Valknut or ValkNOT?


As I’ve been doing quite a bit of musing about the Nene River Ring and its two contrasting bezels lately, I’ve been asked about different variations of the valknut symbol, and whether or not it was adopted and adapted by Christianity. I’ve come across a few sources that state that the valknut comes in various different forms, including one with rounded edges (aka. triqueta) frequently seen in Celtic cultural contexts. Whilst these ‘variations’ may hold similar meanings, I’m not convinced that they are closely related. I am no expert on Viking/Celtic/Christian symbolism, but I am keen to argue against lumping the valknut and triqueta forms together as one.

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Nene River Ring: A Symbol of Religious Dichotomy


I previously touched on one design on the Nene River Anglo-Saxon finger-ring, and this entry serves as a discussion of its complementary design and its further implications. Whilst the first motif represents Old Nordic spiritualism and myth, the design of interest here is a symmetrical pattern of circular interlace closely resembling Celtic knots. I am arguing that this design is meant to represent a Christian cross, creating a fascinating juxtaposition of religious and cultural ramifications surrounding the River Nene finger-ring.  The ring itself is traditionally labelled as an Anglo-Saxon work of art, but it seems to me to be an item symbolizing an amalgamation of beliefs and perceptions in early medieval Britain.

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Bifrons Park Ring


Bifrons Park Ring. 

©Maidstone Museum and Bentiff art Gallery 2015

Bifrons Park is located near Canterbury in Kent, a region known for its prolific Anglo-Saxon grave sites. Kent has given archaeologists rich burials such as the late 5th to mid 8th century cemetery in Buckland, Dover, and the 6th-8th century Finglesham cemetery, which revealed a glorious golden buckle.  Within an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Bifrons Park, a silver gilt finger-ring with a garnet inset was found on a finger on the right hand of a skeleton.  Recent scientific work undertaken by Jo Ahmet, a 2015 Master’s graduate in Artefact Studies from University College London, and art historical viewpoints by the blog’s author, Catherine Johnson, a 2014 UCL Artefact Studies Master’s graduate, give insights into this object and attempt to place it into context of Anglo-Saxon England.

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Wheatley Hill Finger-Ring

In 1993 whilst digging trenches for a house on Wheatley Hill, Durham, a silver alloy ring was uncovered. Dating to the 8th century AD, the ring is a band of silver with remnants of a gilded surface. Within beaded collars are three riveted bosses, of which one still holds a red glass inset. On the back of the hoop is the old English runic inscription [H]RING IC HATT [æ], translating as, “I am called ring”[1]. Elements of personification are a common aspect of Anglo-Saxon inscriptions, giving a voice, a level of consciousness, and a sense of personal possession to inanimate items. Continue reading

Viking Whalebone Plaques

source: Photographed by the author. The Orkney Museum, Kirkwall.

source: Photographed by the author. The Orkney Museum, Kirkwall.

The whalebone plaque discovered in a female Viking burial on the island of Sanday in Orkney (seen above) is a testament to the craftsmanship and resourcefulness of the Scandinavian people. Skillfully carved with characteristically Scandinavian dragon or horse-like animal heads facing each other, geometric circles and dots, and a block-patterned border, the plaque is fundamentally identical to many others found in Norway, such as the two from Grytøy, Trondenes and Kvaefjord, Troms (image below), Denmark, Sweden, and Viking-inhabited parts of Ireland and Scotland. The manufacture and style of the known whalebone plaques are entirely similar, indicating a universal prototype between Scandinavian groups, and yet their symbolism and utilitarian values are less straightforward.

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Nene River Ring and Valknut

A gold ring was found in the Nene River near Peterborough in 1855 [1]. Dated from AD 700-900, the ring has two circular bezels set across from each other on the hoop with three granules of gold applied to each side. Now in the British Museum, the Nene River finger-ring is seen as a beautiful example of late Anglo-Saxon artistry, however, the incised decoration seems to imply a Viking influence.

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I’ve decided to create this blog not only for my own documentation of interesting bits of archaeology, but also to connect with other individuals with similar interests, whilst perhaps contributing to the current knowledge on the subject.

I spent two years studying archaeology and artefacts at UCL in London, UK, and completed a master’s dissertation on late Anglo-Saxon and Viking age finger-rings found in Great Britain. This blog will also serve to highlight my favorite areas of this study and to continue my own thoughts, findings, and analyses. I will also share some photographs of archaeological/historical sites that I’ve visited. I hope that whomever reads my blog will find it interesting, thought provoking, and perhaps enlightening!

I am also blogging on tumblr so you can find me on there as well!

– Catherine