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Typology of Fire Strikers From the Viking Age Denmark

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Following the previously published overview Typology of Fire Strikers From the Viking Age Norway, I decided to make a similar list for the territory of historical Denmark from the 8th to the 11th century. Apart from present-day Denmark, northern Germany up to the level of the Eider River and the southern Swedish province of Skåne are included to historic Denmark.

In the following post, we define three main categories:

Type 1 – one-sided fire striker with two arms
Type 2 – one-sided fire striker with bronze handle
Type 3 – double-sided fire striker

Fire strikers range in size from 45 mm to 115 mm, with the most common length varying between 70-90 mm. They are very often designed in such a way that they can be hung. The list is not complete. I am sure there are many more finds that are not included. If you find a piece that I missed, please let me know. Thank you.


Type 1.1

Numbers:
One find is known from Haithabu (Westphalen 2002: 223), another from the BG grave in Kaagården (Grøn – Krag – Bennike 1994: Fig. 124.2). A similar specimen, but closer to type 1.5, found in a grave from the Föhr (Eisenschmidt 2004: 652).

Comment:
A simple striker made in such a way that arms extend from the striking surface and are bent upwards, but do not touch and there is a large gap between them. The find from Kaagården can be described as lyre-shaped. The upper part of the striking surface is slightly raised. Corresponds to type 4 according to Westphalen. Length: 46-78 mm.

The find from Haithabu. Source: Westphalen 2002: Abb. 106.4.


Type 1.2

Numbers:
3 pieces found in Haithabu (Westphalen 2002: 223). Two pieces were found in Aggersborg (Roesdahl et al. 2014: 258), one in Fyrkat (Roesdahl 1977: Fig. 17a). One find discovered in Århus Søndervold (Andersen – Crabb – Madsen 1971: 141). Another find comes from Ljungbacka (Pedersen 2014: 130). Examples of this type are also known from barrow b of the site of Nebel, grave 19 from Süderende and a grave from Tating-Esing (Eisenschmidt 2004: 652). Miniatures of this type are used as pendants, as evidenced by a find from Lejre (Christensen 2015: Fig. 11.10).

Comment:
A simple striker made in such a way that arms extend from the striking surface and are bent upwards towards each other and do not form volutes. Some striking surfaces are higher triangular or rounded. Corresponds to type 5 according to Westphalen. Length: 69-73 mm.

Finds from Haithabu. Source: Schietzel 2014: 222.


Type 1.3

Numbers:
A unique find originating from grave A1636 from Lejre (Christensen 2015: Fig. 8.10).

Comment:
A simple one-sided striker created in such a way that arms extend from the striking surface and are bent towards each other and subsequently welded together.

The find from Lejre. Source: Christensen 2015: Fig. 8.10.


Type 1.4

Numbers:
An unusual find known from grave 1642 in Lindholm Høje, the 8th century (Ramskou 1976: 77, Fig. 268). One medieval find is known from Ribe.

Comment:
A simple striker made in such a way that arms extend from the striking surface and are bent towards each other and form volutes towards the inside. Length: 77 mm.

The find from Lindholm Høje. Source: Ramskou 1976: Fig. 268, jonas-bigler.dk.


Type 1.5

Numbers:
13 pieces found in Haithabu (Westphalen 2002: 222). One piece found at the PK-banken site in Lund (Mårtensson 1976: Fig. 194), one piece in Aggersborg (Roesdahl et al. 2014: 258), one piece in Fyrkat (Roesdahl 1977: Fig. 17b), one piece in Århus Søndervold (Andersen – Crabb – Madsen 1971: 141), one piece in grave BB from Bogøvej (Grøn – Krag – Bennike 1994: Fig. 124.3), one piece from the grave VI from Tjæreborg (Stoumann 2009: 120) and at least one piece in Tissø. Individual finds also come from graves 3, 8 and 29 from Nebel, a grave from Alkersum, a grave from Goting, a grave from Föhr, graves 71 and 95 from Morsum, grave 25 from Kosel and grave 2 from Langballigau (Eisenschmidt 2004: 652). Miniatures of this type are used as pendants, as evidenced by finds from Hesselbjerg (Andersen – Klindt-Jensen 1970: 31), Tissø (Jørgensen 2003: Fig. 15.18) and Vaalse (Koktvedgaard Zeitzen 1997: 19).

Comment:
The most common type of Danish strikers, called type R426 in Norway. Arms extend from the striking surface, are bent towards each other and subsequently create volutes outwards. Arms can touch each other. Some striking surfaces are higher triangular or rounded. Corresponds to type 1 according to Westphalen. Length: 60-90 mm.

The find from Haithabu. Source: Schietzel 2014: 222.


Type 1.6

Numbers:
A unique piece found in the settlement of Kosel-West (Meier 1994: Taf. 21.20).

Comment:
A modification of the previous shape, which is distinguished by the fact that the arms are twisted and the volutes are high, S-shaped.

The find from Kosel. Source: Meier 1994: Taf. 21.20.


Type 1.7

Numbers:
One piece known from Haithabu (Westphalen 2002: 223), another one comes from the mound 34 I from Nebel (Eisenschmidt 2004: 652). One settlement find is known from Ribe.

Comment:
Arms extend from the striking surface, are bent towards each other and subsequently create volutes towards the outside. The upper part of the striking surface is formed by a separate rod, which creates a frame, which is filled with wavy rod. Corresponds to type 3 according to Westphalen. Length: 82 mm.

The find from Haithabu. Source: Schietzel 2014: 222.


Type 1.8

Numbers:
A unique piece found at the site of Tissø. Not yet published in the literature. Another potential find comes from the settlement of Ribe.

Comment:
Arms extend from the striking surface, are bent towards each other and subsequently create volutes towards the outside. The upper part of the striking surface is formed by a separate rod, which creates a ring that serves as an eyelet.

The find from Tissø. Source: jonas-bigler.dk, natmus.dk.


Type 1.9

Numbers:
A unique piece found in Haithabu.

Comment:
Arms extend from the striking surface, are bent towards each other and subsequently create volutes towards the outside. However, the striking surface is significantly high and there is a hole in it. Corresponds to type 2 according to Westphalen. Length: 79 mm.

The find from Haithabu. Source: Schietzel 2014: 222.


Type 1.10

Numbers:
A unique piece found at the site of Tissø. Not yet published in the literature.

Comment:
The striking part has a high rounded superstructure and short, curved and pointed arms. Between the striking surface and the superstructure there is an opening used for suspension.

The find from Tissø. Source: natmus.dk.


Type 2.1

Numbers:
One find is known from Haithabu (Capelle 1968: 110), another one is from the site of Gyldensgård, Bornholm (Williams 2014: 40). Another find is related to detector activity and is registered in the DIME system under the number 15924. Several more specimens are known, which are either registered under the wrong designation or have not been published so far.

Comment:
A striker with an iron striking part and a bronze handle, shaped in the shape of two horsemen. This type is considered an Eastern import, as the closest analogies come from Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Gotland, Latvia, Russia, Hungary and Bulgaria. The length of the find from Haithabu is 63 mm.

The find from Haithabu. Source: Capelle 1968: Taf. 17.2.

Distribution map according to Lehtosalo-Hilander 1982: Fig. 21.


Type 2.2

Numbers:
One striker comes from the site of Tæbring (Mikkelsen – Moltsen – Sindbæk 2008: Fig. 11c). Other finds are related to the detector activity and are registered in the DIME system under the numbers 9517, 9923, 78162, 99819, 170488 and 171657. Several more finds are known, which are either registered under the wrong designation or have not been published so far. One such find is, for example, the striker from Åsum in Fyn.

Comment:
A striker with an iron striking part and a bronze handle, shaped other than the shape of two horsemen. The handle is usually roof-shaped and openwork. Each piece is original, some strikers are gold-plated.

The find from Tæbring. Source: Mikkelsen – Moltsen – Sindbæk 2008: Fig. 11c.


Type 3.1

Numbers:
2 pieces found in Trelleborg (Nørlund 1948: Taf. XXIX.11,13).

Comment:
A simple double-sided striker made of a tongue-shaped or elliptical piece, which is equipped with a hole for hanging. Length unknown.

Finds from Trelleborg. Source: Nørlund 1948: Taf. XXIX.11,13.


Type 3.2

Numbers:
2 pieces found in Haithabu (Westphalen 2002: 223). One find comes from Trelleborg (Nørlund 1948: Taf. XXIX.12). One fragmentary find apparently discovered in the grave of DÅ in Kaagården (Grøn – Krag – Bennike 1994: Fig. 124.1).

Comment:
A simple striker made in such a way that a single arm extends from the striking surface and is bent into a hook or S-shaped loop. Corresponds to type 6 according to Westphalen. Length: 66-76 mm.

The find from Haithabu. Source: Westphalen 2002: Abb. 106.6.


Type 3.3

Numbers:
4 pieces found in Haithabu (Westphalen 2002: 223). One piece found at the PK-banken site in Lund (Mårtensson 1976: Fig. 194). One find comes from the 11th century horizon from Viborg Søndersø (Jantzen 1998: 190, Fig. 18). One find from the 11th century comes from the site of Fribrødre Å (Skamby Madsen – Klassen 2010: 269, Fig. 169). One drop-shaped find comes from Trelleborg (Nørlund 1948: Taf. XXIX.14).

Comment:
Double-sided striker in the shape of a perforated, lenticular or drop-shaped frame with an empty hole inside. Corresponds to type 7 according to Westphalen. One Haithabu find has a hole for hanging at one end, which explains the find from Fribrødre Å, where an identical hole is found with a chain attached. The length varies between 67-95 mm.

The find from Haithabu. Source: Westphalen 2002: Taf. 84.15-17.


Type 3.4

Numbers:
Unique, found at the PK-banken location in Lund (Mårtensson 1976: Fig. 194). Inv. no. KM 66166:1280, dated to 1st half of 11th century.

Comment:
Striker in the shape of a perforated frame, in the opening of which there is a decorative wavy band. At one end, there is a simple imperfectly closed ring for hanging. Length 115 mm, apparently in the damaged state.

The find from Lund. Source: Mårtensson 1976: Fig. 194.


Type 3.5

Numbers:
2 pieces found in the site of Goting, in grave 117 and in one in a grave without number (Eisenschmidt 2004: 652).

Comment:
A tongue-shaped striker similar to the letter V with a central openwork and usually also a handle cast from bronze. This type is considered a Baltic import, the closest analogies come from Sweden, Finland, Poland and Estonia.

The find from Goting. Source: Eisenschmidt 2004: Taf. 78.5.


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Bibliography

Andersen, H. H. – Crabb, P. J. – Madsen, H. J. (1971). Århus Søndervold – en Byarkaeologisk Undersøkelse, København.

Andersen, H. H. – Klindt-Jensen, Ole (1970). Hesselbjerg. En gravplads fra vikingetid. In: Kuml 20, 31-42.

Capelle, Torsten (1968). Der Metallschmuck von Haithabu : Studien zur wikingischen Metallkunst. Die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu 5, Neumünster.

Eisenschmidt, Silke (2004). Grabfunde des 8. bis 11. Jahrhunderts zwischen Kongeå und Eider: zur Bestattungssitte der Wikingerzeit im südlichen Altdänemark, Neumünster.

Grøn, O. – Krag, A. H. – Bennike, P. (1994). Vikingetidsgravpladser på Langeland, Rudkøbing.

Christensen, Tom (2015). Lejre bag myten. De arkæologiske udgravninger, Højbjerg.

Jantzen, Connie (1998). Genstande af metal. In: Hjermind. J. – Iversen, M. – Kristensen, H. K. (red.). Viborg Søndersø 1000- 1300. Byarkæologiske undersøgelser 1981 og 1984-85, Viborg, 185-213.

Jørgensen, Lars (2003). Manor and Market at Lake Tissø in the Sixth to Eleventh centuries: The Danish ‘Productive’ Sites. In: Pestell, T. – Ulmschneider, K. (eds.). Markets in Early Medieval Europe. Trading and ‘Productive’ Sites, 650-850, Bollington, 175-207.

Koktvedgaard Zeitzen, Miriam (1997). Amulets and Amulet Use in Viking Age Denmark. In: Acta Archaeologica 68, 1–74.

Lehtosalo-Hilander, Pirkko-Liisa (1982). Luistari II. The artefacts, Helsinki.

Meier, Dietrich (1994). Die wikingerzeitliche Siedlung von Kosel (Kosel-West), Kreis Rendsburg-Eckernförde, Neumünster.

Mikkelsen, P. – Moltsen, A. S. A. – Sindbæk, S. M. (2008). Tæbring, NW Denmark, AD 600-1100. In: Acta Archaeologica 79 (1), 79–109.

Mårtensson, A. W. (1976). Uppgrävt förflutet för PKbanken i Lund. Archaeologica Lundensia, VII, Lund.

Nørlund, Poul (1948). Trelleborg, København.

Pedersen, Anne (2014). Dead Warriorsin Living Memory. A study of weapon and equestrian burialsin Viking-age Denmark, AD 800-1000, Publications from the National Museum. Studies in Archaeology & History Vol. 20:1 1. (Text), Copenhagen.

Ramskou, Thorkild (1976). Lindholm Høje : Gravpladsen, København.

Roesdahl, Else (1977). Fyrkat : en jysk vikingeborg. Bind 2, Oldsagerne og gravpladsen, København.

Roesdahl, E. – Sindbæk, S. M. – Pedersen, A. – Wilson, D. M. (ed.) (2014). Aggersborg : The Viking-Age settlement and fortress, Højbjerg.

Schietzel, Kurt (2014). Spurensuche Haithabu, Neumünster – Hamburg.

Skamby Madsen, Jan – Klassen, Lutz (2010). Fribrødre Å: A Late 11th Century Ship-handling Site on Falster, Højbjerg.

Stoumann, Ingrid (2009). Ryttergraven fra Grimstrup : og andre vikingetidsgrave ved Esbjerg, Ribe.

Westphalen, Petra (2002). Die Eisenfunde von Haithabu. Die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu 10, Neumünster.

Williams, Gareth (ed.) (2014). Vikings: Life and Legend, London.

4 Responses

  1. I was searching for a fire striker appropriate for a Danish Viking impression for most of 2022. I looked through all the examples displayed at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen as well as various local museums around the capital. I did not notice any types you have not already covered in the article, and it seemed like the most common types were 1.2 and 1.5, which are vaguely similar anyway. I went to several markets over the summer, but did not find a single fire striker that looked like the historical examples. They were all far too large, often around 90-120mm and very thick. I would guess they weighed at least twice as much as the ones I saw in the museums. The openings were also commonly too large – it seems like some people believe a fire striker should be worn like a knuckleduster. I ended up making a type 1.2 myself with a length of 70mm. Oversized fire strikers seem like a very wide spread reenactorism that I have not heard anyone else talk about.

    I really enjoy these typology articles, they are very good at giving an overview of the archaeological material and how common the different types are across regions.

  2. Tomáš,

    Back in the early 90s I lived in Kadiköy, Istanbul. In an old junk shop there I bought an object which I wore around my neck as a pendant for a while before ever contemplating its original use or meaning. I have known for a while now that it is striking steel and the design is quite different from those you show here. Importantly, I think, iot has a rudimentary Christian cross on one side which may be a representation of Calvary. The striking area is worn with ridges showing generous use. It is possible that it may have belonged to a Varangian Guard who might have converted to Christianity in Byzantium. If you provide me with an email address I will send images which you are free to use as you see fit.

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