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Scandinavian late Viking Age art styles as a part of the visual display of warriors in 11th-century Estonia

Indrek Jets

Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 2012, 16, 2

The article examines the archaeological finds from Estonia that are decorated in Scandinavian Late Viking Age ornamental styles. The majority of such finds come from burials in local fashion. The aim of the article is to outline the role of Scandinavian ornament in culture, social strategies, ideology and identity of the local society. Belt fittings and silver-plated weapons comprise the largest part of such finds. While the belt fittings often show simplified patterns, pure Scandinavian style ornament is found on weapons. The current article aims to propose a connection between warfare and warrior culture and the usage of Scandinavian ornament in Estonia. This martial link is found to coincide with the meanings proposed for animal ornament in Scandinavia. In Estonia, the fashion to decorate  weapons was most widely spread in the time of Ringerike and Urnes styles, In that period, decorated weapons may have had a specific role in social strategies, probably implying the rise in position of the warrior strata. The article also discusses international relations as the background for the adoption of Scandinavian ornament. The gender aspect is mentioned, as the Scandinavian ornament associates with the male warrior role, while different symbolic languages were used in female attire. The Late Viking Age Scandinavian ornament in Estonia is seen as the visual display of the identity of ‘warriors’ social class and the affiliation of Estonian warriors with the Scandinavian cultural sphere, while the local identity was manifested mainly by some types of female jewellery.

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