Discovered on the Isle of Man in 2018, a pair of ancient ornate brooches are now casting doubt on the long-held theory that only male Vikings ventured to the remote island. Like an early Christmas gift to the island, the brooches were put on display for the first time at the Manx National Heritage museum in Douglas earlier this month.
They were crafted over 1,000-year-old, around AD 900-950, from affordable bronze and silver wire embellishments. Conservation on the pieces at York Archaeological Trust (YAT) removed centuries of soil and corrosion to reveal delicate stylised birds, which were typical of Viking-age Scandinavian jewellery.
“The Isle of Man has a rich Viking heritage,” explained Allison Fox, curator of archaeology for Manx National Heritage. However, “this type of brooch, worn by Scandinavian women in the Viking Age and usually found in graves, has been missing so far.”
Hailing predominantly from Scandinavia, Vikings first set foot on the Isle of Man in the AD 800s. The seafaring people soon conquered and settled on the island, establishing prosperous trading connections with Ireland and Scotland. For many years historians believed the initial settlers were only men, since there had been no evidence of a female presence until now.
Oval brooches like these ones were seen as part of a national dress for women. According to Fox, the discovery of the fashionable jewellery suggests the earliest Vikings were in fact “a new, mixed community.”
Amateur metal detectorists John Crowe and Craig Evans uncovered the buried hoard three years ago. Evans commented that “John and I knew straight away that our discovery was very special, and it’s great to see the brooches cleaned and conserved”.
In July 2020, the brooches alongside a glass bead and buckle were officially declared as Treasure following an inquest at Douglas Courthouse.