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Viking brooch is first of its kind for Manx National Heritage 2

an oval brooch with inlaid decoration covered in soil

The oval brooch in its as-found state. Courtesy Manx National Heritage

A Viking brooch is a rare find of a high status woman and a first for the Isle of Man collections say experts

A collection of rare Viking Age finds including two rare and highly decorated oval brooches have been declared treasure on the Isle of Man.

First discovered in December 2018 by metal detectorists John Crowe and Craig Evans, the two brooches are made from bronze with silver wire decoration and most likely gilded, dating to around AD 900-950.

Experts believe the brooches would have been worn by a woman of some status.

“The Isle of Man has a rich Viking heritage and the Manx National Collections reflect this,” says Allison Fox, Curator of Archaeology for Manx National Heritage (MNH) “But, this type of brooch, worn by Scandinavian women in the Viking Age and usually found in graves, has been missing so far.

reverse of a brooch covered in dirt

The second oval brooch. Courtesy Manx National Heritage

“Oval brooches are particularly common in the Viking homelands, and are seen almost as national dress, showing that the wearer was most likely of Scandinavian origin.

“The absence of this type of brooch from the Island before now has led to theories that it was only the men from Scandinavia that settled on the Isle of Man in the early Viking Age.”

Oval brooches were used as decoration but also to hold together an outer dress, similar to a pinafore. They were attached to the shoulder and the front of the dress. A necklace with beads and/or metal decoration may have been worn between the two brooches.

In addition to the brooches, the find also included one decorated glass bead made in Ireland and a belt with bronze fittings, most likely made in the Irish Sea area. “So although proud of her Scandinavian roots,” adds Fox, “this particular pagan lady also wore local fashions.”

As artefacts like this are often found in graves, MNH commissioned a targeted archaeological excavation of the find site to establish whether or not there were any other remains present. Archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust (YAT) conducted a small excavation on site but no grave was found.

diptych photo of a buckle and a bead

A buckle and bead also found by the metal detectorists. Courtesy Manx National Heritage

“Crucially, after John and Craig found the brooches, they did exactly the right thing and brought them to the Manx Museum without cleaning any of the soil from the outside or the inside,” says Fox. “This is so important because the brooches are quite fragile and because there might still be small fragments surviving of the textiles from the clothes the woman was buried in.”

As the brooches need specialist examination and conservation, they are currently with conservators at York Archaeological Trust who will now be working with MNH to investigate and conserve them.

A key location on the route between Scandinavia and Ireland, the Isle of Man was subject to Viking raids from the eighth century and was eventually settled and ruled by Vikings from around 900 until the mid 13th century.

The collections of Manx National Heritage at the House of Manannan tell this story through artefacts and state of the art reconstructions with finds from key archaeological sites across the Isle, which still boasts many decorated stone crosses with Viking motifs in many of its parishes.

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House of Manannan

Peel, Isle of Man

At the House of Manannan, journey through a life sized reconstruction of a Celtic roundhouse, join the crew of the Odin’s Raven Viking longship and find out what life was like in a Viking longhouse. See the grandeur of a Viking royal court and explore Viking artefacts in the Kingdom…

2 comments on “Viking brooch is first of its kind for Manx National Heritage

  1. Zoë on

    Thank you for drawing attention to this discovery! Delighted to read the details & look forward to more when the brooches are cleaned. If they had not been metal one would perhaps have thought them merely shells. Were they found near the surface, near a shore? I look forward to visiting the Isle of Man one day to see for myself.

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