catalogued them separately, I have to imagine that they believe them to be part of a second jewelry set, though the beads match the same description as the 15 round blue beads from the previous set.
Since these are duplicates, I won’t be entering them separately on my spreadsheet.
a third set of beads from grave 390, direct link from Finna.fi
Next.. a THIRD entry from this grave!
This next set includes some confusing information. They first describe it as 7 beads and 4 pieces of iron, but the later describe the metal as bronze, and only show two pieces. I think they’re likely bronze (or rather copper alloy).
5 of the beads are blue, four of which are round 6-7mm, and one is a triple bead 4-14mm.
The two bronze pieces are five-sections, described as “cross section rectangular, 6x6mm, length 25mm”. I suspect that they are actually cross-section square, 6×6, and this is again just an error in the translation. They are decorated with dotted circles, one on each side of each section. There were textiles (they didn’t identify what kind) found inside the metal pieces, and the grave also included wood and broom.
The metal beads are super unique compared to other finds I’ve found so far, so although the blue beads are similar to other ones from this grave, I’ll be including these metal ones in my spreadsheet as Fin390
I did a search to see if Tomb 390 was indeed a Eura grave, and had a really hard time finding additional references to this grave – BUT.. found an article Phytoliths, parasites, fibers, and feathers from dental calculus and sediment from Iron Age Luistari cemetery, Finland, which DOES refer to the Luistari (Eura) site and grave 390, noting that while bird feather finds are rare in Finnish archaeology, this grave does have ‘some single feathers’, which may have come from a feather-filled pillow.
Tytti Juhola et al. further goes on to identify this as a female-identified grave, dated 880–950 CE. While the article isn’t specifically about this grave, interpreting some of their other data, this grave included beads, bronze ornaments, and a ceramic piece. While they examine a number of other graves from the Luistari (Eura) site, this is the only one that they noted included beads AND the other materials they were looking for, so it didn’t’ give me insight into grave 118 as well.
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.
Since I am really interested in Finnish costuming, I really hunted for a lot of examples for Finland – and despite starting this thinking Finland was all chains and no beads – found a LOT of beads and interesting things. With that… I’ll be breaking this post up into two parts. Stay tuned for Finland part two!
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.