Shoe fragments from Birka

Translated and edited by Tomáš Vlasatý

Dear readers,

we bring you an exclusive translation of the work written by Russian reenactors that describes the leather finds from Birka and proposes the reconstruction of the shoe. The original article can be found here. The find is very valuable, since the shoes from Viking Age Sweden are almost absent and the reenators usually use the shoe patterns from Ladoga, Haithabu or York.

In 2013, an underwater archaeological survey was conducted around Björkö Island. A group of researchers from the Maritime History Museum (Sjöhistoriska museet), Stockholm, found a number of organic objects at the bottom of Lake Mälaren, including wooden parts of the ships, jewelry, tools and unidentifiable artifacts. Subsequent cleansing of some leather fragments revealed seams that allowed archaeologists to interpret objects as remains of shoes. In December 2017, these fragments were published in press (Olson 2017). We would like to introduce to you some of the conclusions.


Conclusions of the publication

A total of six heavily damaged fragments were found under water. Some of them show signs of cuts or stitches. For example, finds Nos 171, 172 and 183 represent edges that are cut but do not contain any seams. These finds are possibly production waste. Find No. 101 consists of two pieces found together. Both have seams but are not attached to each other in any way.

shoe_boot_birka_1Fig. 1: Find No. 161. Unidentifiable leather finds; condition before preservation. Source: Olson 2017: 280; 238.

After the field work was completed, find No. 161, consisting of two adjacent parts (Fig. 1), was first examined. Find No. 172 was found at the same site and could be related to the previous find, although this cannot be said with certainty. Find No. 161 can be safely associated with only the two parts mentioned, each consisting of several more or less damaged fragments. These show signs of cuts and stitches simultaneously. It is not clear how these parts were put together, but from the presence of the characteristic decorative stitches, the curved edge and the strap we can assume that they are parts of a shoe.

shoe_boot_birka_2
Fig. 2: 1st part of the find No. 161 after cleaning.

Source: Olson 2017: 280; 239.

shoe_boot_birka_3Fig. 3: 1st part of the find No. 161 after cleaning: söm = seam, invik = curved edge. Source: Olson 2017: 281. 242.

The material of the first part of find No. 161 was seriously damaged in the past, which is why there are holes on its surface (Fig. 2). As can be seen in the diagram above (Fig. 3), this section consists of fragments A, B, C and D. Fragments B and D are probably part of one whole, while this cannot be said with certainty about the remaining two fragments. Fragment B has both preserved curved edges and traces of stitches and leash. Fragment A, which is better preserved, shows signs of cut, but no stitch marks, and can therefore be classified as manufacturing waste.

shoe_boot_birka_4
Fig. 4: 2st part of the find No. 161 after cleaning.
Source: Olson 2017: 280; 240.

shoe_boot_birka_5
Fig. 5: 2nd part of the find No. 161 after cleaning: söm = seam, invik = curved edge, trä = wood. Source: Olson 2017: 281; 243.

The second part is better preserved than the previous part (Figs. 4, 5). It consists of a rectangular fragment with seams and curved edges. There is a small piece of wood inserted in the skin, probably a wooden peg (Fig. 5). The two stitches located in the middle of this fragment were decorative and functional, reinforcing the vulnerable thumb area of the shoe. From the Viking and Middle Ages, we know the upper parts of shoes that are decorated in this way. The part of the leather strap that was preserved could serve to better fix the shoe to the foot. The publication does not contain more information.


Our conclusions

Of course, these are only fragments that have limited informative value, but are still valuable pieces that will help in the reconstruction of the material culture of central Sweden. The first part seems to correspond to a shoe with a side seam and a stitched, round heel (Groenman-van Waateringe sole type 3.2; see Fig. 8). It is not possible to determine the type of binding, but it is likely that the holes for the strap were placed relatively low. The second part appears to be a part of a shoe with a side seam and sole completely sewn around (Groenman-van Waateringe sole type 3.1 or 3.2; see Fig. 8). The upper part was decorated and reinforced with a seam, the type of which can not be determined. There was a W-shaped tongue on the instep, a feature found on several early medieval shoes (eg Wedelspang, Elisenhof, Haithabu), as well as a curved edge (eg Wedelspang, Deventer or Dorestad). Since it is not clear whether both parts belonged to the same product, these elements can be used alone or together. In any case, we have a choice between the two known types of shoes. Separate use of the first and second parts makes it easier to find analogies in the corpus of European period clothing, while with the combination of both elements and minimal addition of missing parts, a shoe of the following appearance can be obtained (Fig. 6, 7).

shoe_boot_birka_6
Fig. 6: Reconstructed appearance that combined the fragments.
See PDF version made by Anton Bodrov.

shoe_boot_birka_7
Fig. 7: Reconstructed appearance. Drawn reconstruction based on the analogous find from Deventer. Source: Goubitz 2007: 137: 4.

podesveFig. 8: Sole types 3.1 and 3.2.
Source: Groenman-van Waateringe 1984: 32: Abb. 16: 4-5.


Here we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


Bibliography

Olsson, Andreas (2017). Maritima Birka : Arkeologisk rapport över marinarkeologiska undersökningar av kulturlager och pålanläggning i vattenområdet utanför Svarta jorden på Björkö 2004–2014, Arkeologisk rapport 2017:13 Stockholm. Online.

Groenman-van Waateringe, Willy (1984). Die Lederfunde von Haithabu, Neumünster.

Goubitz 2007 = Goubitz, Olaf (2007). Stepping through time : archaeological footwear from prehistoric times until 1800, Zwolle.

Inspiration #3, A Woman From Birka

The third episode of inspromat is reserved for rich female costume from Birka. This time we will look at the costume of Russian reenactor and my friend, Lida Gubareva.

Lida sets her costume in the first half of the 10th century in Birka. Most of the equipment consists of replicas of items from grave Bj 965, which contains a coin, so the grave can be dated after the year 913. Despite that, Lida does not consider her costume ideal for the reconstruction of clothing from Birka, because the equipment incorporates also replicas of objects that were found elsewhere. Lida also told me that she is making a new caftan and overdress, and apologized for not knowing all the numbers of the graves, because she reconstructs three periods at the same time.

On the photographs, we can see three different underdresses that have a shape of a simple tunic. The first one (blue) is made of 100% wool woven in diamond twill. It is dyed with indigo and has hems of silk twill, whose warp is dyed with buckthorn and weft with indigo. Silk panel at the neck is decorated with two tablet woven stripes made of silver and silk, which are inspired by tablet woven strip from grave Bj 965. Second underlying dress (yellow) is made of polychrome silk and is hemmed with blue silk. The hems have tablet woven stripes as well. Third underlying dress (green) is made od simple linen and hemmed with silk which is dyed with madder and soda.

Overdress (apron, hangerock) have trapezoidal shape and are made of 100% woolen twill, dyed with indigo. Over these clothes, Lida wears crimson-red caftan, which is made of 100% wool, woven in 2/2 twill, dyed with madder. The weft is slightly darker than the warp. The caftan is hemmed with Sasanian silk with motifs of medallions depicting lions and phoenixes. Her second caftan, the yellow one, is linen and lined with silk. It has a hem of polychrome silk and beaver pelt.

Oval brooches are replicas of the find from several graves in Birka, including Bj 965. All other bucklesnecklaces and pendantsear spoon or needle-case are replicas of finds from Birka. Two exceptions are the Friesian comb with a case and crosses that are inspired by the find from Rügen. The costume is complemented by scarf with a knot, which is an interpretation of “knot” that can be seen on Valkyrie figures from Scandinavia.

I would like to thank Lidia Gubareva for granting me permission to use her photographs and for detailed description of her costume.


I hope you liked reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact me or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.

Metal Axe Sheaths

Almost five years ago, we published the article “Axe Sheaths” at this website, which mapped poorly described phenomenon of axe protections. The article has gained great popularity among reenactors around the world. The conclusion of the article was that we were able to find 22 axe sheaths made of birch, pine, beech, oak, juniper, alder, spruce, yew and willow wood and elk antler. Wood and antler sheaths are often decorated and have different fastening methods that we have tried to digitally reconstruct.

sheath suspension axes
Suggested variants of wooden sheaths. Bigger resolution here.

In light of new knowledge, it is my joyful duty to expand this list with three more unique specimens from Great Moravia and Ukraine. All of them are made of iron sheet that is bent around the blade and fastened. Let’s describe these objects in more detail.

  • Grave 1689 in Mikulčice, identification number 646/85
    The axe found in grave 1689 in Mikulčice, belonging to Kotowicz’s type IB.5.30 (Kotowicz 2018: 107-9), is provided with a metal protector of the blade (Luňák 2018: 104-107, 269, HFE 7/2a). The sheath is made of a piece of iron sheet with a thickness of about 1.5 mm. The sheet was originally triangular or trapezoidal in shape and was sharply bent over the cutting edge. On the left side, where it extends approximately 14 mm beyond the cutting edge and is roughly paralel to the cutting edge, it has been cut regularly and is only slightly corroded; it retains its original shape. On the right side, where the protector protrudes 28 mm beyond the cutting edge, it has an arcuate shape and is damaged. The original documentation shows that the right side protector protruded further into the blade, apparently in a pointed projection, where it was provided with two holes, one of which is still present to this day. These holes are most likely to be related to fixation and have analogies in the wooden sheaths from Sigtuna (Kitzler Åhfeldt 2011: 56) and Novgorod (Kainov – Singh 2016). A small flap extends from the top of the right side of the protector and forms a small cap that covers the gap between the two sides and prevents the movement. The cap is not present on the under side, which is the feature that can also be seen at Sigtuna antler sheath.

Axe HFE 7/2a, identification number 646/85, grave 1689, Mikulčice.
Luňák 2018: 107, 269.

  • Grave 15/57, Staré Město “Na Valách”
    The axe found in grave 15/57 in Staré Město “Na Valách”, belonging to Kotowicz’s type IB.5.30 (Kotowicz 2018: 107-9), had a sharply bent metal plate over the blade, which is depicted in only one published picture (Hochmanová-Vávrová 1962: 204, Tab. XI; Luňák 2018: 105, 201). The protector is currently lost. Looking at the drawing, it appears that the protector could have a similar construction to the find from Mikulčice. In comparison with the current state, it is evident that the right side of the protector reached a level of about 2 cm from the blade and was relatively straight. The appearance of the left side and the method of attachment are unknown.


The axe from grave 15/57, Staré Město “Na Valách”.
Hochmanová-Vávrová 1962: 204, tab. XI.

The axe from grave 15/57, Staré Město “Na Valách”.
Luňák 2018: 201.

  • Detector find, Ukraine 
    After publishing of this article, Russian expert Sergei Kainov informed us that he was aware of yet another metal protector of the Early Medieval axe and he provided us with all the available information. In March-April 2018, an axe belonging to Kotowicz type IIB.5.20 (Kotowicz 2018: 98-100) appeared at the Violity auction. It can be dated to 10th-12th century, or more closely to the 1st half of 11th century (personal discussion with Sergei Kainov). The axe came from a detector find made in an unspecified place in Ukraine. According to the seller, the axe was found at a depth of 40 cm below the ground. The blade was covered with two fragments of a remarkable sheet metal protector. It was constructed of one piece of sheet that was symmetrically bent around the blade. In the bent state, the protector takes the form of an anchor; it tapers toward the corners and forms an elongated protrusion in the center. The protrusion is extended to the center of the blade where the axe hole was located. There, the protector is shaped into a trefoil decoration with a central hole. The protector was easily pinned through holes to the axe body. This system is also well known from Novgorod (Kainov – Singh 2016). Currently, the protector is in a private collection.

Photographs of the find from Ukraine. The smaller fragment is not positioned correctly. Source: Sergei Kainov.

Both fragments of metal protector. Source: Sergei Kainov.

Schematic drawing of the metal protector from Ukraine.
Made by Tomáš Cajthaml.

In Europe of 10th–12th century, we have at least 25 axe sheaths made of wood, antler and metal. During a personal discussion with scholar and veteran reenactor Petr Luňák, who processed the assemblage of Great Moravian axes, he showed me a series of photographs and literary references that suggested the use of wooden, leather and metal sheaths in Staré Město and Mikulčice. Unfortunately, these protectors are now destroyed and cannot be analyzed. It is also worth mentioning that the Great Moravian axes could be protected with strips of fabric (Kotowicz 2018: 151). In light of these finds, the problem of axe protectors seems to be far more complicated than it had seemed so far, and the lack of interest for this type of objects in 19th and 20th century played a major role.


Reconstruction

The above-described type of metal sheath, specifically the find from Mikulčice, was copied by my friend and veteran reenactor Roman Král. His version uses only one hole located on the projection to fix the strap and the cap is not formed by folding the top edge of the right side, but is soldered. Roman’s intention was to make the upper part more solid so the protector fits tightly. Despite this change that pursues a practical purpose, it is a very tasteful work that illustrates how metal sheaths could look like in the Early Middle Ages.


Here we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


Bibliography

Hochmanová-Vávrová, Věra (1962). Velkomoravské pohřebiště ve Starém Městě „Na valách“. Výzkum v letech 1957–1959. In: ČMMZ, vědy společenské XLVII, 201–270.

Kotowicz, Piotr N. (2018). Early Medieval Axes from Territory of Poland, Kraków.

Luňák, Petr (2018). Velkomoravské sekery, Brno: Masarykova univerzita [dissertation thesis].

Kainov – Singh 2016 = Каинов С.Ю., Сингх В.К. (2016). Деревянный чехол топора с Троицкого раскопа // Новгород и Новгородская земля. Вып. 30, 196–203.

Kitzler Åhfeldt, Laila (2011). Några träfynd i Sigtuna under runstenstid. In: Situne Dei, 49–60.

Plechová pouzdra na sekery

Před takřka pěti lety jsme na tomto webu umístili práci „Pouzdra na sekery“, která mapovala do té doby málo postihnutý fenomén ochrany ostří seker a která se mezi reenactory po celém světě dočkala velké popularity. Závěr této práce byl takový, že jsme byli v prostoru Evropy 10.–12. století schopni nalézt 22 pouzder na sekery ze dřeva z břízy, borovice, buku, dubu, jalovce, olše, smrku, tisu a vrby a losího parohu. Pouzdra ze dřeva i parohu jsou často dekorována a mají různé metody upevnění, které jsme se pokusili virtuálně a v mnoha případech i fakticky rekonstruovat.

sheath suspension axes
Navržené varianty upevnění dřevěných pouzder. Větší rozlišení zde.

Ve světle nových poznatků je mou radostnou povinností rozšířit tento seznam o další tři exempláře, které se vymykají dosud popsaným kusům. Všechny jsou vyrobeny ze železného plechu, který je v ostrém úhlu ohnutý kolem ostří. Níže si tato pouzdra blíže přiblížíme.

  • Hrob 1689 v Mikulčicích, identifikační číslo sekery 646/85
    Bradatice Kotowiczova typu IB.5.30 (Kotowicz 2018: 107-9), nalezená v hrobu 1689 v Mikulčicích, je na ostří opatřena plechovým chráničem (Luňák 2018: 104-107, 269, HFE 7/2a). Chránič je vyroben z jednoho kusu železného plechu o tloušťce asi 1,5 mm. Plech byl původně trojúhelníkového nebo lichoběžníkového tvaru a byl ostře přehnut přes břit. Na levé straně, kde zasahuje zhruba 14 mm za břit a sleduje linii ostří, byl pravidelně ustřižen a na tomto místě je málo zkorodovaný a je zachován v původním tvaru. Na pravé straně, kde chránič zasahuje 28 mm za břit, nabývá obloukovitého tvaru a je poškozen. Z původní dokumentace vyplývá, že na pravé straně chránič zasahoval dále do čepele, zřejmě v hrotitém výběžku, kde byl opatřen dvěma otvory, z nichž jeden je na předmětu dodnes zachován. Tyto otvory s největší pravděpodobností souvisí s fixací a mají analogii u dřevěných pouzder ze Sigtuny (Kitzler Åhfeldt 2011: 56) a Novgorodu (Kainov – Singh 2016). Z vrchní části pravé strany chrániče vybíhá malá chlopeň, která tvoří vrchlík, jež kryje spáru mezi oběma stranami a znemožňuje volný pohyb pouzdra. Na spodní straně tento vrchlík není přítomný. Jištění pouze jednoho rohu ostrého nástroje můžeme vidět také u parohového pouzdra ze Sigtuny.

Sekera HFE 7/2a, identifikační číslo sekery 646/85, hrob 1689 v Mikulčicích.
Luňák 2018: 107, 269.

  • Hrob 15/57 ve Starém Městě „Na Valách“
    Bradatice Kotowiczova typu IB.5.30 (Kotowicz 2018: 107-9), nalezená v hrobu 15/57 ve Starém Městě „Na Valách“, měla na břitu ostře přehnutý kovový plech, který je vyobrazen pouze na jediném publikovaném obrázku (Hochmanová-Vávrová 1962: 204, tab. XI; Luňák 2018: 105, 201). V současné době je chránič ztracen. Při  pohledu na nákres se zdá, že chránič mohl mít podobnou konstrukci, jako mikulčický nález. Při porovnání se nynějším stavem je patrné, že pravá strana chrániče zasahovala do úrovně cca 2 cm od břitu a byla poměrně rovná. Vzhled levé strany ani způsob upevnění není znám.


Sekera z hrobu 15/57, Staré Město „Na Valách“.
Hochmanová-Vávrová 1962: 204, tab. XI.

Sekera z hrobu 15/57, Staré Město „Na Valách“.
Luňák 2018: 201.

  • Detektorový nález z Ukrajiny
    Ruský odborník Sergej Kainov nás po zveřejnění tohoto článku informoval, že eviduje ještě jeden plechový chránič raně středověké sekery, a dodal nám veškeré dostupné informace. V březnu-dubnu roku 2018 se na aukci Violity objevila sekera Kotowiczova typu IIB.5.20 (Kotowicz 2018: 98-100), datovatelná do 10.-12. století, která byla opatřena pozoruhodným plechovým chráničem. Kainov sekeru blíže datuje do 1. pol. 11. století (osobní diskuze se Sergejem Kainovem). Sekera pocházela z detektorového nálezu provedeného na blíže nespecifikovaném místě na Ukrajině. Podle prodejce byla sekera nalezena v hloubce 40 cm pod povrchem země. Chránič sestával z jednoho kusu plechu, který byl symetricky ohnutý kolem ostří. V ohnutém stavu chránič nabýval tvaru kotvy; směrem k rohům se zužoval, zatímco uprostřed tvořil protáhlý výběžek, který zasahoval až do středu čepele, kde se nacházel otvor v sekeře. Na tomto místě se chránič rozšiřoval do trojlískové dekorace, v jejímž středu byl otvor. Otvory na výběžcích lícovaly s otvorem v sekeře, a chránič tak mohl být jednoduše připevněn pomocí kolíčku k tělu sekery. Tento systém je dobře znám také z novgorodského nálezu (Kainov – Singh 2016). V současné chvíli se chránič nachází v soukromé sbírce, a soudě dle poskytnutých fotek je rozbitý do dvou fragmentů.

Fotografie detektorového nálezu z Ukrajiny. Menší fragment pouzdra není umístěn korektně. Zdroj: Sergej Kainov.

Oba fragmenty kovového pouzdra. Zdroj: Sergej Kainov.

Schématický nákres kovového pouzdra z Ukrajiny. Nákres provedl Tomáš Cajthaml.

V prostoru Evropy 10.–12. století tak evidujeme nejméně 25 pouzder na sekery ze dřeva, parohu a kovu. Při osobní diskuzi mi Petr Luňák, který soubor velkomoravských seker zpracovával, ukázal řadu fotografií a literárních zmínek, které nasvědčovaly použití dřevěných, kožených a plechových chráničů u staroměstského a mikulčického souboru. Dnes jsou tato pouzdra bohužel zničena a není možné je blíže ohledat. Je také záhodno zmínit, že u velkomoravských seker lze uvažovat o textilních pouzdrech, které zřejmě měly podobu pruhů látky (Kotowicz 2018: 151). Ve světle těchto zjištění se zdá, že problematika chráničů seker je daleko komplikovanější, než se doposud zdálo, a že mnoho seker nalezených v 19. a 20. století mohlo nést známky organických nebo kovových pouzder, které kvůli nedostatečnému zájmu podlehly zkáze.


Rekonstrukce

Výše popsaný typ kovového pouzdra, konkrétně nález z Mikulčic, se pokusil zreplikovat můj přítel a veterán-reenactor Roman Král. Jeho verze používá pouze jeden otvor umístěný na výběžku, který slouží k fixaci řemínku. Vrchlík nebyl vytvořen přehnutím vrchní hrany pravé strany, nýbrž byl naletován. Romanovým záměrem bylo vytvořit vrchní část celistvou tak, aby pouzdro na sekeře sedělo pevně. Navzdory této odchylce, která sleduje praktický záměr, jde o velmi vkusně provedenou práci, která názorně ukazuje, jak mohla vypadat plechová pouzdra na sekery v raném středověku.


Pevně věřím, že jste si čtení tohoto článku užili. Pokud máte poznámku nebo dotaz, neváhejte mi napsat nebo se ozvat níže v komentářích. Pokud se Vám líbí obsah těchto stránek a chtěli byste podpořit jejich další fungování, podpořte, prosím, náš projekt na Patreonu nebo Paypalu.


Literatura

Hochmanová-Vávrová, Věra (1962). Velkomoravské pohřebiště ve Starém Městě „Na valách“. Výzkum v letech 1957–1959. In: ČMMZ, vědy společenské XLVII, 201–270.

Kotowicz, Piotr N. (2018). Early Medieval Axes from Territory of Poland, Kraków.

Luňák, Petr (2018). Velkomoravské sekery, Brno: Masarykova univerzita [disertační práce].

Kainov – Singh 2016 = Каинов С.Ю., Сингх В.К. (2016). Деревянный чехол топора с Троицкого раскопа // Новгород и Новгородская земля. Вып. 30, 196–203.

Kitzler Åhfeldt, Laila (2011). Några träfynd i Sigtuna under runstenstid. In: Situne Dei, 49–60.

Armature Lamellari di epoca vichinga in Scandinavia

vikingerikrig

Ricostruzione di un guerriero di Birka, tratto da Hjardar – Vike 2011: 347.

Le domande riguardo l’armatura lamellare sono frequenti sia tra gli esperti che tra i rievocatori. Io stesso ho voluto affrontare l’argomento più volte ed ho fatto una raccolta di diverse documentazioni. Le mie ricerche mi hanno portato fino a reperti pressoché sconosciuti trovati a Snäckgärde, vicino a Visby, Gotland, che, nonostante non siano stati conservati, sono stati descritti da Nils Johan Ekdahl (1799- 1870), un sacerdote considerato “il primo archeologo scientifico di Gotland”.

I testi di Snäckgärde vennero trovati meno di 200 anni fa e poco dopo furono smarriti, perciò la letteratura che ne parla non è accessibile facilmente ed è per lo più sconosciuta ai ricercatori non svedesi. Tutto ciò che sono riuscito a scovare fu che 1826, quattro tombe vennero aperte e gli scheletri al loro interno vennero esaminati nel sito di Snäckgärde (Visby, Land Nord, SHM 484), e i dettagli più interessanti riguardano le tombe numero 2 e 4 (Carlson 1988: 245; Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 318):

Tomba 2: scheletro orientato in direzione Nord- Sud, tumulo sferico con pietre allineate. Il corredo funerario consisteva in un ascia di ferro, un anello situato ad altezza vita, due perle opache nella zona del collo e “alcuni pezzi di armatura sul petto” (något fanns kvar and pansaret på bröstet).

Tomba 4: scheletro orientato in direzione Est- Ovest, tumulo sferico alto 0.9 m con sommità incavata. Al suo interno si trovava una bara di calcare di dimensione 3m x 3m (?). Sulla spalla del defunto venne trovata una fibula ad anello, mentre ad altezza vita venne trovato un anello per cintura. Altri ritrovamenti furono: un’ascia e “alcune scaglie di un’ armatura” (några pansarfjäll) trovate sul petto.

A giudicare dai resti funerari, si può supporre che questi due uomini siano stati sepolti con le loro armature. Naturalmente, non possiamo dire con certezza che tipo di armatura fosse, ma apparentemente potrebbero sembrare armature lamellari, per analogia e per le scaglie menzionate. (Thunmark-Nylén 2006: 318). Datarle rimane complesso. Lena Thunmark-Nylén menzionò entrambe le armature nelle sue pubblicazioni, datandole come appartenenti all’era vichinga a causa delle caratteristiche della fibula e dell’anello trovato in vita. Tuttavia, ciò che ritengo importante sono le asce – secondo i disegni di Ekhdal, l’ascia della tomba n. 2 è un’ ascia ampia mentre l’ascia della tomba n.4 aveva l’impugnatura decorata in ottone. L’ascia ampia potrebbe essere datata tra la fine del X e l’inizio del XI secolo, mentre il manico rivestito di ottone è una caratteristica di alcune asce dei primi anni del XI sec. (vedi il mio articolo Two-handed axes“). Sembra logico supporre che entrambe le tombe siano state costruite nello stesso secolo, anche se sono presenti alcune piccole differenze tra le costruzioni e l’orientamento delle tombe.

lamely_birka

La sala di Birka con reperti di anelli di cotta di maglia e lamelle. Tratto da Ehlton 2003: 16, fig. 18. Creato da Kjell Persson.

In Scandinavia solo un’analogia di armatura lamellare (o meglio scaglie) è stata conosciuta finora, da Birka (vedi per esempio hordeman 1939: 268; Stjerna 2001; Stjerna 2004; Hedenstierna-Jonson 2006: 55, 58; Hjardar – Vike 2011: 193–195; Dawson 2013 ecc.). Le lamelle erano cosparse attorno alla cosiddetta guarnigione (Garnison) di un totale di 720 pezzi (il pezzo più grande comprendeva 12 lamelle), di cui solo 267 vennero analizzate e classificate in 8 categorie, le quali probabilmente servivano per proteggere diverse parti del corpo. Si pensa che l’armatura di Birka proteggesse il petto, la schiena, le spalle, l’addome e le gambe fino alle ginocchia (Stjerna 2004: 31). L’armatura è datata alla prima metà del X sec. (Stjerna 2004: 31). I ricercatori concordano sulla sua origine nomade dal Vicino o Medio Oriente e l’esempio più vicino viene da Balyk-Sook ( per es. Dawson 2002; Gorelik 2002: 145; Stjerna 2004: 31). Stjerna (2007: 247) ritiene che le armature e gli altri elementi non siano stati progettati a scopi bellici ma bensì simbolici ( il motivo per cui tenere queste armi andava sicuramente oltre allo scopo pratico o militare). Dawson (2013) ,opposto a questa versione, sostiene che l’armatura è stata mal interpretata, in quanto solo tre tipi su otto potrebbero essere considerate lamelle, e il numero di lamelle reali non è sufficiente per coprire la metà del petto. In conclusione sostiene che le lamelle di Birka sono solo scarti riciclati. Tuttavia, questa mi sembra una conclusione affrettata alla luce dell’armatura di Snäckgärde, che l’autore non ha preso in considerazione.

lamelovka_birka

Ricostruzione dell’armatura di Birka sulla base dell’armatura di Balyk-Sook. Tratto da Hjardar – Vike 2011: 195.

Vari reperti di questo tipo vennero trovati nei territori appartenenti ai Rus datati tra il IX e il XI sec. Alcuni dei quali possono essere interpretati come importazione orientale, proprio come l’esempio di Birka (conversazione personale con Sergei Kainov; vedi Kirpichnikov 1971: 14-20). Infatti, di recente sono stati trovati alcuni reperti in Russia, in particolare nelle città antiche di Gnezdovo e Novgorod. Il materiale Rus di questo tipo viene datato tra l’ XI – XIII sec. Ed è molto più consistente, includendo circa 270 resti (vedi Medvedev 1959; Kirpichnikov 1971: 14-20). Tuttavia, è importante notare che fino alla seconda metà del XIII sec. Il numero di frammenti di cotta di maglia è quattro volte più alto rispetto al numero di frammenti di lamelle, sottolineando il fatto che la cotta di maglia era il tipo di armatura predominante nei territori della Russia (Kirpichnikov 1971: 15). Con alta probabilità, l’antica armatura lamellare Rus dell’epoca vichinga proveniva da Bisanzio, dove prevaleva grazie al loro design più semplice e al costo inferiore già nel X sec. (Bugarski 2005: 171).

Nota per i Rievocatori

L’armatura lamellare è diventata popolare tra i rievocatori. In alcuni eventi, le armature lamellari rappresentano il 50% delle armature. I motivi principali sono:

  • Basso costo di produzione
  • Maggiore protezione
  • Produzione più rapida
  • Estetica

Sebbene questi motivi siano comprensibili, è necessario sottolineare che l’armatura lamellare non è adatta per la rievocazione d’epoca vichinga. L’argomentazione secondo cui questo tipo di armatura sia stata usata dai Rus può essere contrastata dal fatto che anche nel periodo della grande espansione delle armature lamellari in Russia, il numero delle armature in cotta era comunque quattro volte superiore. Inoltre, il tipo di armatura lamellare fu importata, quindi se teniamo a mente che la rievocazione debba basarsi sulla ricostruzione di oggetti tipici, allora dev’essere chiaro che l’armatura lamellare sarebbe più adatta per rievocazioni Nomade e Bizantine. Lo stesso vale per l’armatura lamellare in cuoio.

Esempio di armatura lamellare ben ricostruita. Viktor Kralin.

D’altro canto, i resti di Birka e Snäckgärde ci suggeriscono che questo tipo di armatura potrebbero essersi verificate nella regione orientale della Scandinavia. Prima di trarre qualsiasi conclusione, dobbiamo tenere in considerazione che Birka e Gotland erano territori che subirono molte influenze dall’est Europa e da Bisanzio. Questo è il motivo della presenza di molti manufatti provenienti da oriente, altrimenti non conosciuti in Scandinavia. In un certo senso sarebbe strano non avere questi reperti, soprattuto riguardo al periodo in cui erano conosciuti nell’impero bizantino, ma ciò non significa che l’armatura lamellare fosse comune in quest’area, anzi, rimase lontana dalla tradizione norrena, e soltanto qualche armatura di questo tipo fu presente nelle regioni baltiche fino il XIV sec. (Thordeman 1939: 268–269). Quindi, non ci sono prove a sostegno del fatto che le armature lamellari potessero essere utilizzate, e la produzione ne era altamente improbabile. Per quanto riguarda la cotta di maglia, invece, può essere considerata l’armatura predominante nella Scandinavia dell’epoca vichinga, come nei territori dell’antica Russia, e ciò può essere verificato anche confrontando gli anelli trovati nella stessa Birka (Ehlton 2003).

Per includere l’armatura lamellare nelle rievocazioni vichinghe:

  • Il rievocatore dovrebbe ricostruire l’area baltica o Rus.
  • Dovrebbe essere utilizzata a numero limitato (una lamellare per gruppo, oppure una lamellare ogni quattro cotte di maglia).
  • Vengono considerate soltanto armature lamellari di metallo, non di cuoio e, nel caso in cui venisse eseguito il taglio al laser, non deve essere visibile.
  • Deve corrispondere ai reperti di Birka (o Gnezdovo o Novgorod), non Visby.
  • Non possono essere assemblate con altri elementi scandinavi (come fibbie).

L’armatura deve, inoltre, assomigliare all’ originale ed essere accompagnato con l’equipaggiamento adeguato (elmi russi, ecc). Se fossimo in dibattito tra le due posizioni “si alle lamellari” o “no alle lamellari”, personalmente opterei per l’opzione “no alle lamellari”. Voi cosa ne pensate?


Spero vi sia piaciuto questo articolo. Per qualsiasi domanda o opinione, contattatemi o lasciate un commento qui sotto. Se volete leggere ancora e supportare il mio lavoro, potete farlo tramite project on Patreon o Paypal.


Bibliografia

Bugarski, Ivan (2005). A contribution to the study of lamellar armors. In: Starinar 55, 161—179. Online: http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0350-0241/2005/0350-02410555161B.pdf.

Carlsson, Anders (1988). Penannular brooches from Viking Period Gotland, Stockholm.

Ehlton, Fredrik (2003). Ringväv från Birkas garnison, Stockholm. Online: http://www.erikds.com/pdf/tmrs_pdf_19.pdf.

Dawson, Timothy (2002). Suntagma Hoplôn: The Equipment of Regular Byzantine Troops, c. 950 to c. 1204. In: D. Nicolle (ed.). Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour, Woodbridge, 81–90.

Dawson, Timothy (2013). Armour Never Wearies : Scale and Lamellar Armour in the West, from the Bronze Age to the 19th Century, Stroud.

Gorelik, Michael (2002). Arms and armour in south-eastern Europe in the second half of the first millennium AD. In: D. Nicolle (ed.). Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour, Woodbridge, 127–147.

Hedenstierna-Jonson, Charlotte (2006). The Birka Warrior – the material culture of a martial society, Stockholm. Online: http://su.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:189759/FULLTEXT01.pdf.

Kirpichnikov, Anatolij N. (1971). Древнерусское оружие. Вып. 3. Доспех, комплекс боевых средств IX—XIII вв, Moskva.

Medvedev, Аlexandr F. (1959) К истории пластинчатого доспеха на Руси //Советская археология, № 2, 119—134. Online: http://swordmaster.org/2010/05/10/a-f-medvedev-k-istorii-plastinchatogo-dospexa-na.html.

Stjerna, Niklas (2001). Birkas krigare och deras utrustning. In: Michael Olausson (ed.). Birkas krigare, Stockholm, 39–45.

Stjerna, Niklas (2004). En stäppnomadisk rustning från Birka. In: Fornvännen 99:1, 28–32. Online: http://samla.raa.se/xmlui/bitstream/handle/raa/3065/2004_027.pdf?sequence=1.

Stjerna, Niklas (2007). Viking-age seaxes in Uppland and Västmanland : craft production and eastern connections. In: U. Fransson (ed). Cultural interaction between east and west, Stockholm, 243–249.

Thordeman, Bengt (1939). Armour from the Battle of Wisby: 1361. Vol. 1 – Text, Stockholm.

Thunmark-Nylén, Lena (2006). Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands III: 1–2 : Text, Stockholm.

Inspiration #2, A Man From Birka

In the second episode of inspiromat we will stay in Birka, but this time we focus on male costume. For this reason I asked my Russian friend Konstantin Shiryaev who willingly provided me his photos with description.

The costume is based on finds from Birka, particularly grave Bj 644, but he also uses finds from surrounding regions. This is a costume of rich warrior in the mid-10th century. Konstantin says that his costume will never be done, and he intends to continue improving it.

FIG.1:
On the head, we can see a circular four-piece woolen cap (type B) dyed with oak bark. Silk on the hem is dyed with natural indigo. Konstantin also wears linen shirt dyed with natural indigo. The shirt is fringed with patterned silk. The shirt is girded with a replica of belt from Garrison in Birka. On his belt a knife hangs in a leather sheath and a replica of the bag from Eperjeske 3. A similar find of bag was found in grave Bj 644. The lid of the bag is decorated with gilded silver plate. On his legs, we can see wide linen trousers (påsbyxor), with shape based on finds from Haithabu, woolen leg wraps and leather boots of type 8 from Haithabu.

FIG.2:
On his head, we can see a conical felt cap (type A) with silk sewn onto it. Hat is decorated with silver terminal and a beaver pelt hem. Then, we can notice a red woolen tunic, based on the finds from Bernuthsfeld and Guddal. The tunic is decorated with patterned silk and silver embroidery and is girded with replica of belt from grave Bj 1074. Over the tunic. he wears rectangular blue woolen cloak which is lined and has a hem made of beaver pelt. The pin used to clasp the cloak is a replica from grave Bj 644. This somewhat unusual way of wearing the cloak is based on the positions of pins in Birka, Finland and Russia. Konstantin is holding a replica of battle axe from grave Bj 644. Over the previously described linen trousers, he wears red woolen leggings pinned with replicas of bronze hooks from grave Bj 905.

FIG.3:
Costume in this figure is the same as in Figure 1. The only difference is the woolen caftan, which is decorated with a patterned silk and 12 bronze buttons. Konstantin says that the silk part of his caftan is the only fabric on his costume, which is machine-dyed, and therefore intends to sew a new one. At the waist, we can notice replica of seax from grave Bj 644 (Konstantin adds that this is the old version of the seax and now works on a new one).

FIG.4:
Battle version of the costume. On his head there is a helmet, which is inspired by a fragment of Tjele helmet. At the waist, we can notice the sword type H in a wooden sheath. Type H swords are the dominant swords in Birka. On the back, there is a wooden shield, its front is covered in leather. Hands are protected by gloves, which are made of leather and felt (left mitten is only made of wool).

FIG.5:
Another picture of battle costume, this time with a single-piece helmet. In accordance with Ibn Fadlan’s report, he has an axe, sword and seax. We can notice that his shoes are lower and his leg wraps are fixed with decorative garters.

I would like to thank Konstantin Shiryaev for granting me permission to use his photographs and for detailed description of his costumeHere we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.

The Wallet from Iholm, Denmark

In March 2020, I was notified of an interesting find of a wallet from 11th century Denmark, which has not been paid much attention. This brief article will provide basic information on the entire find and the reconstruction attempts.


Circumstances of the find and its content

On a Sunday in 1853, an unnamed brick factory worker from Tåsinge, Denmark, went to uninhabited island of Iholm, which lies in the Svendborg Strait between the islands of Funen and Tåsinge, accompanied by his friends. As he was strolling and destroying molehills, he saw metal reflections in one of them. Inside, he found 15 coins that he had buried again due to fear of disaster and illness, he washed himself and went home. The man shared the information about the discovery with the master brickman, who went to the island with its owner. The find-place, located in the middle of the small island, was thoroughly examined within a radius of about 4 meters and a depth of 1 meter. At a depth of 20-25 cm below the surface, they found a silver treasure that was kept in a leather case, and other silver objects were discovered within a 30 cm radius. The treasure was collected and handed over to the National Museum in Copenhagen (Grundtvig 1948: 170; Skovmand 1942: 90, Cat. No. 32).

The main part of the treasure consisted of 475 coins, more precisely 3 Danish, 1 Norwegian, 17 Swedish, 238 Anglo-Saxon, 10 Dutch, 163 German, 2 Carolingian, 8 Czech, 1 Byzantine, 1 Persian, 27 Kufic and 2 semi-finished coins (Erslev 1875: 119- 120; Hauberg 1900: 165, Cat No. 45; Malmer 1966: 269, Cat No. 43). Duczko informs that the treasure includes two shield pendants with whirl motifs (Duczko 1989: 18). In addition, three fragments of necklaces were found in the treasure (Hårdh 1996: 48, 191), four complete bracelets and ingots (Nationalmuseet 2020; Trap 1923: 706). In 1989, around 100 coins and silver fragments were discovered near the site, so the total number was about 590 pieces of silver (Nationalmuseet 2020). The dating of the treasure is the first quarter of the 11th century. The catalog number of the treasure, which is partially exhibited in the National Museum in Copenhagen (room 23), is C NM 13594-608, C. 1837. The find-place is sometimes also referred as Yholm, Bregninge, Svendborg, Svendborgsund, Tåsinge or Taasinge.

The available literature has always descibed the numismatic part of the treasure (among others Brøndsted 1938: 382; Galster 1980: 65; Rasmusson 1937: 125-6; Schive 1865: 13; Wahlstedt 1930: 23, 28), while the leather fragments remain almost unnoticed by literature. The next chapter will therefore be devoted to the description of leather fragments.


Wallet remains and reconstruction

But not all the silver that glitters! The wallet in which the treasure was located was no less valuable and was a representative item. In the present state, it consists of two leather fragments, one of which is part of the wallet pocket and the other is a sewn application that has been gold-plated (Nationalmuseet 2020; Mannering 2017):

  • fragment 1: a piece of leather with approximate size of 6 × 4 cm, which forms the tip of a folding wallet. The side exhibited in the museum as the upper side is the upper side of the inner pocket. The two sides forming the tip are lined with holes for stitches. Apperently, the fragment of the pocket has been sewn to the second, supporting layer. The top of the fragment and the tip are torn apart. The dominating part of the fragment is a semicircle of holes, which was used to find the originally circular application. This application was positioned at the center of the width of the object, with the offset from the sides being smaller than the offset from the tip. Whether the wallet had one or two pockets facing each other is not known, but both variants are possible. The wallet in its original state probably exceeded the width of 6 cm, while the original length is unknown, but due to hundreds of pieces of silver it could be quite large. The closest contextual and shape analogy is the wallet from Roswinkel, Netherlands, dated to the end of the 9th century (Pleyte 1883; Gräslund 1984: Abb. 16.2). This folding wallet consists of a supporting layer and a three-part pocket embellished with a sewn leather application; it was used to store the treasure – 144 silver coins and a gold coin in a small wooden box (personal discussion with Bert Tessens). Other examples of folding wallets are 24 wallets from Birka (Gräslund 1984: 143-6), Sigtuna wallet (Sigtuna Museum 2019), a small four-piece wallet from Bringsverd, Norway (C23116; Rolfsen 1981: 117) and a small wallet from the Evebø grave, Norway, 5th century (B4590). The presence of a tip at Iholm wallet indicates that the find did not belong to the group of two-piece wallets with integral leather slider, such as those from Elisenhof (Grenander-Nyberg 1985: 234, 247, Taf. 76) and Gniezno (self-observation). With a high degree of probability, we can also exclude it would belong to the group of bags with metal components.

 

  • fragment 2: leather application originally of circular shape. The diameter of this application could be about 3-4 cm. The application consisted of an interwoven motif with a rim, with holes for stitches at the edge of the rim. The interwoven motif was apparently made up of two pieces that were perpendicular to each other, one piece consisting of a rim and strips connecting its two sides, while the other had loose ends, which were interwoven between the strips of the furst piece and inserted under the rim and stitched together with the rim. At this time, exact reconstruction of the application is not possible and it is necessary to wait for detailed analysis and publishing in print. However, similar motifs can be found on pendants and textile applications in Viking Sweden. The leather application was gilded with foil, which is still visible today. The closest analogy to this decorative method can be found in Birka, where all parts of folding wallets are interwoven with gilded leather strips (Gräslund 1984: 143-6). A similar find to those from Birka is a leather pouch lid from Frankish grave 10 in Cologne-Müngersdorf, which is interwoven with copper alloy wires (Fremensdorf 1955: 93, 137, Taf. 92.1-2). Gilded leather can also be found on the wooden knife sheath from warrior grave excavated at Prague Castle (Borkovský 1939-46: 127). Notker the Stammerer mentions that Charlemagne wore gilded leather shoes (De Carolo Magno, translated by Thorpe, p. 132).

Source: Mannering 2017.

Source: Nationalmuseet 2020.

Source: Fashioning the Viking Age 2019.


Wallet from Roswinkel, which is the closest analogy. Source: Gräslund 1984: Abb. 16.2.

As far as we know, two attempts have been made to reconstruct the waller which should be mentioned. The first of these was created in the Danish workshop Nichols Naturligvis. The overall look is great and the only details we can criticize is the size of the application, which covers too big space compared to the original, and the shape of the lower edge, which should be more spiked and probably without a strap. Generally, this attempt copies models from Birka. The workshop is very active in experimenting with the possible looks of the original interwoven motif, which was symmetrical, in their opinion.

Attempted reconstruction by Nichols Naturligvis.

The other attempt was made by Swedish reenactor Veronica Wik, who mounted the asymmetric application on a purse. The benefit of this reconstruction is the fact it reflects the larger capacity of the wallet, which should have been able to hold several hundred pieces of silver, as well as a greater offset of the application from the edge, which is more consistent with the original find. We must also appreciate the involvement of coins and hence the pursuit of a realistic concept.

Reconstruction attempt by Veronica Wik.

Since both versions are not ideal, me and reenactor and graphic designer Tomáš Cajthaml prepared two graphic designs that outlines the original appearance of the artifact in the best possible way – the wallet is folding, has only one strap, the application has the correct ratio to the rest and the offset respects the original composition. We used the shape of Roswinkel wallet, which we consider the closest shape analogy. The look of the application was taken from the attempt of Veronika Wic, although we are aware that none of the designs is 100% accurate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suggested drawn reconstructions of Iholm wallet.
Made by Tomáš Cajthaml.


Acknowledgments and conclusion

Wallet from Iholm is a rare specimen that complements the mosaic of purses, bags and wallets known from the Viking Age. In terms of decorating, it ranks among the top finds. It suggests that gilded leather was a more widespread phenomenon than previously thought. It is also probably the first wallet known from Viking Age Denmark, which will be appreciated especially by reenactors interested in the region who now have the opportunity to take this artifact into consideration. All this should serve as an appeal to the staff of the National Museum in Copenhagen, pointing out that the wallet has not yet been published.

Finally, I would like to thank Nichols Naturligvis for drawing my attention to this find. My thanks also deserve Veronica Wik. In the last, most honorable place, I would like to pay tribute to Tomáš Cajthaml, who quickly and unselfishly created great graphics, thanks to which this artifact can be appreciated by people from all over the world.

Here we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


Bibliography

Notker the Stammerer: De Carolo Magno. In: Two lives of Charlemagne: Einhard and Notker the Stammerer, translated by Lewis Thorpe, Harmondsworth 1967.

Borkovský, Ivan (1939-46). Hrob bojovníka z doby knížecí na Pražském hradě. In: Památky archeologické 42, 122-131.

Brøndsted, Johannes (1938). Danmarks oldtid, bind 3, København.

Duczko, Władysław (1989). Runde Silberblechanhänger mit punzierten Muster. In: Arwidsson, Greta (ed.). Birka II:3. Systematische Analysen der Gräberfunde, Stockholm, 8–18.

Erslev, Kristian (1875). Roskildes ældste Mønter. Studier til Dansk Mønthistorie. In: Aarbøger for nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie, København, 117–187.

Fashioning the Viking Age 2019. Fragment of a leather purse from Yholm. In: Fashioning the Viking Age Project. Visited 19.3.2020, available from: https://www.instagram.com/p/BzFgHN9nr0a/.

Fremersdorf, Fritz (1955). Das fränkische Reihengräberfeld Köln-Müngersdorf, Berlin.

Galster, Georg (1980). Vikingetids møntfund fra Bornholm. In: Nordisk Numismatisk Årsskrift 1977–78, 5–246.

Gräslund, Anne-Sofie (1984). Beutel und Taschen. In: Arwidsson, Greta (ed.). Birka II:1. Systematische Analysen der Gräberfunde, Stockholm, 141-154.

Grenander-Nyberg, Gertrud (1985). Die Lederfunde aus der frühgeschichtlichen Wurt Elisenhof. In: Szabo, M. – Grenander-Nyberg, G.- Myrdal, J. (eds.). Die Holzfunde aus der frühgeschichtlichen Wurt Elisenhof. Elisenhof Band 5, Frankfurt – Bern – New York.

Grundtvig, Sven (1948). Danske folkesagn, 1839-83: samling. Danske stedsagn, København.

Hårdh, Birgitta (1996). Silver in the Viking Age: A Regional-Economic Study (Acta Archaeologica Lundensia, Series in 8° Nr. 25), Stockholm.

Hauberg, Peter Christian (1900). Myntforhold og udmyntninger i Danmark indtil 1146, København.

Malmer, Brita (1966). Nordiska mynt före år 1000 (Acta Archaeologica Lundensia, Series in 8° Nr. 4), Lund.

Mannering, Ulla (2017). Skattefundet fra øen Yholm. In: Nationalmuseet – Prehistory. Visited 19.3.2020, available from: https://www.facebook.com/DanmarksogMiddelhavslandenesOldtid/photos/a.1701340826604999/1746996435372771/?type=3.

Nationalmuseet (2020). Udsøgt læderpung med guldtryk. In: Nationalmuseet i København. Visited 19.3.2020, available from: https://natmus.dk/historisk-viden/temaer/pels-i-oldtiden-og-antikken/pels-i-oldtiden/udsoegt-laederpung-med-guldtryk/.

Pleyte, Willem (1883). Nederlandsche Oudheden van de vroegste tijden tot op Karel den Groote, Leiden.

Rasmusson, Nils Ludvig (1937). Kring de västerländska mynten i Birka. In: Från stenålder till rokoko, studier tillägnade Otto Rydbeck, Lund, 113–135.

Rolfsen, Perry (1981). Den siste hedning på Agder. In: Viking, Vol. 44, 112–128.

Sigtuna Museum (2019). Veckans föremål. In: Sigtuna Museum & Art. Visited 19.3.2020, available from: https://www.facebook.com/sigtunamuseumandart.se/photos/a.424430047633243/1963497667059799/?type=3.

Schive, G. I. (1865). Norges Mynter i Middelalderen, samlede og beskrevne af G. I. Schive: Med Indledning af C. A. Holmboe, Christiania.

Skovmand, Roar (1942). De danske Skattefund fra Vikingetiden og den ældste Middelalder indtil omkring 1150. In: Aarbøger for nordisk oldkyndighed og historie, København, 1-275.

Trap, Jens Peter (1923). Kongeriget Danmark, 4. Udgave, København.

Trap, Jens Peter (1957). Kongeriget Danmark, 5. Udgave : Odense og Svendborg Amt, København.

Wahlstedt, Axel (1930). Den svenska plåtmyntningens historia. In: Numismatiska meddelanden 25, 22-36.

Peněženka z dánského Iholmu

V březnu roku 2020 jsem byl upozorněn na zajímavý nález dánské peněženky z 11. století, který dosud stál v ústraní a kterému nebyla věnována větší pozornost. Tento krátký článek přinese základní informace k celému nálezu a dosavadní pokusy o rekonstrukce.


Okolnosti nálezu a jeho obsah

Jedné neděle roku 1853 se nejmenovaný pracovník cihelny z dánského Tåsinge vydal za doprovodu svých přátel na tehdy neobydlený ostrov Iholm, který leží v svendborském průlivu mezi ostrovy Fyn a Tåsinge. Při procházce svou holí ničil krtince, když tu v jednom z nich spatřil kovové odlesky. Krtinec rozryl a nalezl 15 mincí, které z obavy z neštěstí a nemoci opět zahrabal, umyl se a odjel domů. Nálezce se o objevu zmínil svému mistru cihláři, který se na ostrov vydal s jeho majitelem a místo, nacházející se uprostřed malého ostrova, důkladně ohledali v okruhu zhruba 4 metrů a do hloubky 1 metru. V hloubce 20-25 cm pod povrchem nalezli stříbrný poklad, který byl uchován v koženém pouzdře, a další stříbrné předměty byly objeveny v okruhu 30 cm. Poklad byl vyzvednut a předán Národnímu muzeu v Kodani (Grundtvig 1948: 170; Skovmand 1942: 90, Kat. č. 32).

Hlavní část pokladu sestávala z 475 mincí, přesněji 3 dánských, 1 norské, 17 švédských, 238 anglosaských, 10 nizozemských, 163 německých, 2 karolinských, 8 českých, 1 byzantské, 1 perské, 27 kufických a 2 polotovarů mincí (Erslev 1875: 119-120; Hauberg 1900: 165, Kat. č. 45; Malmer 1966: 269, Kat. č. 43). Duczko informuje, že součástí pokladu jsou dva přívěšky s vířivými motivy (Duczko 1989: 18). Kromě nich byly v pokladu nalezeny tři fragmenty náhrdelníků (Hårdh 1996: 48, 191), čtyři celé náramky a ingoty (Nationalmuseet 2020Trap 1923: 706). Roku 1989 bylo v okolí místa nálezu objeveno dalších 100 mincí a stříbrných úlomků (Nationalmuseet 2020), takže celkový počet čítá zhruba 590 kusů stříbra. Datace pokladu směřuje do 1. čtvrtiny 11. století, obvykle se hovoří o datování k roku 1010 (Nationalmuseet 2020; Trap 1957: 711). Katalogové číslo pokladu, který je částečně vystavený v kodaňském Národním muzeu (místnost 23), je C NM 13594-608, C. 1837. Místo nálezu bývá označeno také jako Yholm, Bregninge, Svendborg, Svendborgsund, Tåsinge či Taasinge.

Dostupná literatura se vždy věnovala numismatickým výpovědním možnostem (kromě výše zmíněných také Brøndsted 1938: 382; Galster 1980: 65; Rasmusson 1937: 125-6; Schive 1865: 13; Wahlstedt 1930: 23, 28), přičemž fragmenty kůže zůstaly literaturou takřka nepovšimnuty. Následující kapitola proto bude věnována popisu kožených fragmentů.


Pozůstatky peněženky a rekonstrukce

Není však všechno stříbro, co se třpytí! Peněženka, v níž se poklad nacházel, byla neméně cenným předmětem, a byla hodnou uložení pokladu. Tvoří ji dva kožené fragmenty, přičemž jeden je částí kapsy peněženky a druhý je našitou aplikací, která byla pozlacena zlatou fólií (Nationalmuseet 2020Mannering 2017):

  • fragment 1: kus kůže o rozměrech cca 6 × 4 cm, který tvoří cíp peněženky, přičemž strana, která je vystavena v muzeu jako pohledová, představuje její vnitřní kapsu skládací peněženky. Dvě boční strany tvořící cíp jsou opatřeny otvory, skrze které byl fragment přišit k druhé, nosné vrstvě. Vrchní část fragmentu a vrcholek cípu jsou odtrženy. Dominantou fragmentu pak je půlkruh otvorů, který sloužil k našití původně kruhové aplikace. Tato aplikace byla umístěna ve středu šířky předmětu, přičemž odsazení od bočních stran bylo menší, než-li odsazení od cípu. Zda peněženka měla jednu nebo dvě proti sobě stojící kapsy, není známo, ale obě varianty jsou možné. Peněženka v původním stavu zřejmě přesahovala šířku 6 cm, přičemž původní délku neznáme, avšak vzhledem ke stovkám kusů stříbra mohla nabývat poměrně velkých rozměrů. Nejbližší kontextovou i tvarovou analogií, která používá našívanou aplikaci, je nález z holandského Roswinkelu, datovaný do konce 9. století (Pleyte 1883Gräslund 1984: Abb. 16.2). Tuto skládací peněženku tvoří nosná vrstva, na kterou je našitá kapsa složená ze tří dílů a která je dozdobena našitou koženou aplikací, a sloužila k uložení pokladu – 144 stříbrných mincí a jedné zlaté mince, která byla uložena v malé dřevěné krabičce (osobní diskuze s Bertem Tessensem). Dalšími příklady skládacích peněženek je 24 peněženek z Birky (Gräslund 1984: 143-6), peněženka ze Sigtuny (Sigtuna Museum 2019), drobná čtyřdílná peněženka z norského Bringsverdu (C23116; Rolfsen 1981: 117) a drobná peněženka z norského hrobu Evebø z 5. století (B4590). Přítomnost cípu u nálezu z Iholmu nenasvědčuje tomu, že by nález přináležel k dvojdílným brašnám s integrální koženou průvlečkou, mezi které patří například nálezy z Elisenhofu (Grenander-Nyberg 1985: 234, 247, Taf. 76) a Hnězdna (vlastní pozorování). S velkou mírou pravděpodobnosti můžeme vyloučit i přináležitost k brašnám s kovovými komponenty.

 

  • fragment 2: kožená aplikace původně o kruhovém tvaru. Průměr této aplikace mohl být kolem 3-4 cm. Aplikace byla tvořena propletencem s obroučkou, přičemž na okraji obroučky se nacházejí otvory pro stehy. Pletenec byl zřejmě tvořen dvěma díly, které byly vůči sobě kolmé, přičemž jeden díl sestával z obroučky a pruhů propojující její obě strany, zatímco druhý měl volné konce, jež byly pruhy propleteny, zasunuty pod obroučku a prošity spolu s obroučkou. Přesná rekonstrukce propletence v tento okamžik není možná a je nutné počkat na detailní analýzu a publikování v tisku. Nicméně je možné nalézt podobné motivy na přívěšcích a textilních aplikacích ve vikinském Švédsku. Kožená aplikace byla pozlacena fólií, která je dodnes patrná. Nejbližší analogii této výzdobné metody můžeme nalézt v Birce, kde jsou všechny díly skládacích peněženek protkávané pozlacenými koženými proužky (Gräslund 1984: 143-6). Blízko nálezům z Birky stojí kožené víko brašny z franského hrobu č. 10 v Kolíně-Müngersdorfu, které je protkávané dráty ze slitiny mědi (Fremensdorf 1955: 93, 137, Taf. 92.1-2). Pozlacenou kůži je možné najít také na dřevěné pochvě nože bojovníka z Pražského hradu (Borkovský 1939-46: 127). Notker Koktavý zmiňuje, že Karel Veliký nosil pozlacené kožené boty (De Carolo Magno, přel. Thorpe, str. 132).

Zdroj: Mannering 2017.

Zdroj: Nationalmuseet 2020.

Zdroj: Fashioning the Viking Age 2019.


Peněženka z holandského Roswinkelu, která je nejbližší analogií. Zdroj: Gräslund 1984: Abb. 16.2.

Nakolik je nám známo, prozatím vznikly dva pokusy o rekonstrukci, které je záhodno zmínit. První z nich vznikl v dánské dílně Nichols Naturligvis. Jediné, co lze tomuto pokusu vytknout, je velikost aplikace, která oproti originálu zabírá velký prostor, a tvar spodní hrany, která by měla být hrotitější a zřejmě bez řemínku. Obecně vzato tento pokus kopíruje modely z Birky. Dílna velmi aktivně experimentuje s možnými vzhledy původního propletence, který je podle názoru dílny symetrický.

Pokus o rekonstrukci z dílny Nichols Naturligvis.

Druhý pokus vytvořila švédská reenactorka Veronica Wik, která asymetrickou aplikaci namontovala na měšec. Přínosem této rekonstukce je reflektování větší kapacity peněženky, která měla být schopna pojmout několik set kusů stříbra, a také větší odsazení aplikace od okraje, které se více shoduje s originálním nálezem. Ocenit musíme také zapojení mincí a tedy snahu o realistický koncept.

Pokus o rekonstrukci vytvořený Veronicou Wik.

Protože obě verze mají svoje nedostatky, s reenactorem a grafikem Tomášem Cajthamlem jsme připravili dva grafické návrhy, které dle našeho soudu nejlépe nastiňují původní vzhled artefaktu – peněženka je skládací, má pouze jeden řemínek, aplikace zaujímá správný poměr vůči zbytku a odsazení od okrajů respektuje originální kompozici. Předlohou nám byla peněženka z Roswinkelu, kterou považujeme na nejbližší tvarovou analogii. Vzhled aplikace byl převzat z pokusu o rekonstrukci Veroniky Wic, ačkoli jsme si vědomi, že ani jeden z navržených vzhledů není ideální.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Navržené kresebné rekonstrukce peněženky z Iholmu.
Vytvořil Tomáš Cajthaml.


Poděkování a závěr

Peněženka z Iholmu představuje vzácný exemplář, který doplňuje mozaiku měšců, vaků, brašen a peněženek známých z doby vikinské. Pokud jde o nákladnost zdobení, řadí se na přední příčky u tohoto typu nálezů. Jeho hodnota je také v tom, že naznačuje, že zlacení kůže byl rozšířenější fenomén, než se doposud předpokládalo. Jde také zřejmě o první peněženku známou z vikinského Dánska, což ocení především reenactoři zajímající se o tento region, kteří nyní mají možnost přihlédnout k tomuto artefaktu. Toto vše by mělo sloužit jako apel na pracovníky Národního muzea v Kodani, upozorňující na fakt, že peněženka stále nebyla publikována.

Závěrem si dovolím poděkovat dílně Nichols Naturligvis, která mne upozornila na tento nález. Mé díky si zaslouží také Veronica Wik. Na posledním, nejčestnějším místě, bych chtěl vzdát hold Tomášovi Cajthamlovi, který rychle a nezištně vytvořil skvělé grafiky, díky nimž tento artefakt mohou docenit lidé z celého světa.

Pevně věřím, že jste si čtení tohoto článku užili. Pokud máte poznámku nebo dotaz, neváhejte mi napsat nebo se ozvat níže v komentářích. Pokud se Vám líbí obsah těchto stránek a chtěli byste podpořit jejich další fungování, podpořte, prosím, náš projekt na Patreonu nebo Paypalu.


Bibliografie

Notker Kotkavý : De Carolo Magno. In: Two lives of Charlemagne: Einhard and Notker the Stammerer, přel. Lewis Thorpe, Harmondsworth 1967.

Borkovský, Ivan (1939-46). Hrob bojovníka z doby knížecí na Pražském hradě. In: Památky archeologické 42, 122-131.

Brøndsted, Johannes (1938). Danmarks oldtid, bind 3, København.

Duczko, Władysław (1989). Runde Silberblechanhänger mit punzierten Muster. In: Arwidsson, Greta (ed.). Birka II:3. Systematische Analysen der Gräberfunde, Stockholm, 8–18.

Erslev, Kristian (1875). Roskildes ældste Mønter. Studier til Dansk Mønthistorie. In: Aarbøger for nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie, København, 117–187.

Fashioning the Viking Age 2019. Fragment of a leather purse from Yholm. In: Fashioning the Viking Age Project. Navštíveno 19.3.2020, dostupné z: https://www.instagram.com/p/BzFgHN9nr0a/.

Fremersdorf, Fritz (1955). Das fränkische Reihengräberfeld Köln-Müngersdorf, Berlin.

Galster, Georg (1980). Vikingetids møntfund fra Bornholm. In: Nordisk Numismatisk Årsskrift 1977–78, 5–246.

Gräslund, Anne-Sofie (1984). Beutel und Taschen. In: Arwidsson, Greta (ed.). Birka II:1. Systematische Analysen der Gräberfunde, Stockholm, 141-154.

Grenander-Nyberg, Gertrud (1985). Die Lederfunde aus der frühgeschichtlichen Wurt Elisenhof. In: Szabo, M. – Grenander-Nyberg, G.- Myrdal, J. (eds.). Die Holzfunde aus der frühgeschichtlichen Wurt Elisenhof. Elisenhof Band 5, Frankfurt – Bern – New York.

Grundtvig, Sven (1948). Danske folkesagn, 1839-83: samling. Danske stedsagn, København.

Hårdh, Birgitta (1996). Silver in the Viking Age: A Regional-Economic Study (Acta Archaeologica Lundensia, Series in 8° Nr. 25), Stockholm.

Hauberg, Peter Christian (1900). Myntforhold og udmyntninger i Danmark indtil 1146, København.

Malmer, Brita (1966). Nordiska mynt före år 1000 (Acta Archaeologica Lundensia, Series in 8° Nr. 4), Lund.

Mannering, Ulla (2017). Skattefundet fra øen Yholm. In: Nationalmuseet – Prehistory. Navštíveno 19.3.2020, dostupné z: https://www.facebook.com/DanmarksogMiddelhavslandenesOldtid/photos/a.1701340826604999/1746996435372771/?type=3.

Nationalmuseet (2020). Udsøgt læderpung med guldtryk. In: Nationalmuseet i København, navštíveno 19.3.2020, dostupné z: https://natmus.dk/historisk-viden/temaer/pels-i-oldtiden-og-antikken/pels-i-oldtiden/udsoegt-laederpung-med-guldtryk/.

Pleyte, Willem (1883). Nederlandsche Oudheden van de vroegste tijden tot op Karel den Groote, Leiden.

Rasmusson, Nils Ludvig (1937). Kring de västerländska mynten i Birka. In: Från stenålder till rokoko, studier tillägnade Otto Rydbeck, Lund, 113–135.

Rolfsen, Perry (1981). Den siste hedning på Agder. In: Viking, Vol. 44, 112–128.

Sigtuna Museum (2019). Veckans föremål. In: Sigtuna Museum & Art. Navštíveno 19.3.2020, dostupné z: https://www.facebook.com/sigtunamuseumandart.se/photos/a.424430047633243/1963497667059799/?type=3.

Schive, G. I. (1865). Norges Mynter i Middelalderen, samlede og beskrevne af G. I. Schive: Med Indledning af C. A. Holmboe, Christiania.

Skovmand, Roar (1942). De danske Skattefund fra Vikingetiden og den ældste Middelalder indtil omkring 1150. In: Aarbøger for nordisk oldkyndighed og historie, København, 1-275.

Trap, Jens Peter (1923). Kongeriget Danmark, 4. Udgave, København.

Trap, Jens Peter (1957). Kongeriget Danmark, 5. Udgave : Odense og Svendborg Amt, København.

Wahlstedt, Axel (1930). Den svenska plåtmyntningens historia. In: Numismatiska meddelanden 25, 22-36.

“Vilborg owns me”

Runic inscriptions on Old Norse whorls

 

The article we present to you in this way is a continuation of the articles “Skald Þorbjǫrn Carved Runes” and “I Carve Healing Runes“, which were created in previous years and which aim to realistically show everyday work with runes in the Early Middle Ages. This time we chose a specific group of ordinate household tools – whorls – that bear individual runic letters or entire inscriptions on their surface. As far as we know, the everyday objects of the Old North have not been analyzed from that perspective, and therefore some conclusions need to be seen as an entrance door to a thousand-year-old mentality rather than as final conclusions. At the same time, it should be emphasized that the texts we will analyze here were not perceived as much magical, ritual or ceremonial at the time of their creation, but as a functional practical part of everyday life.


Introduction

In Early medieval Scandinavia, yarn was spun in such a way that the combed, prepared wool was wrapped on a distaff (rokkr), which consisted of a wooden stick that was placed under the armpit, leaving the spinner with both hands free. To the distaff, a manual spindle (snælda) was connected, consisting of an organic shaft and whorl, which served as a weight and a rotary flywheel at the bottom of the shaft (for technical details, see Březinová 2007: 76-80). The yarn released by the rotary motion was manually wound around the shaft, which, once filled, served as a spool and the whorl was pushed onto the next shaft.

In Old Nordic society, spinning was a traditional female activity (eg Jesch 1991: 14, 19, 41; Jochens 1995: 135-136; Petersen 1951: 302; although as we will see later the problem is somewhat more complicated), which was practised from early youth (see cat. no. 36) to old age probably in every spare time. It was considered a major toil if the household was able to produce yarn for twelve-elbow long cloth in a day (≈ 3.6 km) (Anderson – Swenson 2002: 194). Thanks to such production it was possible for the farm to be self-sufficient in textile terms.

In this work we will focus on whorls that were created between 500-1500 and their manufacturers or owners considered it important to mark them with runes. From the total number of thousands of whorls, we were able to collect 54 pieces that fall into this category. This group is further divided into the years 500-1100 (14 pieces) and 1100-1500 (40 pieces). For whorls we will comment on their geographical distribution, materials, informative value of inscriptions, producers and owners.

List of runic whorls can be found here:


Geographical distribution and materials

In this chapter, we will focus on the number of runic whorls, their geographical distribution and the materials from which they were made. The following mapping will be decisive for our conclusions.


Distribution of runic whorls in Europe, 500-1500.
Click on the map for a larger resolution.

First of all, we can notice some differences between defined periods – from the period 500-1100 we found 14 pieces (25.9%), while from the period 1100-1500 we found 40 pieces (74.1%). This difference is interpreted by the emergence of cities such as Trondheim or Oslo, which are systematically explored by archaeologists. Especially from the examples of the medieval sites Igalik / Gardar (6 pieces) and Trondheim (4 pieces), it is clear that statistics is influenced by well-explored craft centers. Greater literacy in later period, which would lead to more inscriptions, is debatable.

Comparison of runic whorls dated to 500-1100 and 1100-1500.

Runic inscriptions on whorls are related to Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon culture. Their most frequent representation can be found in Sweden and Norway. In these countries, the frequency of their occurrence in relation to the total volume is more or less balanced in both observed periods (Sweden 28.6% : 32.5%; Norway 28.6% : 25%), suggesting a certain tradition. Surprisingly, we do not find any runic whorls on the territory of today’s Denmark. In the older period, under the influence of the Old Nordic diaspora (“Viking conquests”) runic whorls began to appear in Iceland (7.1% : 12.5%), Great Britain (28.6% : 0%) and Latvia (7.1% : 0%). In the younger period, Great Britain and Latvia are disappearing from this list, while Greenland (0%: 27.5%) and Ukraine (0%: 2.7%) are increasing. In countries that have only been in temporary contact with the Norse cultural circuit (Great Britain, Latvia, Ukraine), there is no long-standing tradition of using runic whorls. The whorls thus implicitly resonate the movement of people and thoughts at the time they were made.

Distribution of runic whorls dated to 500-1100 and 1100-1500.
Higher resolution here.

If we look at the materials of runic whorls from a higher perspective, we can notice the predominance of whorls of soapstone (28.6% : 36.8%). Other materials used for production include lead (14.3% : 7.9%), slate (14.3% : 7.9%), wood (7.1 : 5.3%), sandstone (0% : 13.2%), limestone (7.1% : 2.6%), palagonite (7.1% : 2.6%) and jet (7.1% : 0%). We do not find runic inscriptions on ceramic, iron, glass, bone and amber whorls. The absence of ceramic pieces may be the reason why we do not know the runic whorls from Denmark. As many as 88% of the whorls from Haithabu are made of burnt clay (Anderson 2003: 118). Most of the rune whorls are made of materials that can be easily engraved or cast.

Runic whorl materials dated to 500-1100 and 1100-1500.
Higher resolution here.

A slightly more precise picture is shown when examining the materials in separate country. Soapstone, which seems to be the most common in the general comparison, was obtained in Norway (Hansen – Jansen – Heldal 2017: 254-255), and so it is not surprising that almost half of all Norwegian whorls were made of this material (Petersen 1951: 304-305) and it dominates in the case of rune whorls. For other countries, runic whorls were largely made from other regionally available stones. In the case of Sweden, sandstone, limestone and slate were included, which are also found in whorls of Birka (Anderson 2003: 75). Although we know soapstone whorls from Iceland (Eldjárn 2000: 399-400; Traustadóttir 2015: 320, 324), rune whorls are made of slate, palagonite and sandstone. Soapstone, which is not naturally present in Iceland, had to be imported in the form of raw material or finished products. It is important to note that whorls could have been made, for example, from broken soapstone dishes or broken and worn slate grinders (Anderson 2003: 75).

Regional use of runic whorl materials dated to 500-1500.


The informative value of the inscriptions

We will go further and see what the inscriptions carved in the whorls can tell us. We will try to make as broad comment as possible to help put the reserved and unclear messages into context. The texts can be divided into seven categories:

  1. unintelligible inscription
  2. inscription naming the object
  3. inscription outlining the relationship of two people
  4. invocation for protection, wishing luck, invocation of agents
  5. alphabet or spelling text
  6. inscription naming the owner
  7. inscription related to production

The following chart then reveals the internal interdependence of these groups of inscriptions.

Internal interdependence of groups of inscriptions.

 

Inscription naming the object
In three cases the word snáld (“whorl”) appears in the inscriptions: “Gunnhildr made whorl” (cat. no. 6), “Helga owns this whorl” (cat. no. 8), “whorl” (cat. no. 25). Runic inscriptions of this type are not unusual: for example, we know a spoon handle with the words “spoon spoon” (Gr 64), a pin with the word “pin” (Knirk 1997: 9) and the hammer amulet from Købelev with the words “this is a hammer“. These inscriptions are often interpreted as trivial creations of forgetful people, but this seems to us to be a misguided idea. A more realistic idea is that these inscriptions served as teaching prop, which can be close to the inscription placed on a wooden crossbar that says “This is an open window. Closed window” (N A240). These inscriptions do not seem to fit among those that are rather mocking, entertaining, testing or informing a potential reader. At least in some cases, the runic inscriptions seem to have the character of self-praise from a well done job: “Þorfastr made a good comb” (Br E4), “Andrés carved these runes and made this, the first door-hinge” (N 159), “Árni Þorsteinsson made me and Háleikr Gautason owns me. Thus he did with healthy hands. This was carved on Sunday towards evening” (N 178). Nor should we exclude the possibility that the manufacturer of the inscription, which names the object, was fascinated by the fact that it is possible to record the idea and essence by means of letters. The association of the name of the thing and its power could have practical significance, as it could block possible efforts to enchant the subject. The whorl was originally a wildlife object that was worked and incorporated into human culture. From the period perspective, it was possible enchant the object and ask the giants to seize it and hurt the owner of the object. The awakening of the giant in stone is documented by the inscription N B252. Thus, the word “whorl” could be a safeguard or counter-attack that supported or multiplied the functioning of the object. Such a support “supportive” function of runes also explicitly mentioned in runic inscriptions DR 295 and U Fv1984;257.

Stone whorl from Uppstad (C28808), cat. no. 8. Taken from Unimus catalog.

Inscription related to production
The seven inscriptions are explicitly related to the production of whorls or inscriptions: “Gautr engraved runes” (cat. no. 4), “Gunnhildr made whorls” (cat. no. 6), “[…] these runes on […]” (cat. no. 14), “[…] made […]” (cat. no. 32), “Hólma made this at Sigtyggr’s place” (cat. no. 33), “Girl wrote me” (cat. no. 36), “made by Sigríð / made for Sigríð” (cat. no. 53). Although whorls could be branded, it seems that they were made at home (see cat. no. 33) according to standard shapes. As we can see, there are only one male manufacturer and three female producers in our list. It may be interesting to find out that women made their own tools. Whorls may have been gifts of love as well, as suggests the wooden whorl of Oslo (cat. no. 22): “Nikulás loves a woman called Gýríðr, step-daughter of Pitas-Ragna.” Among other things, the inscription could have helped in the eventual dispute over whorl by proving the owner’s argument for legal ownership, as will be discussed below.

We can also mention that the inscriptions were mostly engraved with sharp points, probably knives, or were cast together with the whorls. The position of the inscriptions depends on the shape of the whorl – the inscription is usually placed on flat sides or on the perimeter, but the inscriptions on the beveled sides are no exception.


Soapstone whorl from Sigtuna (Sl 64; fyndnr. 48313), cat. no. 33.
Photo: Bengt A. Lundberg, 1999.

Ownership
A total of nine whorls originally marked their owners: “Vilborg owns me” (cat. no. 5), “Helga owns this whorl” (cat. no. 8), “Þóra owns me” (cat. no. 17), “[ …] unn owns me” (cat. no. 19), “Kristin owns me” (cat. no. 29), “[…] owns me” (cat. no. 31), “[…] Jón owns me” (cat. no. 38), “[…] own chaplain” (cat. no. 40), “[…]ldur owns me“(cat. no. 43). In the other seven cases, whorls indicate the name without any further information, and can be assumed to be the manufacturer or owner: “Jóhanna” (cat. no. 16), “Hróðþrúðr” (cat. no. 21), “Ingivaldr” (cat. no. 28), “Rǫgn[valdr]” (cat. no. 44), “Bjarni” (cat. no. 48), “Óláfr” (cat. no. 49), “Sigríðr” (cat. no. 54). It is possible that separate runes found on some whorls may also be abbreviations of the owner’s name.

As we can see, six whorls were owned by women and two by men, which is also an interesting finding that supports the view that male members of household helped with spinning (Foote – Wilson 1990: 168). As we mentioned above, people with whorls have been working for a large part of their lives, so they have built a certain relationship with their instruments that is reflected through the inscription. In addition, identifying the owner could be a simple tool to recognize own whorl and prevent disputes. Signed whorls could be harder to steal because they would be easily identifiable. Another potential function of such an inscription is to ensure functionality only for the signed person and no other. In this context, however, it is interesting to note that none of the runic whorls was found in the grave, although whorls commonly became a grave inventory. It is possible that they were in circulation until they were lost or destroyed.

Whorl from Reykjavík, cat. no. 5.

Inscription outlining the relationship of two people
In addition to the above-mentioned inscription from Oslo (cat. no. 22), which mentions the love relationship between man and woman, and the inscription from Sigtuna (cat. no. 33), which mentions the name of a woman living under the patronage of man, two names can be probably found in the inscription from Saltfleetby (cat. no. 1), ending with the names “Úlfljótr and [kiriuesf]”. This particular inscription seeks protection for both mentioned. A potential fourth candidate is the inscription “handshakes” (cat. no. 7), which uses a legal term to confirm an oral obligation. According to Olsen (1954: 221), this whorl could be a gift of a man to a woman, and the inscription could refer to an agreement or bond between them. At least one runic inscription speaks of “runes of joy and runes of friendship” (teitirúnar ok ævinrúnar; DR NOR1988;5) that we could possible see in inscriptions naming two people.

Whorl from Saltfleetby, cat. no. 1 Photo: Lincolnshire County Council.

Invocation for protection, wishing luck, invocation of agents
Up to five inscriptions can be evaluated as protective: “Óðinn and Heimdallr and Þjálfa, they will help you, Úlfljótr and […]” (cat. no. 1), “choice / good” (cat. no. 12), “Pax Portanti, Salus habenti. Ingvaldr” (cat. no. 28), “María” (cat. nos. 18 and 51). The runic inscription cat. no. 28, which is in Latin, most clearly shows the function of such inscription: “Peace to the wearer, prosperity to the owner. Ingivaldr”. Similar invocations can also be found in other inscriptions: “Hail both he who carved, and he who interprets” (N 169), “Hail to you and good thoughts. May Þórr receive you, may Óðinn own you” (N B380). This is not a simple statement, runes are expected to provide what they say – that is, to help the owner in good health and mental condition and turn her or him away from danger. In the article “I Carve Healing Runes“, we have shown that runes assembled in the right sequence were expected to have healing power, while inscriptions poorly assembled could make the patient suffer. It is symptomatic that positive agents, such as the Óðin – Heimdallr – Þjálfa trinity and Saint Mary, are called to help. Such an invocations usually indicate urgency in medical inscriptions. However, the negative agents are sometimes also called to do a specific action.

Whorl from Lunne, cat. no. 28. Photo: Bengt A. Lundberg, 1996.

Alphabet or spelling text
In case of four whorls, we can find a partial or complete alphabet: “María fuþorkhniastbmly” (cat. no. 18), “abcdefghiklmnopurstøy” (cat. no. 26), “fuþoʀkhmi” (cat. no. 34), “fuÞorkhniastmlyøkhp Jón owns me” (cat. no. 38). While the second inscription is rather atypical, others have numerous analogies, as will be shown. Before we move on, we need to mention three more whorls with “runic spellers”: “fufofafi [ruro]rari kukokaki huhohahi nunonani tutotati bubob[abi m]umoma milulolali frufrofrafri nribu. Grasp the runes from me! You will challenge most people” (cat. no. 11),”fufofafife” (cat. no. 20), “fifafufofyfi” (cat. no. 27).

It is generally accepted that all inscriptions of this kind are related to the process of learning. If we look at the whorl of Sigtuna (cat. no. 11), this conclusion is unquestionable – the inscription should serve as a reader’s challenge. A very similar wording can be read at the shipboard from Brørs: “I have therefore learned: fe fu fa fø fuþorkhnieø sbpmtlæy fatatratkatnatpatbatmat” (N A24). Learning in syllables is well attested in primary education in medieval Novgorod (Janin 2007: 49-51). We do not know whether runes were taught on a daily basis, but the lessons were certainly not as intense as today’s study. The average Early Medieval user of runes probably did not read and write daily. At the same time, there were no textbooks or exercise books – the most common engraving material could be a piece of wood, bone and stone. Indeed, if we look at the objects that bear the complete fuþark or its variants the most often, we find that pieces of bone (eg N B490, N A203N A205, N A216DR 301DR EM85;458A-BU Fv1973;197B), wooden sticks (eg N B17, N A15N A62DR EM85;371AGR 76GR NOR1999;7) or pieces of stones (eg DR 21) are the most prominent. The trial version of ornaments cut into bone scraps are interesting analogies (Lang – Caulfield 1988MacGregor 1985: 195-197; O’Meadhra 1979). Sometimes fuþarks are supplemented with inscriptions that could be interpreted as language puns (GR 76) or tentative love messages (N B17). Inscriptions may be the results of trying to learn runes, but could also serve as a tool for those who did not write long and needed to practice.

However, if they only were teaching props, we would find the texts of this kind on waste material, but this is very far from true. The complete fuþark can be found on a number of utility items: whetstones (eg G 281G 237G 311), needles (eg DR EM85;470C), leather sheaths (eg DR Fv1988;237), knife handles (eg. N B26U Fv1992;161CSö Fv1965;136Vs Fv1992;173), drinking horns (eg N 229), mills (eg U F2;43Vs 26), combs (eg N A18DR EM85;466BSö Fv1981;197), church bells (eg N 15Vg 205), baptisteries (eg DR 224Vg 259Vr 4), church roofs (eg DR EM85;440ADR EM85;522Hs ATA322-2795-2011), pendants (eg Vg 207Nä 10) and similar. It is evident that this has been a constinual practice for at least a thousand years, sometimes standing very close to our concept of vandalism: the comb Sö Fv1981;197 is described by three complete fuþarks, the beam Hs ATA322-2795-2011 is engraved with the inscription “fu fuþ fuþo fuþor fuþork“, the interior of church in Hemse (G 56) was painted with twenty-one fuþarks. Needless to say, we are dealing with something deeper than just teaching props. Even runestones and inscriptions in churches, the most formal types of inscriptions, contain texts like these. For example, the runestone from Gørlev bears an inscription saying: “Þjóðvé raised this stone in memory of Oðinkárr. fuþorkhniastbmlʀ. Make good use of the monument! þmkiiissstttiiilll. I placed the runes rightly. Gunni, Arnmundr” (DR 239). The church engraving from Grötlingbo even says “May Jesus be gracious to all Christian souls. Amen. Fuþork. May Jesus be gracious to Óttarr’s soul (…) Jóhan (…) fuþorkhniastblmR (…) Ólafr (…) May God be gracious to the soul. Interpret fuþorkhniastblmR (…)” (G 38). A similar wording, including the “interpret” encouragement, can be found in the church of Lye (G 104A G 104E).

To the extent that one can judge, fuþark inscriptions appear to be a formula which is related to the very essence of the runic script. The formula benefits from the completeness of the runic alphabet, whose potency ensures good luck and successful functioning. Therefore, the function of such a text can stand very close to invocation for protection.


Conclusion

If we gather enough finds, the rune whorls can be the gateway to the fascinating world of runes, runes that name the object, support and ensure the functionality and determine the owner. The combination of runic inscriptions with whorls could be perceived as an exceptionally powerful combination – in family sagas, the spindles are described as magical instruments capable of influencing the events around them. It is not impossible that a rotating motion could help activate or multiply the runic inscription functions.

Nevetherless, one question still remains. If the runic whorls were powerful enough to help, why do not we know more of them? We will not give a single explanatory answer to this question, but we can propose several sub-solutions:

  • runic whorls are creations of the superstitious part of the population
  • the mass production of ceramic whorls contradicted the custom made runic whorls
  • wood and bone rune whorls decayed
  • the same function was ensured by other decoration
  • not everyone was an intellectual craftsman
  • runic whorls solved problems of a temporary nature
  • runic whorls were not placed in graves
  • some runic whorls had a turbulent past and needed to be insured, while others were safe to use without inscriptions

Here we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


Supplement

The work on the above presented article revealed a fascinating phenomenon that lasted up to 1400 years and which unfortunately lies beyond the interest of both researchers and reenactors. This supplement is intended to serve as a starting point for all those interested in spiritual and material culture, and at the same time to inspire the reenactors to consider including inscriptions when creating replicas. The supplement is divided into archaeological and literary parts. In the archaeological part, it is possible to find lists and mapping of runic inscriptions on selected subjects. In the literary part, we include runic inscriptions mentioned in the Family sagas, Kings’ sagas, Bishops’ sagas, lawbooks and Poetic Edda. From this comparison, it is then possible to draw conclusions if there is a consensus or a difference.

Archaeological part

Rune swords, 200-1500 AD
The following list maps metal and wooden swords, scabbards and baldrics with runic inscriptions from the period 200-1500 AD.


Runic Axes and Axehammers, 200-1600 AD
The following list maps axeheads (metal and stone) and shafts with runic inscriptions from the period 200-1600 AD.


Runic Spears, 150-1100 AD
The following list maps spear-tips and shafts with runic inscriptions from the period 150-1100 AD.

 


Runic Shields, 200-1500 AD
The following list maps shield-bosses, handles and fittings with runic inscriptions from the period 200-1500 AD.


Runic Arrows, 200-1500 AD
The following list maps metal and stone arrow-tips and shafts from the period 200-1500 AD.


Runic knives, 200-1500 AD
The following list maps knives and their components (blades, handles, sheaths) with runic inscriptions from the period 200-1500 AD.


Runic Whetstones and Touchstones, 500-1600 AD
The following list maps whetstones and touchstones with runic inscriptions from the period 500-1600 AD.


Runic Belts, 200-1500 AD
The following list maps buckles and strap-ends with runic inscriptions from the period 200-1500 AD.


Runic Fishing Tools, 200-1500 AD
The following list maps runic weights and floats with runic inscriptions from 200-1500 AD.



Runic Ships and Boats, 200-1500 AD
The following list maps oars and ship/boat planks with runic inscriptions from the period 200-1500 AD.


Runic Horns, 200-1500 AD
The following list maps drinking and signal horns with runic inscriptions from the period 200-1500 AD.


Runic Vessels, 500-1500 AD
The following list maps eating bowls, cups, barrels, cauldrons, washing basins and hanging bowls that are decorated with runes.


Literary part

The list below is based on Family sagas, Kings’ sagas, Bishops’ sagas, lawbooks, and Poetic Edda. The most crucial text is Sigrdrífumál, which illustrates the existence of a spectrum of runes ranging from mundane function (engraving into objects) to intangible knowledge and mysteries (engraving into liquids, body parts of mythical beings and memory). We encompass all work with runes from this spectrum. The idea of ​​intangible runes is certainly fascinating and is broadly discussed by Jiří Starý (2004: 147-152).

When the written sources mention the writing of runes, runes primarily serve as a practical tool of understanding and a tool of gaining benefit or protection. Being the utility script, they served as well for neutral interpersonal communication as for communicating with positive or negative agents. The runes were certainly not stigmatized as pagan characters in literary sources.

Subject and context of runes usage:

  • pastime activity (Gísla saga 33; Flóamanna saga 24)
  • insult (Grágás §237; Vatnsdæla saga 34)
  • part of the production process (Gísla saga 11)
  • transmission of information (Grettis saga 66; Víglundar saga 17; Svarfdæla saga 16; Prestssaga Guðmundar góða 13; Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar 150; Hulda 68)
  • writing legal document by a mute person (Frostaþingslǫg IV: §43)
  • secret message (Gísla saga 23; Þorsteins þáttr uxafóts 3)
  • detection of poison in a drink (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 44; Sigrdrífumál 7)
  • maintaining woman’s loyalty (Sigrdrífumál 7)
  • healing (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 72; Sigrdrífumál 11)
  • childbirth (Sigrdrífumál 9)
  • successful sailing (Sigrdrífumál 10)
  • success in battle (Sigrdrífumál 6)
  • happiness (Sigrdrífumál 19)
  • avoidance of malice (Hávamál 137)
  • addressing an agent (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 57; Skírnismál 36)
  • success at the assembly (Sigrdrífumál 12)
  • evil magic (Laxdæla saga 76; Grettis saga 79)
  • gaining domination and wisdom (Sigrdrífumál 13)

The object equipped with runes:

  • a piece of wood (Gísla saga 23, 33; Laxdæla saga 76)
  • wooden stick (Grettis saga 66; Víglundar saga 17; Svarfdæla saga 16; Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar 150; Þorsteins þáttr uxafóts 3)
  • wooden scorn-pole (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 57; Vatnsdæla saga 34)
  • tree stump (Grettis saga 79)
  • bark (Sigrdrífumál 11)
  • chest (Hulda 68)
  • baleen (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 72)
  • ship (Sigrdrífumál 10)
  • helm (Sigrdrífumál 10)
  • oar (Flóamanna saga 24; Sigrdrífumál 10)
  • spear (Gísla saga 11; Sigrdrífumál 17)
  • sword (Sigrdrífumál 6)
  • shield (Sigrdrífumál 15)
  • vagon (Sigrdrífumál 15)
  • wheel (Sigrdrífumál 15)
  • sledge (Sigrdrífumál 15)
  • amulet (Sigrdrífumál 17)
  • horn (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 44; Sigrdrífumál 7)
  • wax tablets (Prestssaga Guðmundar góða 13)
  • bridge pillars (Sigrdrífumál 16)
  • thrones (Sigrdrífumál 17)
  • “glass and gold” (Sigrdrífumál 16)
  • palm, back of hand or fingernail (Sigrdrífumál 7, 10)
  • bodies of mythological beings and animals (Sigrdrífumál 15-17)
  • fluids (Sigrdrífumál 17)
  • mind (Sigrdrífumál 17)

The way how runes are applied:

  • carving (fx. Hávamál 142)
  • knife carving (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 44; Grettis saga 79)
  • carving and painting (Hávamál 144)
  • burning (Sigrdrífumál 10)

How runes are activated:

  • carving only
  • finishing of the forged product (Gísla saga 11)
  • placement in the patient’s bed (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 72)
  • contact with the body of the wearer and calling the positive agent (Sigrdrífumál 9)
  • scraping and mixing with mead (Sigrdrífumál 18)
  • smearing with own blood and recitation of verses (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 44)
  • smearing with own blood and enchanting (Grettis saga 79)
  • carving on a tree whose branches tilt to the east (Sigrdrífumál 11)
  • putting the horse’s head in the right direction and reciting verses (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 57; Vatnsdæla saga 34)
  • writing the runes in the correct sequence (Grettis saga 66; Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 72; Sigrdrífumál 12)
  • colouring runes (Hávamál 157)

How runes are disactivated:

  • scraping and burning runes, airing out (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar 72)
  • burial with the deceased (Laxdæla saga 76)
  • discarding the subject (Grettis saga 79)

Bibliography

Anderson, Sarah M. – Swenson, Karen (2002). The Cold Counsel: The Women in Old Norse Literature and Myth, New York – London : Routledge.

Andersson, Eva Birgitta (2003). Tools for Textile Production – from Birka and Hedeby, Birka studies 8, Stockholm.

Březinová, Helena (2007). Textilní výroba v českých zemích ve 13.-15. století : poznání textilní produkce na základě archeologických nálezů, Praha : Ústav pro pravěk a ranou dobu dějinnou, Filozofická fakulta, Univerzita Karlova.

Eldjárn, Kristján (2000). Kuml of haugfé, Reykjavík.

Foote, Peter – Wilson, David M. (1990). The Viking Achievement, Bath.

Hansen, Gitte – Jansen, Øystein J. – Heldal, Tom (2017). Soapstone Vessels from Town and Country in Viking Age and Early Medieval Western Norway. A Study of Provenance. In: Gitte Hansen – Per Storemyr (eds.). Soapstone in the North Quarries, Products and People 7000 BC – AD 1700, Bergen: University of Bergen, 249-328.

Janin, Valentin Lavren (2007). Středověký Novgorod v nápisech na březové kůře, Červený Kostelec.

Jesch, Judith (1991). Women in the Viking Age, Woodbridge: Boydell.

Jochens, Jenny (1995). Women in Old Norse Society, Ithaca – London: Cornell University Press.

Knirk, James E. (ed.) (1997). Nytt om runer : Meldingsblad om runeforskning, Nr. 11, Oslo.

Lang, James T., – Caulfield, Debbie (1988). Viking-age decorated wood: a study of its ornament and style, Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.

MacGregor, Athur (1985). Bone, Antler, Ivory & Horn: The Technology of Skeletal Materials Since the Roman Period, London.

Olsen, Magnus (1954). Norges innskrifter med de yngre runer, Bind III: Aust-Agder, Vest-Agder, Rogaland, Oslo.

O’Meadhra, Uaininn (1979). Early Christian, Viking and Romanesque Art: Motif-pieces from Ireland, Stockholm.

Petersen, Jan (1951). Vikingetidens redskaper. Skrifter utgitt av Det Norske videnskapsakademi i Oslo 2, Oslo.

Starý, Jiří (2004). Runové písmo. In: Souvislosti: Revue pro literaturu a kulturu, 15/3, Praha, 138-154.

Traustadóttir, Ragnheiður (2015). Spindle Whorls from Urriðakot. In: Irene Baug – Janicke Larsen – Sigrid Samset Mygland (eds.). Nordic Middle Ages – Artefacts, Landscapes and Society, Bergen: University of Bergen, 317-330.

Decorated Axe from Bašnice

In May 2019, an extraordinary militaria was found in the Czech Republic, which has not yet been published in print – an axe inlayed with silver, found in Hořice Region in eastern Bohemia. In this short article, we would like to comment on this find, put it in the context of the Central European arms tradition, and bring it to its digital form, which will better serve the public’s appreciation of this precious artifact.


Circumstances of the finding and presentation

The information available so far is not very detailed. We can safely say that the axe was found near Bašnice in the vicinity of Hořice between Jičín and Hradec Králové in May 2019. The exact location is kept secret by archaeologists because of the ongoing examination of the surroundings. It was found by a detectorist in an unplowed field near a forest at a depth of about 15 cm below ground level. As the axe did not seem very attractive to the detectorist, he left the object on a nearby stump where it was discovered by a colleague of the Museum of East Bohemia in Hradec Králové. He recognized the Early medieval axe in the artifact, and as soon as he took off a piece of corrosion, he discovered the silver decoration and reported the find. A probe was carried out on the spot that did not detect any signs of the burial ground, but archaeologists do not rule out the presence of a plowed grave.

Approximate location of the find within the Czech Republic.

From May to July, the axe was announced in Czech online media. The website of the Museum of East Bohemia in Hradec Králové (“New Find of the Inlayed Axe”, “The Secret of the Bird Axe”, “How the Unique Bird Axe was Conserved”) provided the best information about the discovery, conservation and exhibition. The object was also published on websites of main public medias – Czech Television („Hradečtí archeologové objevili unikátní sekeru. Je zdobená stříbrem“) and Czech Radio („Sekera ne za dva zlatý, ale nevyčíslitelné hodnoty. To je artefakt z 9. století zdobený stříbrem“, „Co už o sobě prozradila vzácná sekera z dob Velkomoravské říše? A kdy ji uvidí veřejnost?“, „Nález, který nemá v Česku obdoby. Na Královéhradecku našli sekeru z raného středověku“) – as well as private medias iDnes („Pole vydalo unikát, stříbrem zdobenou sekeru z dob Velké Moravy“), Deník N („Nálezce na Jičínsku objevil stříbrem zdobenou sekeru z dob Velké Moravy“), Novinky.cz („Archeologové našli unikátní, stříbrem zdobenou sekeru z dob Velké Moravy“), Lidovky.cz („Archeologové našli velkomoravskou sekeru, která v Česku nemá obdoby. Naleziště raději neprozradili“) and local newspapers Deník.cz („Jedinečný nález. Muž „zakopl” u lesa o vzácnou sekeru z dob Velké Moravy“), Hořice.org („Na Hořicku byla nalezena vzácná zdobená sekera z období Velké Moravy“), Hradecký deník („Muž „zakopl“ u lesa o vzácnou sekeru z dob Velké Moravy“), Jičínský deník („Bradatice z období Velké Moravy je unikátním nálezem“) and Hradecká drbna („V hradeckém kraji našli velkomoravskou sekeru, v ČR nemá obdoby“).

In the end of 2019, the conserved axe was exhibited in the museum, altogether with other Early medieval objects from eastern Bohemia. The exhibition was called “The Secret of the Bird Axe” and the objects were accompanied with quality description. The pictures from the exhibition can be seen here and were provided by Dominik Vencl


Brief description and analogies

During the latter part of 2019, the axe was cleaned with an ultrasonic scalpel and micro sandblasting and was preserved (for details of the preservation see Museum of East Bohemia in Hradec Králové 2020). After cleaning, the original shape of the axe and its decoration became apparent.

Photographs mapping the preservation of the axe.
Museum of East Bohemia in Hradec Králové.

The axe from Bašnice, which is assigned by local experts to vaguely defined “Great Moravian Bearded Axes”, is a well-preserved specimen of Kotowicz type IB.5.34 (Kotowicz 2018: 110-111), ie a narrow axehead with an asymmetrical beared-shaped blade, thorns on both sides and is equipped with a hammer-shaped butt with a button terminal. Kotowicz describes two basic variants of this type – the first has a flattened button and occures in the period from 8th to 10th century in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, while the second has a mushroom-like button and can be found in the period  ofrm 7th to 10th century only in Central Europe (Kotowicz 2018: 110). There is no doubt that the axe from Bašnice belongs to the second variant with a mushroom-like button. This variant was used in Avar areas in the 7th-8th centuries, but it was domesticated in the Slavic environment a century later, so we can meet this variant in today’s Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland in the 9th and 10th centuries (Kotowicz 2018: 111). The closest shape analogy is represented by the axe from Barkowice Mokre, Poland, which is significant for the blade decorated with chopped geometric ornament and a mushroom-like button (Kotowicz 2014: 15-16, Tabl. II.2; Kotowicz 2018: Pl. XII. 4), but it differs by profiled neck of the hammer. Such a feature is the most common decorative element of axes of this type, but an axe from Bašnice lacks it. Other close analogies of our axe come from Bojná, Slovakia (Kouřil 2008: Fig. 3.7), Mikulčice, Moriavia (Kouřil 2006: Fig. 4.6-7), Stará Kouřim, Bohemia (Profantová 2005: Fig. 8C.3) and Niedźwiedź, Poland (Kotowicz 2014: 89, Tabl. LIII.5). It is important to stress that type IB.5.34 belong to a bigger group of bearded axes, in which type IB.5.30 is the most dominant. IB.5.30 is widespread from Poland to Albania, but the largest concentration – probably over 100 pieces – is closely related to the Great Moravian period in Moravia, Slovakia, Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic (Hrubý 1955: 170; Kotowicz 2018: 104-109; Ruttkay 1976: 306). In other words, the shape of an axe from Bašnice indicates production in Great Moravia, Bohemia or Poland.

Nearest shape analogies of the Bašnice axe:
Kotowicz type IB.5.34 with a mushroom-like button.

Top left: Barkowice Mokre (Kotowicz 2014: Tabl. II.2); Bojná (Kouřil 2008: Obr. 3.7); Mikulčice (Kouřil 2006: Obr. 4.7); Niedźwiedź (Kotowicz 2014: Tabl. LIII.5); Stará Kouřim (Profantová 2005: Obr. 8C.3); Mikulčice (Kouřil 2006: Obr. 4.6).

 


Mapping of type IB.5.34 axes with mushroom-shaped button from 9th-10th centuries.

What makes the axe special is decoration made with inlayed silver wire. The logic of inlay is that grooves are prepared on the surface of the object and filled with contrasting material in a certain motif. Unlike overlay, the grooves correspond to the motif. Both sides of the blade of the our axe are lined with simple lines, which are doubled on the edge side. The lines are crossed at regular intervals by clusters of perpendicular lines (5-7 pieces). A pair of birds with crosses is shown in the space delimited by the lines. Motifs are not symmetrical; on one side, the birds are complemented by additional lines of crossed clusters of lines. The thorns are decorated with vertical lines, which are crossed both by clusters of lines and a large cross with a tree pattern. The sides of the hammer are decorated with central lines with clusters of lines surrounding them. The top and bottom are decorated with triangles, which are either filled with silver (on the side of the blade) or left empty (on the side of the hammer).

The symbolism of the bird appears in a number of elite objects created by Great Moravian and Přemyslid culture – belts, gombíks, knife handles, buckets, scabbards, axes, rings and decorative fittings (Vlasatý 2020). It was definitely a symbol with a positive meaning. It is very likely that the Great Moravian bird was incorporated into Christian symbolism, as indicated by liturgical vessels (Kavánová 2014), but it seems that its importance is not only linked to Christianity. Perhaps it could have a certain position in the dynastic myth or creation myth. Another possible explanation can be associated with the fact that humans have a significant prerequisite to associate with animals with which they are biobehaviorally similar; a bird could express a reflection of some desirable qualities for elites. Based on this symbolism, Bašnice axe can be connected with the cultural area of Great Moravia and early Přemyslid Bohemia.

The fact that the axe is inlaid with other metal is considered to be an unique unparalleled feature by the staff of the Hradec Králové Museum. It is true that beared axes of type IB.5.30 (with associated types IB.5.34 and IB.5.28) are rarely decorated, but at least one analogy exists. It is the axe from Bardy, Poland, which belongs to type IB.5.30 and which is inlayed with copper alloy wire on the thorns, neck and hammer (Kotowicz 2014: Tabl. II.1; Kotowicz 2018: 34-35). Even this axe is considered unique in Poland, and because of the absence of analogy, there has been speculation about Scandinavian influence, which we believe does not need to be discussed any longer (Kotowicz 2018: 35). The axe from Bašnice is 10.8 cm long, the blade is 3 cm wide and the eye is about 2 cm wide, which is significantly less than the usual for type IB.5.30 (usually 15-20 cm in length), but the axe from Bardy reaches similar dimensions (length 13.4 cm, blade width 4.6 cm, eye diameter 2.1 cm). It is also worth mentioning the length of thorns is 4.75 cm. According to Jiří Košta, curator of National Museum of Prague, the axe is therefore a miniature that was made for child burial. The same opinion shares expert Naďa Profantová that points to a small measures of IB.5.34 type axe from grave 79 from Stará Kouřimi (personal discussion with Naďa Profantová). Another decorated axe, but without applied precious metal, is the mentioned axe from Barkowice Mokre. Kotowicz suggests the possibility that the chopped grooves on some axes may have initially been filled with precious metal that rusted over time (Kotowicz 2018: 34), but we do not know if that was the case of the axe from Barkowice. The fact that both decorated axes are located in Poland, where the tradition of decorating axes was more established, may indicate the connection of the Great Moravian environment with the territory of today’s southern Poland, so we cannot exclude the possible Polish origin of Bašnice axe. Another decorated bearded axe is the axe from the grave 221 discovered in the Slovak locality Borovce; the whole surface of the axe was apparently decorated with a non-ferrous metal (Staššíková-Šťukovská – Brziak 1995). So far, only three Early medieval axes decorated with non-ferrous metal from the Czech Republic has been known – the axe-hammer from the grave 120 of Stará Kouřim, whose origin is placed in Khazar Khanate or today’s Iran (Macháček 2000), atypic broad-axe from the grave 1994 in Mikulčice that burnt during the deposit fire in 2007 (Luňák 2018: 79-80) and the axe from grave 22/05 from Klecany, which was decorated with two inlayed stripes of different copper-alloy wire (Profantová 2010: 72-74; 2015: Tab. 18.3, Fototab. 16.6).


Axe of the type IB.5.30 decorated with copper alloy wire, Bardy, Poland.
Kotowicz 2014: Tabl. II.1.

The axe from Bašnice is the 65th axe found in the Czech area that can be dated to the period od 8th-10th century (Profantová 2019: Abb. 4). Based on its shape and decoration, the axe can be dated to the period 800-950 AD, the 9th century seems more likely if we take analogies into account. The axe from Barkowice Mokre can be dated to the first half of the 9th century (Kotowicz 2018: 111), while the axe from Bardy is dated to the prioed from the beginning of the 9th to the beginning of the 10th century (Kotowicz 2014: 15). The Great Moravian axes of type IB.5.30 and associated types date to the period before downfall of Great Moravia, that means to the period from the 9th to the beginning of the 10th century. In the Czech environment, where the axe was found, the symbolism of birds was still used in the first half of the 10th century, as it was in Poland (Vlasatý 2020).


Digital reconstruction

In cooperation with Chilean industriaů designer and reenactor Carlos Benavides, we have prepared a digital reconstruction of the Bašnice axe. Images of the reconstruction and video are offered for free distribution and can be downloaded via the following link:

 


I hope you liked reading this article. If you have any question or remark, please contact me or leave a comment below. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.


 Bibliography

Hrubý, Vilém (1955). Staré Město: Velkomoravské pohřebiště „Na Valách“, Praha.

Kavánová, Blanka (2014). Rekonstrukce relikviáře z Mikulčic. In: Kouřil, Pavel (ed.). Cyrilometodějská misie a Evropa – 1150 let od příchodu soluňských bratří na Velkou Moravu, Brno, 114-117.

Kotowicz, Piotr N. (2014). Topory wczesnośredniowieczne z ziem polskich : Katalog źródeł, Rzeszów.

Kotowicz, Piotr N. (2018). Early Medieval Axes from Territory of Poland, Kraków.

Kouřil, Pavel (2006). Zu einigen Äußerungen der materiellen Nomadenkultur auf dem Mikulčicer Burgwall. K některým projevům nomádské hmotné kultury na mikulčickém hradě. In: Přehled výzkumů Archeologického ústavu AV ČR v Brně 47, Brno, 69–76.

Kouřil, Pavel (2008). Archeologické doklady nomádského vlivu a zásahu na území Moravy v závěru 9. a v 10. století. In: Štefanovičová, T. – Hulínek, D. (ed.). Bitka pri Bratislave v roku 907 a jej význam pre vývoj stredného Podunajska, Bratislava, 113–135.

Luňák, Petr (2018). Velkomoravské sekery, Brno: Masarykova univerzita [dissertation thesis].

Macháček, Jiří (2000). 07.02.02. Streitaxt. In: Wieczorek, A. – Hinz, H.-M. (eds.). Europas mitte um 1000, Katalog, Stuttgart, 162.

Museum of East Bohemia in Hradec Králové 2020 (2020). Jak se konzervovala unikátní ptačí sekerka. In: Muzeum východních Čech v Hradci Králové, visited 8.3.2020, available at https://www.muzeumhk.cz/aktuality/748-jak-se-sanovala-unikatni-ptaci-sekerka.html.

Profantová, Naďa (2005). Elita v zrcadle dětských pohřbů 9. a 10. století v Čechách. In: Študijné zvesti AÚ SAV 37, 63-78.

Profantová, Naďa et al. (2010-2015). Klecany. Raně středověká pohřebiště, 1. svazek (2015), 2. svazek (2010), Praha.

Ruttkay, Alexander (1976). Waffen und Reiterausrüstung des 9. bis zur ersten Hälfte des 14. Jahrhunderts in der Slowakei (II). In: Slovenská Archeológia XXIV / 2, Bratislava.

Staššíková-Šťukovská, Danica – Brziak, Peter (1995). Pôvod povrchových vrstiev železnej sekery z pohrebiska v Borovciach. In: Študijné zvesti AÚ SAV, 31, 1995, 193–202.

Vlasatý, Tomáš (2020). Specifický typ moravského opasku. In: Projekt Forlǫg : Reenactment a věda. Available at: http://sagy.vikingove.cz/specificky-typ-moravskeho-opasku/