January’s find: Gripping beasts in a flock

04. February 2016 | The Viking Museum Ladby

Three small gripping beasts hold the Find of the Month for January together. They wrestle on a trefoil brooch in solid silver found in Kertinge Mark just a kilometer to the west of the Ladby Ship.

A little bit of one of the brooch’s three lobes is missing, and it’s had some very rough treatment, broken apart, in all likelihood, by farm machinery. It’s quite an achievement that it was possible nonetheless to find almost all of it with the help of a metal detector and some perseverance.

Magnificent piece in Borre style
We are really talking about a magnificent piece, where the whole surface is covered with gripping beasts (in what is called the Borre style) with their characteristic round snouts and Mickey Mouse ears. The Borre style can be dated to the last half of the 9th century and the first half of the 10th century. The style is known, among other things, for an object found in the burial of the Ladby king, a so-called prince’s sceptre, a status symbol. The heads of three gripping beasts meet in the middle of the brooch, and their bodies, arms and legs tie knots around themselves; they each fill out a lobe of the brooch in a handsome pattern.

Trefoil brooches
Trefoil brooches were used by women in the Danish context. In grave finds, they lie on the chest of the deceased and are often interpreted as brooches that held a cape or another outer garment together. Originally, trefoil brooches were used, elsewhere in Europe, by soldiers, as buckles on their sword belts. The earliest trefoil brooches in Denmark are dated to the early 9th century; they have, however, a much simpler decoration with geometric patterns. The beautiful trefoil silver brooch from Kertinge Mark was, without a doubt, worn with pride by a Viking woman. But - did she drop it? Was it from a grave, or perhaps from the remains of a collection of metal scraps intended to be melted down? We don’t know yet, but we hope to be much the wiser during the years to come.

See it at the Viking Museum
Until the end of February, the trefoil brooch will be on exhibit at the Viking Museum at Ladby, along with other detector finds from Kertinge Mark.


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