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

New publication by former Postdoc Pieterjan Deckers, Assistant Professor Sarah Croix and Professor Søren M. Sindbæk.

2021.08.05 | Mie Lind

Deckers, P., Croix, S. & Sindbæk, S. M. (2021). “Assembling the Full Cast: Ritual Performance, Gender Transgression and Iconographic Innovation in Viking-Age Ribe”, Medieval Archaeology 65:1, 30-65. DOI: 10.1080/00766097.2021.1923893 


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.

The 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).  

For more on the Northern Emporium project, see the project website here. For more information about Centre for Urban Network Evolutions, click here