Discovery of rare Viking dragon pin lost 130-year-old mystery

Archaeologists discovered a Viking dragonhead pin made of lead in Birka, a Viking archaeological city in Sweden, in 2015. Credit: Photo by Lena Holmquist; Antiquity 2018

More than 130 years ago, a Swedish farmer discovers a black dragon — or, that is, a Viking carving of one that had a pointy horn on his head and a curly mane in the neck. The soft soapstone carving of what looked like a mold for the casting of metals, but the farmer never found one of the small dragons that are produced by the fungus.

But where the farmer flopped, modern scientists triumphed. In 2015, a team of archaeologists in Birka, a Viking archaeological hotspot in Sweden, discovered a Viking-made of metal dragon that looks almost exactly the same as the form, according to a new study published online today (28 June) in the journal Antiquity.

“Of course, as an archaeologist digging in Birka, one is aware that you will definitely make thousands of likes. This find, but once identified, it blew our minds,” said study senior researcher Sven Kalmring, an archaeologist at the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, Germany, and a guest researcher in the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University. [See Photos of the Newly Discovered Dragon Pin]

The dragonhead is small — only about 1.7 by 1.6 inches (4.5 4.2 inches), or smaller than a deck of cards. But it is very wide; his gaping mouth has pointed teeth and a tongue that almost sticks his muzzle.

This leads the dragon was not a child’s toy. On the contrary, it served as a decoration head on an iron dress pin, Kalmring said. The Vikings probably chose leadbecause it has a low melting point and it is close in color to silver, he noticed.

“Other examples of dragonhead clothes pins, mainly in bronze, known of the major centers of the Viking world, for example, from the Viking town of Hedeby in the current north Germany,” Kalmring told Live Science. Moreover, many of the dragonhead dress pins colleagues in Viking ship figureheads, the so-called “drekar” — Old Norse for “dragon ship.”

With regard to the new Birka dragonhead, it turns out that the figurehead of the Viking Ladby ship, which dates from about A. D. 900 and was discovered in Denmark, is the closest in style. Meanwhile, the 0.4 grams (13.5 grams) dragon pin dates from the second half of the ninth century, or in A. D 850 to 900, the researchers said.

Since the pin appears to date from before the boat, it is possible that the Ladby the figurehead was modelled on the Birka mold, said Kalmring and study co-researcher Lena Holmquist, an archaeologist in the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University.

Subtle differences indicate that the fungus found by a Swedish farmer in 1887, is not an exact match with the new pin-code, but the discovery of both the shows that the Vikings their fair share of the moulds and of the pins. However, due to the fact that these pens are rare, it is likely that they were reserved for high-status individuals, the researchers said.

But there is more work required to say so for sure. None of these dragon pins is ever found in a Viking grave, Kalmring said, that would have indicated their interest.

Even so, it is finding it is one thing to make clear. “It confirms Birka has an excellent location between the great Viking-age sites in the trading network around the Baltic sea,” Kalmring said.

Original article on Live Science.

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