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Viking Silver and Bronze Charm Necklace - 56.6 g

Northern Europe, Viking/Norse culture, ca. 800 to 1100 CE. A fabulous collection of silver and bronze charms on a woven chain. First, a 95% silver Thor's Hammer, a pendant hammered into the form of a simple hammer with a flat head. One side of the hammer has been stamped regularly with one of the most ubiquitous metal decorations of the Viking period, triangles, with round, granulated circles nearby. These motifs were made by applying a punch onto the object's surface shortly after it was cast. Second, a silver charm in the form of four snakes who meet at the center, their bodies forming a swastika-like pattern. Third, a bronze charm in the shape of an anthropomorphic head, probably representing Thor. All of the charms hang on a silver, tightly woven trichinopoly chain with hammered silver terminals decorated with stamped triangles and circles, with two loops of wrapped silver wire and a thicker, larger loop of bronze wire holding the charms in place. Size of largest charm (hammer): 1" H (2.5 cm); length of chain: 15.25" L (38.7 cm); 56.6 grams total weight

Small Thor's hammers were worn as religious amulets throughout the Viking era, usually made of silver and usually hung on silver chains. Some even made it to the Christian era - there is a famous example of a Thor's hammer amulet from Fossi, Iceland, that has been turned into a cross (they were also invoked this past summer to describe the power of the surprisingly mighty Icelandic football team at the Euro Cup). The chain itself, meanwhile, is a style of knitwork done with thin silver wire that seems to have originated with the Vikings. The important Viking metalworking shops correspond to their great trading ports and proto-urban centers - Birka, Helgo, Sigtuna, and Lund in Sweden, Ribe, Haithabu (Hedeby), and Fyrkat in Denmark, and Kaupang and Trondheim in Norway. Silver was the principal currency of the Viking world, which stretched from Russia to northern Canada at the height of their influence. In many places, the Vikings kept silver not as coins, but as jewelry, a wearable currency form that was not subject to the authority of a monarch or mint. One of the most common archaeological finds from the Viking period is a hoard of metal objects, often buried in the earth or deposited in bodies of water, like river beds. These are found in great quantities throughout the British Isles and the Nordic countries. What was the meaning of such hoards? Were they treasures buried for safe keeping, perhaps by people fleeing violence who did not wish to travel with heavy loads and who died or forgot before they could retrieve them? Or does their presence in rivers suggest votive deposits, gifts and offerings to spirits who lived in the water?

Condition: Dark, matte patina over the silver surfaces, with a pale green patina on the bronze. Woven chain is fragile and has some slight bending to form, as do the terminals and rings.

Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection

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