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Viking-Beads-art - 3/5/10


"Viking Beads" by Lady Sileas ni Dhomhnaill of Goldenoak.


NOTE: See also the files: beads-msg, amber-msg, pearls-msg, jewelry-msg, glass-bib, glass-lnks, glasswork-msg, lampwrk-beads-lnks, horn-msg, bone-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



This is the documentation from one of the author's A&S contest entries.


Viking Beads

by Lady Sileas ni Dhomhnaill of Goldenoak


Based on the findings at Fröjel Viking Port of Trade and the reports and writings of

Dan Carlsson

Archaeologist and Associate Professor  

(Associate Professor Dan Carlsson ArkeoDok Blåeldsvägen 3 S-621 50 Visby, Swedeninfo at arkeodok.com)



A collection of Viking beads found at the Fröjel excavations.


Most of the surviving glass beads from the Viking era have been located at important trading sites such as Birka, Ribe and Hedeby in Schleswig where the beads were brought in from those parts of the world where glass making and bead production was more commonplace.  However, there are indications that not only the finished beads were imported, but also broken pieces of glass were also brought in and used in local production of glass beads.


It is clear from the evidence uncovered in the graves excavated at this site that beads were worn primarily by the women in this Viking society.  The women wore a variety of beads strung on fine string or cords and during the iron age they would have been worn across the bust and fastened by thin metal fasteners on each side.  During the Viking era, around the 10th Century, the beads they wore would have been fastened by zoomorphic brooches.  There is evidence also that in some places women wore their beads strung in necklaces and worn around the neck.


Glass beads were such a precious commodity in the Viking era, that the number and quality of the beads that a woman wore would be an indication of the relative wealth of her husband and family.


Beads of glass were so valuable at that time that they were often used as currency.  Although the women primarily wore beads made of glass in the Viking era, however there were also some beads discovered made of bone, amber, rock crystal, metal, limestone and animal horn.           

Round yellow bead. Diameter 10 mm. Copyright Dan Carlsson


Most of the glass beads found have been rather opaque, and looked like they were made of clay rather than glass.  This has probably more to do with the process of making the bead rather than the quality of the glass.  When the glass is heated at too low a temperature, it often takes on a muddy or gray appearance partly because not all the gasses are released from the glass.  (This often happens today when a beginner bead maker fires a bead too close to the torch head where the flame is cooler)


G:\DCIM\viking beads and pins\Viking beads by Sileas.JPG


Beads of different kinds from one of the female graves      Viking bead replicas made Sept. 2009 by Dianne Grant /

at Fröjel, Gotland. Normally, there were many different      Lady Sileas ni Dhomhnaill of Goldenoak.

kinds of beads. The grave is from the 9th C.                     Photo by Dianne Grant

Photo D.Carlsson


After several years of excavating at the Fröjel site, a harbour and trading settlement have been discovered which spanned from the late 6th Century to about AD1180. (Carlsson 1999).  Activities at the port seemed to have peaked during the end of the 11th Century and into the early part of the 12th Century.


There are two areas of interest at the Fröjel site, a settlement area and the graves.  At the Fröjel site there have been approximately 400 beads found, mostly from the settlement area, dating from the 8th to the 12th Centuries and most of these were made from glass.  In addition, there have been several unfinished beads located as well as broken bits of glass in a variety of shapes and colours probably the raw materials for manufacturing beads nearby


The beads found in the graves can be organized into two different categories, one from a pagan cemetery dating from the 7th to the 11th Century, and one from an earl Christian cemetery dated to the 11th  and 12th Centuries.


The glass beads found at the Fröjel site can be divided into the following groups:  Single coloured made of opaque glass 87, multi-coloured made of opaque glass 25, transparent beads 24, amber 9, amethyst and carnelian 9, rock crystal 11. To these could be added 9 beads of limestone (four made of fossils), 14 bead of bone/antler (rosary bead), and one of gold.


The beads vary in size from the smallest at only a couple of millimetres, to the largest with a diameter of three and a half centimetres.  (This huge irregularly shaped bead is made of rock crystal).


The beads also are of a variety of shapes, from the irregular shaped rock crystal bead to the tiny perfectly round glass beads. Some of the most common of the multi-coloured beads are triangular in shape and have white dots in each corner.

                               a single Viking bead.jpg


An example of a multi-coloured bead from Fröjel.              Single Viking replica bead, 1cm in diameter

A little more then 1 cm high. Photo D. Carlsson                by Sileas ni Dhomhnaill.


However, the most common shape and colour of the beads found at the Fröjel site is the single coloured bead about 1cm in diameter as illustrated above.  

Based on the findings at the Fröjel site, the beads I have made for her Majesty, Brenwen the Faire are approximately 1cm in diameter, and coloured according to the photographs in Dan Carlsson`s paper on the Fröjel finds, and included in this documentation.


Dianne Grant

(Sileas ni Dhomhnaill of Golden Oak Inn, Barony of Ruantallan, East Kingdom)



Callmer, Johan.  Trade Beads and Bead Trade in Scandinavia ca. 800 – 1000 A.D.


Carlsson, Dan.  Viking Beads from Gotland, Sweden,  ArkeoDok  www.arkeodok.com


Laing, Lloyd.      The Archaeology of Late Celtic Britain and Ireland c. 400 – 1200 A.D.  



Copyright 2009 by Dianne Grant. <pangur2 at hotmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted.

   Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org