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New publication from the Northern Emporium project wins the 2021 Martyn Jope Award

The award-winning article is written by Pieterjan Deckers, Sarah Croix, and Søren M. Sindbæk and was recently published in the journal Medieval Archaeology. The article was chosen by the Editorial Committee of the Society for Medieval Archaeology as the winner of the 2021 Martyn Jope Award for best contribution to the journal.

2021.08.11 | Mie Lind

Amulet and figurine moulds reconstructed. Photo: Museum of Southwest Jutland.

Between 2017 and 2018, the Northern Emporium project, directed by professor Søren M. Sindbæk and funded by the Carlsberg Foundation, conducted excavations at the urban site of Viking-age Ribe, Denmark. Among the many thousands of finds were a group of casting mould fragments found in a workshop. Using 3D digital image reconstruction, researchers have been able to recreate the iconography of the pendant moulds. The moulds show religious iconography such as a woman with weapons, a man pulling his long hair, and a horse without a rider, and similar motifs are known from single finds of pendants from Scandinavia and England. In the new article “Assembling the Full Cast: Ritual Performance, Gender Transgression and Iconographic Innovation in Viking-Age Ribe”, published in the latest issue of Medieval Archaeology, new results give a fascinating insight into hitherto little-known aspects of Viking-age religious rituals. And now the article has won the prestigious 2021 Martyn Jope Award for best contribution to the journal.

Reinterpretations of Viking-age imagery

Previously, the images depicted on the pendants have been interpreted as gods or mythological creatures such as Valkyries. But based on the finds from Ribe, it is possible to re-evaluate the interpretation of the Viking’s imagery. By studying the different pendant moulds together in the contextualised setting of the workshop where they were found, the images can be understood in a completely new way. The authors argue that the images of the pendant moulds do not show mythological creatures, but instead show people participating in religious ceremonies. Such ceremonies are also depicted elsewhere, for example on the famous tapestry fragments from the Oseberg ship in Norway. In the case of the pendants and the pendant moulds, however, the new interpretation seems to showcase a specific development of the imagery in the Ribe workshop, which give new insight into religious rituals in the Viking Age.

The development of the imagery in the Ribe workshop exemplifies how the visual culture of the Viking Age was inspired by Western Europe and the legacy of classical times. What we are seeing depicted is most likely images of some of the rituals being conducted during religious celebrations”, says professor and co-author of the article Søren M. Sindbæk.

The 2021 Martyn Jope Award

The Martyn Jope Award is given annually for the best novel interpretation, application of analytical method or presentation of new findings. “Assembling the Full Cast: Ritual Performance, Gender Transgression and Iconographic Innovation in Viking-Age Ribe” has been selected as the winner in 2021 by the Editorial Committee of the Society for Medieval Archaeology.

We are very proud that our work has received this recognition. We think it’s a great paper, but it’s fantastic to find that others agree”, says Søren M. Sindbæk.

Further information and links

Awards, Publication, History and archaeology