Odin has arisen

12. October 2016 | Archaeology

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A fine little figure, only 5 cm (2”) tall, popped out of the earth in late August when metal-detector operator Søren Andersen searched for metal artefacts in a field near Mesinge. The figure is of a man with a beard and a well-groomed pageboy haircut. Its most remarkable feature is an impressive headdress with two “horns”. The figure is from the 8th century and possibly represents the god Odin from Nordic mythology.

“It’s such a handsome figure, and we feel almost blessed by the gods here in eastern Funen. In the spring, a figure of Jesus rose from the soil in Aunslev, and now Odin has revealed himself from the earth in Mesinge,” says Claus Frederik Sørensen, who is department head of Landscape and Archaeology for the Museums of Eastern Funen.

When we read comics or films about the Vikings, they are often portrayed with striking horns on their helmets. Archaeologists have spent thousands of hours explaining to museum guests that Vikings didn’t really have horns on their helmets. How, then, can they explain the figure with the horned headdress?

Archaeologist Malene Refshauge Beck from the Museums of Eastern Funen tells this story:

“They aren’t horns, the figure has on its helmet, but birds. It’s very likely that what we see is a representation of or a symbol for Odin’s two trusted companions, the ravens he called Hugin and Munin. We know of similar brooches with helmeted or bird-carrying warriors from several unusual and rich Viking sites, among them Tissø in western Sjælland, Uppåkra in Skåne, Sweden and Staraja Ladoga in Russia, to name a few. On several of the other finds, the tips of the horns have bird heads. On the figure from Mesinge, the tips have possibly broken off.”

The Odin-figure was originally part of a brooch, a so-called ring brooch, worn proudly by a Viking man between 700 and 800 AD.

On Friday, October 14, the Odin-figure will be put on display with some of the other spectacular detector-finds found in 2016, at the Viking Museum at Ladby.

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