A viking king on a horse found on Eastern Funen
27. May 2016 | Vikingemuseet Ladby
The extraordinary find may give us a hint to what the Ladby king may have looked like.
A figure dressed for battle rides his noble steed at a dignified pace. The rider wears a close-fitting helmet with nosepiece, in his right hand he holds a sword and appears to have a firm grasp on the horse’s reins. His leg is hidden behind a big round shield with a distinct shield boss. In his left hand he holds a mace, lying upon his shoulder. Apart from harness, the horse wears some kind of decorated cloth or caparison with a pattern similar to the Viking Age’s characteristic interlaced ornamentation. Its tale is long and nicely combed. Its ear is turned slightly backwards and it actually looks a little fierce and prepared to fight – a true fighting horse!
You can still see the remnants of the tinning, which covered the bronze ornament when it was new and made it look like silver.
A riding king
A good craftsman made the expressive figure, which is only three centimeters high and has been worn as a dress ornament (a fibula) between 1000 and 1200 years ago. But who was he? Was he a man on his way to battle or a Viking prince parading his signs of dignity? We know from different grave finds – among others the Ladby King’s grave – that riding horses with distinguished-looking harness were reserved for society’s upper classes. Decorated spurs were a sign of dignity showing the owner’s rank, even when he wasn’t on horseback. Another interesting thing is the mace he holds upon his shoulder. In the famous Bayeux tapestry from 1066 William the Conqueror is depicted in several scenes holding a mace in his hand or upon his shoulder. The mace was an effective weapon, but it also functioned as a baton and it was a status symbol for a long time.
It seems that what we have here, is a contemporary picture of a Viking king – it could be the Ladby King or one of his equals – and it is quite a sensation. We know of other fibulas shaped as horses or riders. But these are always armed riding women – Odin’s Valkyries who gathered the fallen warriors on the battle field.
The Viking King from Hindsholm is one of the incredibly beautiful and interesting detector finds the museum has received in the past six months. From June 4th to September 4th it can be seen at Vikingemuseet Ladby along with “Christ from Aunslev” and several others in the exhibition “Old and new gods”.