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Home Boundless meetings Family and hierarchy 08: A hard life with room for caring 09: Ambátt and þræll 10: Inequality before the law 11: Exchange of ideas, goods and services 12: Women’s graves reflect complex roles 13: Warriors were highly valued 14: Only half lived past the age of ten 15: The young were buried dressed as adults 16: The key – a symbol of responsibility 17: Most men were farmers 18: Power and wealth were put on display Midgard Belief and traditions The living and the dead Divine craftwork Trading and raiding Waterways Town-like centres Christian monuments

Exchange of ideas, goods and services

The environment in which aristocratic men and women lived was a kind of cultural melting pot. They met and socialised with like-minded people from large parts of the then known world. As well as goods and services, they exchanged ideas and customs.

This influence from outside Scandinavia can be seen in personal objects such as jewellery and belt trimmings. Sometimes even clothes and the way of dressing shows what part of the world was considered significant and which the aristocracy liked to be associated with.

In one double grave in Birka, a man and a woman were buried in clothes influenced by Byzantine style. The clothes included tunics and headwear embroidered with thin threads of silk, gold and silver, as well as passementerie and woven beads of precious metals. These are reminiscent of Byzantine court dress, where different kinds of precious metal embroidery indicated the rank of the wearer.

The grave of this man and woman is one of most lavishly furnished from the Viking Age. A child was probably also buried in it. We do not know if all three were buried at the same time, but thanks to the three Islamic coins in the grave we know that it was during the 10th century .

The actual grave itself was an underground wooden chamber. On a terrace outside the chamber lay a horse harnessed to pull a wagon: a means of transport chiefly associated with affluent women.

The objects in the grave are a mixture of local craftwork and objects from distant locations. They reflect ideological and religious trends in the middle of the 10th century. They also provide a picture of the buried individuals. A picture which was created by the survivors, just as much as by the deceased themselves.

In the grave there were pieces of jewellery of gilded bronze and silver, and belt buckles and trimmings of silver. There was also a needle case decorated with textiles with wrapped silver bands, beads, glass beakers, Byzantium influenced textile work with gold and silver thread, a gaming board and glass gaming pieces, weapons, weights, a glass mirror and a bell, purses, pails with metal fittings, various tools and implements as well as gilded horse harnesses.

Three objects are of special note – a silver Thor’s hammer, a small cross embroidered with silver thread, and a pendant with a Roman silver coin (denarius) minted around the year 170 for Empress Faustina the Younger. The Thor’s hammer pendant and the embroidered cross bear witness to both Old Norse and Christian beliefs while the Faustina pendant provides a link to the old Roman leaders.

Weights, coins and purses point to business transactions, journeys and contacts with the world. Tools such as hammers, files, rasps, knives and whetstones indicate craftwork and the owner’s creative abilities.

A gaming board with a set of unique pieces made of glass is an example of aristocratic pastimes and of the importance of strategic knowledge and thinking. The imported glass beaker belongs to an aristocratic feast setting. The shield and weapons such as swords, axes and bows tell of the warrior ideal.

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Picture stone

  Picture stone

Textile fragments

  Textile fragments

Sword

  Sword

Bead

  Bead

Gold thread

  Gold thread

Purse

  Purse

Purse

  Purse

Weight

  Weight

Bipolar weight

  Bipolar weight

Bipolar weight

  Bipolar weight

Bipolar weight

  Bipolar weight

Weight

  Weight

Ring-headed pin

  Ring-headed pin

Coin (dirham)

  Coin (dirham)

Coin (dirham)

  Coin (dirham)

Coin pendant

  Coin pendant

Beads

  Beads

Glass beaker

  Glass beaker

Bell

  Bell

Tabletwoven band

  Tabletwoven band

Mirror fragments

  Mirror fragments

Tortoise brooch

  Tortoise brooch

Round brooch

  Round brooch

Tortoise brooch

  Tortoise brooch

Buckle

  Buckle

Buckle

  Buckle

Needle case

  Needle case

Whetstone pendant

  Whetstone pendant

Strap end mount

  Strap end mount

Strap end mount

  Strap end mount

Pendant

  Pendant

Cross

  Cross

Ring

  Ring

Ring

  Ring

Shield boss

  Shield boss

Harness bow

  Harness bow

Bit

  Bit

Bit

  Bit

Gaming pieces

  Gaming pieces

Gaming piece

  Gaming piece

Fire steel

  Fire steel

Axe

  Axe

Hammer

  Hammer

Whetstone pendant

  Whetstone pendant

Fire lighting flint

  Fire lighting flint

Whetstones

  Whetstones

Axe

  Axe

Rasp

  Rasp

Chisel

  Chisel

Knife

  Knife

Awl

  Awl

Bore

  Bore

Scissors

  Scissors

Coin (dirham)

  Coin (dirham)

Coin (dirham)

  Coin (dirham)