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The Ritual Use of Brooches in Early Medieval Forts on Öland, Sweden

  • Jan-Henrik Fallgren (a1) and John Ljungkvist (a1)
Abstract

In 2010, the largest find of exquisite gilded silver brooches ever made in Scandinavia came to light during a metal detector survey in a small fort on Öland in the Baltic Sea. It consisted of five hoards buried in five different houses within the fort. The brooches were of the Dreiknopfbügelfbeln/radiate-headed and relief types. Three of the hoards also contained large quantities of beads and pendants, some quite exclusive and rare. In addition, the upper part of another relief brooch probably belonged to a sixth hoard ploughed up in the late nineteenth century. In 2011, Kalmar County Museum excavations at the site of these hoard finds also revealed the traces of a massacre. Though a connection between the deposition of the hoards and the massacre is plausible, several elements suggest that the deposits are ritual in character and unrelated to the attack on the fort. The regular placing of the hoards in the right corner inside the entrance of the houses suggests ritual acts, and the composition of the hoards demonstrates that the deposits are symbolic. We conclude that the hoards and the brooches are props belonging to the interior of the forts and to activities conducted inside them; they may have been worn by some women during rituals. Why these hoards were left in the Sandby fort is, however, no doubt related to its destruction.

En 2010 le plus grand ensemble de fibules en argent doré jamais retrouvé en Scandinavie fut découvert au cours d'une prospection au détecteur de métaux à l'intérieur d'une petite enceinte située sur l’île d’Öland en mer Baltique. Il s'agit de cinq trésors enfouis dans cinq maisons à l'intérieur de l'enceinte. Les fibules sont de types connus sous le nom de Dreiknopfbügelfibeln (fibules à arc et trois boutons) ou des fibules à tête décorée en relief. Trois ensembles contenaient aussi de grandes quantités de perles et de pendentifs, dont certains de type rare. De plus, la partie supérieure d'une autre fibule ornée en relief faisait probablement partie d'un sixième dépôt endommagé par les labours de la fin du dix-neuvième siècle. Les fouilles entreprises par le musée du Comté de Kalmar en 2011 sur l'emplacement de ces trésors ont également relevé les traces d'un massacre. Bien qu'un lien entre les dépôts et le massacre soit possible, plusieurs éléments suggèrent que les dépôts d'objets de parure étaient d'ordre rituel et n’étaient pas liés à l'assaut sur l'enceinte. L'emplacement récurrent des trésors dans l'angle à droite de l'entrée des maisons indique qu'il s'agit d'actes rituels et la composition des ensembles d'objets démontre que ces dépôts remplissaient une fonction symbolique. Nous en concluons que ces trésors et fibules étaient des accessoires faisant partie des enceintes et impliqués dans les activités menées à l'intérieur; peut-être certaines femmes portaient ces parures lors de cérémonie rituelles. Sans doute la destruction de l'enceinte de Sandby a empêché ses habitants de récupérer leurs trésors. Translation by Madeleine Hummler

Der größte Fund von vergoldeten Silberfibeln in Skandinavien wurde in Jahre 2010 in einer kleinen Befestigung auf der Insel Öland in der Ostsee geborgen. Es handelt sich um fünf Schatzfunde, die in fünf verschiedenen Häusern innerhalb der Befestigung von Sandby verborgen waren. Die Fibeln sind Dreiknopfbügelfibeln und Bügelfibeln mit reliefverziertem Kopf. Drei Fundstellen enthielten auch zahlreiche Perlen und Anhänger, darunter einige seltene und außergewöhnliche Exemplare. Der obere Teil einer anderen reliefverzierten Bügelfibel weist auf einen sechsten Schatzfund, der im späten neunzehnten Jahrhundert umgepflügt wurde. In 2011 haben die Ausgrabungen, die das Museum von Kalmar in Bereich der Schatzfunde unternahm, auch die Spuren eines Massakers freigelegt. Obschon man die Deponierung der Schatzfunde mit diesem Massaker in Zusammenhang bringen könnte, weisen verschiedene Umstände eher auf den rituellen Charakter der Deponierungen, also ohne Beziehung auf die Eroberung der Befestigung. Die regelmäßig beobachtete Lage der Schatzfunde im rechten Winkel innerhalb der Hauseingänge deutet auf rituelle Handlungen, und die Zusammenstellung der Befunde zeigt, dass die Deponierung symbolisch war. Wir kommen zum Schluss, dass die Schatzfunde und Fibeln als Requisiten der Tätigkeiten innerhalb der Befestigungen dienten; möglicherweise waren sie von gewissen Frauen getragen, vielleicht bei bestimmten rituellen Gelegenheiten. Die Zerstörung der Befestigung von Sandby ist sehr wahrscheinlich für die Aufgabe der Schatzfunde verantwortlich. Translation by Madeleine Hummler

Copyright
Corresponding author
[email: henke.fallgren@hotmail.com]
[email: john.ljungkvist@arkeologi.uu.se]
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