Assembling the Full Cast: Ritual Performance, Gender Transgression and Iconographic Innovation in Viking-Age Ribe

Pieterjan Deckers, Sarah Croix, SØren M. Sindbæk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


VIKING-AGE ICONOGRAPHY is mostly studied through stone sculpture and carvings and through metal dress accessories, which are often poorly contextualised finds. Here we present a new approach by studying an assemblage of casting moulds for figurative dress accessories from an early 9th-century workshop context in Ribe (Jutland, Denmark). We provide digital reconstructions of the fragmented moulds, including ‘Valkyrie’ pendants showing female figures bearing weapons. Comparable finds are mainly found in western Scandinavia, and the motifs demonstrate familiarity with images from Classical Antiquity and the Carolingian Renaissance. By highlighting iconographic and stylistic parallels with the tapestries of the Oseberg ship burial, we apply a novel perspective to the discussion of the armed woman motif and other Viking-Age figurative art. We argue that the common theme of the images is not the portrayal of heroic or mythological beings, but is instead ritual performance, in which women played a central role. We also consider the implications of the urban production context for this group of objects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-65
Number of pages36
JournalMedieval Archaeology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Claus Feveile, Judith Jesch, Else Roesdahl and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this paper, as well as Dirk Leonhardt, Department of Dentistry and Oral Health, Aarhus University. Further thanks for additional comments and help with compiling the catalogue of comparable finds go to Malene Beck, Trine Borake, Johan Callmer, Torben Trier Christiansen, Jane Sif Hansen, Mogens Bo Henriksen, Helle Horsnæs, Peter Pentz, Astrid Tummuscheit and Jens Ulriksen. Christina Levisen and Taylor Grace Fitzgerald kindly corrected and formatted the manuscript. We further extend our gratitude to the Graphics Department at Moesgård Museum for their assistance. This study was funded by the Carlsberg Foundation Semper Ardens grant CF16-0008: Northern Emporium. The work was further supported by the Danish National Research Foundation under the grant DNRF119 – Centre of Excellence for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet).

Publisher Copyright:
© Society for Medieval Archaeology 2021.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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