NLM-7F954A: Early Medieval Odin Pendant

Rights Holder: North Lincolnshire Museum
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PENDANT

Unique ID: NLM-7F954A

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Circular pendant made from cast silver. The front has gilded but now worn relief decoration of the Norse god Odin and his attendant ravens, Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory). The effect is of cast decoration which has then been cleaned up with an engraving tool; it is softly contoured and reserved against a sunken background.


Odin's head is directly below the suspension loop, which is cast and drilled from side to side and is decorated on the front with a sunken panel containing a series of short transverse gilded ridges. Above this the loop appears ungilded and there are hints of further transverse grooves.


Odin is rendered with a skull-like face and thin arms which clasp the birds to his breast. The face has one eye (the figure's right) clearly shown as a circular groove but the other is merely shown as a pair of worn horizontal grooves further down the cheek, suggestive of Odin's blind eye. The head has a relief line over the top, now worn to a smudge on the figure's left (right as you look at the object); this line, which may represent hair, is touched by the beaks of the two birds; perhaps they are each whispering in Odin's ear as they inform him of their discoveries.


There is one bird to either side, each shown identically and in mirror image. Their heads are turned to the centre, and they have long necks and large eyes. The bird to the figure's left has a groove around the eye and the other has a groove emphasising the beak. Between Odin's head and the birds' long necks are pellets which represent Odin's hunched shoulders; his arms then emerge to the other side of the birds' necks and curve at the elbows to wrap around the necks. The hands are on the birds' chests; they are worn, but appear to have cuffs or rings at the wrists and several fingers.


The birds' bodies are formed by long straight ridges ending in three strands which diverge to represent fanned-out tails. The wings emerge from the chest as further ridges, curving out and down, filled with four or five downward-slanting ridges on each wing, representing feathers. The birds fill all of the rest of the space with the exception of a small space-filling pellet below the tips of the inner wings.


There is a raised border around the edge of the pendant. At the bottom and to either side this is embellished by beading, three beads to either side and perhaps four (but very worn) at the bottom. These beads extend the line of the edge slightly, making the pendant less than circular.


The reverse is ungilded and has some scratches which are probably all accidental; they are especially prominent to the centre and right.


Dimensions: Length including loop, 23.1mm. Width (diameter at widest point) 19.1mm. Thickness 1.6mm. Weight 3.74g.


Discussion: The finder has kindly supplied a number of close parallels culled from the internet, which establish the wide currency of this subject group. These include numerous examples from Russia and two from Sweden, including some of silver gilt (for the Swedish examples, see M. Helmbrecht, 2011, Wirkmächtige Kommunikationsmedien. Menschenbilder der Vendel- und Wikingerzeit und ihre Kontexte, Lund, 309-310, fig. 90a). A silver pendant with a related, but distinct design is known from Sjælland, Denmark (A. Pedersen in litt., 27/10/14). The pendant proudly proclaims a militant paganism. The tripartite grouping may represent a deliberately offensive pastiche of the Christian Trinity; Kevin Leahy kindly notes that the design of Thor's hammer pendants may similarly have been seen to invert the Cross worn by Christian believers. Odin's initiatory ordeal of hanging for nine nights on a tree was a further aspect of his biography which may parody the Crucifixion story. Ross Downing notes 'Odin hung for nine nights, the only source being Völuspá', kindly correcting this reporter's initial citation of the latter point.

Notes:

Metal analysis: non-destructive surface metal analysis conducted at the British Museum indicated a composition of approximately 97% silver. with copper, lead and gold also in the alloy.

This find meets the stipulations of the Treasure Act 1996 in that it is made from at least 10% precious metal and is over 300 years old.


See Pagan zoomorphic pendants ancient Russia 10 -14 centuries. V.E.Korshun. Vol.#3

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: Regional importance

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: North Lincolnshire Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2014T631

Chronology

Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Late
Period from: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Subperiod to: Late
Period to: EARLY MEDIEVAL
Ascribed Culture: Viking
Date from: Circa AD 900
Date to: Circa AD 1000

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Height: 23.1 mm
Thickness: 1.6 mm
Weight: 3.74 g
Diameter: 19.1 mm

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Wednesday 3rd September 2014

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Martin Foreman
Identified by: Mr Martin Foreman
Secondary identifier: Mr Barry Ager

Other reference numbers

Other reference: NLM26224
Treasure case number: 2014T631

Materials and construction

Primary material: Silver
Completeness: Complete
Surface Treatment: Gilded

Spatial metadata

Region: Yorkshire and the Humber (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: North Lincolnshire (Unitary Authority)
District: North Lincolnshire (Unitary Authority)
To be known as: Winteringham

Spatial coordinates


Grid reference source: Centred on field
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Current location: North Lincolnshire Museum
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: NLM
Created: 4 years ago
Updated: 2 years ago

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