The Celtic harness found buried with a Viking woman in Norway (Photo: Åge Hojem / NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology)

Stunning Celtic Horse Harness Became Treasured Brooch of Norwegian Viking Woman

(Read the article on one page)

During the summer of 2016, a beautiful bronze brooch was found opportunely at Agdenes farm, at the outermost part of the Trondheim Fjord in mid-Norway, buried as a status symbol in the grave of a Viking woman.  An analysis of the precious artifact revealed that it is a 9th century ornament that was originally a Celtic horse harness and was likely stolen during Viking raids in Ireland.  

The Decorations Imply that the Jewelry Was Designed in Ireland

The well-maintained piece of jewelry is an ornament with a bird figure that has fish or dolphin like patterns on both sides. The decorations suggest that it was probably created in a Celtic workshop, probably in Ireland, between the 8th and 9th century. What’s more surprising though, it’s the fact that it was originally used as a fitting for a horse’s harness. The holes at the bottom and traces of rust from a needle on the back, reveal that it had probably been turned into a brooch at a later stage.

Some of you might wonder now how a fitting from an Irish horse’s harness ended up being brooch for a Norwegian Viking but those who are familiar with Vikings, a successful historical drama television series written and created by Michael Hirst for the channel History, shouldn’t be surprised. As the show clearly shows, Norwegian Vikings took part in relentless raids of the British Isles.

According to Heritage Daily, Aina Margrethe Heen Pettersen, a doctoral student at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Historical Studies, works with finds brought to Norway during the Viking age and verifies what the popular TV series shows, “A housewife in Mid-Norway probably received the fitting as a gift from a family member who took part in one or more Viking raids to Ireland or Great Britain. When she died, the jewelry was given to her as a burial gift. It has stayed underground until it was found by chance this summer.” She also adds that this is not the first time they have found such pieces of jewelry from that era in a woman’s grave, and speculates that this was a way for Vikings to show their love to their women after they returned from their conquests to the British Isles.

Vikings undertook relentless raids of the British Isles. Thorir Hund kills King Olaf at the Battle of Stiklestad

Vikings undertook relentless raids of the British Isles. Thorir Hund kills King Olaf at the Battle of Stiklestad (public domain)

The Visual and Cultural Significance of The Symbols

It looks like love and affection weren’t the only reason Vikings handed such objects to their women, or other female family members. The Vikings who participated in the early raids to the British Isles and made it back alive, gave these objects to female family members not just as gifts but also as trophies that gave them a prestigious status within the Viking societies. The fittings were then transformed into pieces of jewelry, and were worn on traditional Norse clothing as brooches, pendants or belt fittings. Heen Pettersen says about this common practice that became a tradition, “As a result, it became clear to everyone that those women had family members who had taken part in successful expeditions far away. There are traces of gold on the surface of the jewelry, so it was originally covered in gold. It therefore appeared to be more valuable than it actually was. In addition, each piece of jewelry was unique, so the owner did not risk having the housewife next door turn up with the same piece of jewelry.”

An example of how a Viking woman would have worn her brooch.

An example of how a Viking woman would have worn her brooch.

The Grave Has Been Disturbed

Heen Pettersen claims that the impressive jewelry was discovered by a civilian with a metal detector so it can’t be considered a find from an archaeological site that was officially excavated. Additionally, the fact that the bronze brooch was not found in the original grave, clearly shows that the grave was disturbed at some point. Regardless these misfortunes, Heen Pettersen is pretty satisfied with the finding and says to Heritage Daily that its cultural and historical value is undeniable, “The new find from Agdenes farm shows that the area was populated in the first part of the Viking Age. Even though it is a random find, it is a nice reminder that Mid-Norway was involved in the early contact with the British Isles.”

Top image: The Celtic harness found buried with a Viking woman in Norway (Photo: Åge Hojem / NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology)

By Theodoros Karasavvas

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.

Myths & Legends

An image of Enki from the Adda cylinder seal.
In the belief system of the Sumerians, Enki (known also as Ea by the Akkadians and Babylonians) was regarded to be one of the most important deities. Originally Enki was worshipped as a god of fresh water and served as the patron deity of the city of Eridu (which the ancient Mesopotamians believe was the first city to have been established in the world). Over time, however, Enki’s influence grew and this deity was considered to have power over many other aspects of life, including trickery and mischief, magic, creation, fertility, and intelligence.

Ancient Technology

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.

Ancient Places

Can Different Religions Peacefully Share a Sacred Site? A Temple Mount Tragedy
One of the major points of contention between Israel and the Arab/Moslem world is over the most sacred piece of real estate on the planet. At 37 acres, the Temple Mount is the focal point of prayer and contention for the three western religious traditions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While Christianity has Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem vying for spiritual “seniority;” and Islam has Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem; Judaism has Jerusalem, and Jerusalem, and Jerusalem.

Opinion

El Caracol Observatory at Chichen Itza (Wright Reading/CC BY-NC 2.0) and Composite 3D laser scan image of El Caracol from above
In 1526, the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and found most of the great Maya cities deeply eroded and unoccupied. Many generations removed from the master builders, engineers, and scientists who conceived and built the cities, the remaining Maya they encountered had degenerated into waring groups who practiced blood rituals and human sacrifice.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article