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

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

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.
Journal: Mediev Archaeol
Issue: 1
Volume: 65
Pages: 30-65
Publication year:2021