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The East Midlands in the Viking Age

Vikings in the East Midlands is a brand-new virtual museum highlighting a number of aspects of the Viking heritage of the East Midlands. It is part of a larger project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Identities Research Priority Area of the University of Nottingham. The larger project (Bringing Vikings Back to the East Midlands) included two exhibitions and a variety of other activities. In our museum you will find a record of some of those activities, such as the talks given by leading Viking experts. The main aim of this virtual museum is to present some of the most important evidence for the Viking Age in the East Midlands, focusing in particular on artefacts and names. As well as original artefacts, we also present modern reproductions of those artefacts to give an idea of what they would have looked like when new. You will also find designs based on those artefacts which can be used for creative, educational and entrepreneurial purposes under a Creative Commons license. We also highlight the place-names of the region, which are some of the most important evidence for the Viking impact, and the Scandinavian personal names introduced by the Viking settlers. Finally, we introduce the Viking Age uses of the runic alphabet. Although we go live on the 1st August 2018, this virtual museum is by no means complete, but there should be more than enough here for you to browse and find items of interest. We will continue adding material throughout the coming year. If you would like to contact us, the best way is through our Twitter account @emidsvikings.

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Collection

Viking Talks

A series of talks given at the University of Nottingham in 2017-2018 and made available here to watch and listen to again. All the talks are shown in the slider bar below. Many thanks to Lakeside Arts for help with organising the talks, and for recording and transcribing them.

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Viking Objects

Reproduction Viking Age Sword

A reproduction of the sword found in Grave 511 at Repton. The hilt is made of wood laths wrapped in tabby weave textile strips. The scabbard is made of two wooden laths, lined with trimmed sheep fleece, and covered in an oak-stained, stitched, calf-leather cover. The strap slide is copper alloy and inserted under the leather. The sword belt shown with the scabbard is based on the sword belt from Grave 511 at Repton.

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Viking Objects

Reproduction Drinking Glass

A green glass drinking vessel based on one found at Birka and similar to fragments found at St Peter’s Street, Northampton.

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Viking Objects

Reproduction Soapstone Mould

A soapstone (steatite) mould for casting jewellery. This reproduction is double-sided so that it can be used to cast the main brooch or two disc brooches simply by reversing the mould. It is based on known examples of soapstone moulds but the main mould has been created to reproduce the Barker Gate brooch from Nottingham. Soapstone or steatite was widely used in Scandinavia and the Viking diaspora, as it is soft and easily carved, in particular for cooking vessels in cultures that did not produce ceramics. There are soapstone quarries in Norway, Shetland and Greenland. Soapstone objects found elsewhere generally suggest a Viking link to one of these places, though smaller ones are often repurposed from what were originally larger vessels.

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Viking Objects

Reproduction Square Mammen Brooch

This reproduction brooch is based on a small number of Mammen-style brooches found in England. Three rectangular brooches of this type are known from Linwood, Lincolnshire, West Stow Heath, Suffolk, and Bergh Apton, Norfolk, with further examples found in Cambridgeshire and East Anglia in 2015 and 2016. It is a type which has Carolingian-inspired shapes and Scandinavian decoration, which seem to have been produced in the Danelaw, and was an accessory for women who wore Scandinavian dress. Scandinavian brooches came in a variety of sizes and shapes which included disc, trefoil, lozenge, equal-armed, and oval shapes. The different brooch types served a variety of functions in Scandinavian female dress with oval brooches typically being used as shoulder clasps for apron-type dresses and the rest being used to secure an outer garment to an inner shift. Anglo-Saxon brooches do not match this diversity of form with large disc brooches being typical of ninth century dress styles with smaller ones becoming more popular in the later ninth and tenth centuries. However, since disc brooches were used by both Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian women they are distinguished by their morphology. Scandinavian brooches were typically domed with a hollow back while Anglo-Saxon brooches were usually flat. Moreover, Anglo-Saxon brooches were worn singly without accompanying accessories.

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Viking Objects

Reproduction Equal-Armed Brooch

A reproduction of an equal-armed brooch in the Borre style found in Nottinghamshire. This style of brooch is known from Birka in Sweden, suggesting trade contacts or individuals from Birka arriving in the East Midlands. Brooches were a typical part of female dress. Scandinavian brooches came in a variety of sizes and shapes which included disc, trefoil, lozenge, equal-armed, and oval shapes. The different brooch types served a variety of functions in Scandinavian female dress with oval brooches typically being used as shoulder clasps for apron-type dresses and the rest being used to secure an outer garment to an inner shift. Anglo-Saxon brooches do not match this diversity of form with large disc brooches being typical of ninth century dress styles with smaller ones becoming more popular in the later ninth and tenth centuries. However, since disc brooches were used by both Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian women they are distinguished by their morphology. Scandinavian brooches were typically domed with a hollow back while Anglo-Saxon brooches were usually flat. Moreover, Anglo-Saxon brooches were worn singly without accompanying accessories.

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Viking Designs

Drawing of the Thorfast Comb Case

A bone comb case with a runic inscription which reads ‘Thorfast made a good comb’. It is unknown whether the runes were inscribed by Thorfast himself as advertising, or whether the owner inscribed them to remind them where to go for another good comb if they needed one.

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Viking Objects

Reproduction Bone Comb with Runic Inscription

A bone comb with a case with a runic inscription on it. The inscription reads, in translation, “Thorfast made a good comb.” The Vikings had a reputation for looking after their personal hygiene. Combs were an important part of that process, not just for combing your hair but also for removing nits and lice.

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Viking Designs

Drawing of a Polyhedral Weight

This drawing is of a polyhedral weight of a type that the Vikings adopted from Middle Eastern cultures and brought back to Europe with them. These weights are very common on Viking Age sites.

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Viking Names

Aslak

The male name Áslákr is common in Norway in both the Viking Age and later, and also occurs in a few runic inscriptions from Denmark and Sweden. It forms the first element of the Nottinghamshire hybrid place-name Aslockton and is also found in Aslackby in Lincolnshire.

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