Jomsborg aka Wolin in Poland

Scandinavian Amulets in Viking Age Poland

Scandinavian amulets like Thor’s Hammers, figures, miniature weapons, anchors, wheels and other types have been found in ports of trade witnessing to the widespread Scandinavian settlements in Viking Poland. Very important new book carefully examines the small objects and sheds new light on the hotly debated character of the Old Norse religion.


Scandinavian amulets in viking age PolandScandinavian Amulets in Viking Age Poland
By Leszek Gardeła
Series: Collectio Archaeologica Ressoviensis tomus XXXiii
Rzeszów 2014
Pages: 166
Format: A4
Language: English with a summary in Polish
Edition: 2014
Publisher: Fundacja Rzeszowskiego Ośrodka Archeologicznego, Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Rzeszowskiego
ISBN: 978–83–7667-197-0

Scandinavian Amulets in Viking Age Poland

This monograph by Leszek Gardeła provides a comprehensive analysis of the complete corpus of Scandinavian Viking Age amulets discovered in the area of Poland. Among the examined finds are, for example, Thor’s hammers and miniature weapons, but also anthropomorphic figures and pendants. The Scandinavian-style finds from Poland are presented in a broad comparative and theoretical context with particular focus on the latest advancements in the studies on Old Norse religion. In order to provide a bigger picture of the explored issues the opening chapter of the monograph examines the long and often complicated history of Viking research in Poland, providing an important and critical contribution to the studies on the role of Scandinavians in the southern Baltic. The book is lavishly illustrated with full-colour photographs and artistic reconstructions.

The opening chapter gives an overview of the last 160 years of studies on the presence of Viking Age Scandinavians in the territory of Poland. it begins by reviewing a range of works by some of the most famous 19th century enthusiasts of Scandinavian history and archaeology, who expressed their fascinations with the north in their art, literature and academic publications (e.g Henryk Siemiradzki, Juliusz Słowacki, Karol Szajnocha and others). Further sections of Chapter 1 present the gradual development of Viking Studies in the early 20th century. This is followed by a critical assessment of a wide spectrum of past and recent discoveries of actual or assumed Scandinavian-style artefacts from various sites in Poland.

Amber Thor's Hammars from Poland. From the collections of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology Polish Academy of Sciences (Centre for Medieval Archaeology of the Baltic Region). Photo by Leszek Gardeła. Used by permission of the autor.
Amber Thor’s Hammer from Poland. From the collections of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology Polish Academy of Sciences (Centre for Medieval Archaeology of the Baltic Region). Photo by Leszek Gardeła. Used by permission of the author.


Chapter 2 focuses on the long history of research on Viking Age amulets in Scandinavia (and elsewhere in the Viking world) and briefly discusses their most distinctive types. It also explores a range of previous interpretations of such artefacts and examines the different methodological problems which amulet studies continue to evoke. Particular attention is devoted to the issue of identifying such finds and providing their accurate definition. In addition, Chapter 2 discusses the Scandinavian-style amulets in the broader context of pre-christian beliefs and examines how they may have functioned in Norse societies. Some attention is also devoted to ways of producing, wearing and carrying amulets and their role in funerary practices.

Chapter 3 lies at the core of this book and offers a thorough analysis and interpretation of all Scandinavian amulets discovered in Poland. These are divided into a range of distinctive types and each of them is set within a wider context of similar artefacts from the viking world. The last chapter summarises the discussions presented in this book, provides a range of critical comments on the confluences and discrepancies between Scandinavian and distinctively Slavic amulets and offers a range of ideas for further research in the field of Viking studies in Poland.

The book is the final outcome of a research project entitled ‘Viking age amulets in Poland’ which was conducted in 2014. its initial part was generously funded by the Viking Society for Northern Research whose Research Support Fund allowed travels to Elbląg, Szczecin and Wolin to examine and document a broad range of Scandinavian amulets discovered in the territory of Poland.

Table of Contents:

CHAPTER 1: Viking Age archaeology in Poland. History of research and reception 11

1 Viking inspirations in 19th century Poland 11

2 Viking studies in 20th century Poland 13

Józef Kostrzewski 14
Jan Żak 15
Żak’s legacy 17

3 Viking studies in 21st century Poland 18

New finds and controversies 18

4 Scandinavian-Slavic interactions 20

Scandinavians in the ports of trade on the southern Baltic coast 21
Wolin 21
Kamień Pomorski 23
Kołobrzeg and Świelubie 24
Truso (Janów Pomorski) 25

5 Viking burials in Poland? 25

5.1 Greater Poland 27

Łubowo 27
Luboń 29
Other allegedly Scandinavian graves in Greater Poland 32
Grave 62/08 with a cross-shaped pendant from Dziekanowice 32

5.2 Western Pomerania 33

Wolin 33
Bardy-Świelubie 34

5.3 Central Pomerania 34

5.4 Eastern Pomerania 36

5.5 Elbląg 38

5.6 Central Poland 38

5.7 Problematic chamber graves 43

6 Poland and the Viking Worlds 43

CHAPTER 2: Viking Age amulets in Scandinavia. An overview 45

1 Defining amulets 45

2 Viking Age amulets in Scandinavia 47

History of research 48
Amulet types in Viking Age Scandinavia and elsewhere in the Viking world 54

3 Amulets and Viking worldviews 56

New approaches to pre-Christian beliefs in the Viking world 56
Diversity instead of orthodoxyAcknowledging the complexity of Old Norse beliefs 58

4 Viking Age amulets in action 59

Making Viking Age amulets 59
Wearing Viking Age amulets 61
Amulets and death 61

5 Concluding remarks 63

CHAPTER 3: Scandinavian amulets in Viking Age Poland. Analysis and interpretation 66

1 Thor’s hammers 66

1.1Iron and silver Thor’s hammers 67

Iron Thor’s hammers with differing shoulders 67
Iron Thor’s hammers with equal shoulders 68
Iron Thor’s hammers with very short shoulders 69
Silver Thor’s hammers 69
Thor’s hammers with rings 71

1.2 Amber Thor’s hammers 72

Amber Thor’s hammers from Wolin 72
Amber Thor’s hammers from Gdańsk 72
Amber Thor’s hammers from Truso 74
Interpreting amber Thor’s hammers 75
Thor’s hammers in Poland. Discussion and conclusions 75

2 Miniature figures 76

Female figure from Truso (MAH 600/2007) 77
Female figure from Truso (MAH 1578/2008) 77
Female figure shown en-face from Truso (MAH 1579/2008) 78
Standing figure and horse rider from Truso (MAH 74/2000) 78
One-eyed(?) female head from Truso (MAH 2110/2003) 81
Female figure from Kałdus (27/00) 83
Animal head from Wolin (694/79) 83
Male head/mask from Wolin (1331/71) 87
Scandinavian-style miniature figures in Poland. Discussion and conclusions 88

3 Other miniature figures from Poland 89

Anthropomorphic figures from Wolin 89
‘Światowit’ from Wolin 92

4 Multi-headed objectsScandinavian or not? 94

Multi-headed objects in Viking Age Scandinavia. A reassessment 95
Multi-headed beings in Old Norse textual sources 96
Multi-headed objects in Poland and Scandinavia. Discussion and conclusions 97

5 Miniature weapons 98

Miniature shields 98
Miniature axes 100
Miniature spears 102
Miniature swords 105
Miniature weapons. Discussion and conclusions 107

6 Miniature wheels 108

7 Miniature feet/legs/shoes 109

8 Miniature staff 112

9 Miniature anchors 113

10 The tri-part ‘amulet’ from Truso 115

11 Alleged amulets and problematic pendants 117

Cross-shaped pendants 118
Stone pendants? 119
Elongated pendants 119
Pendants with a triquetra motif 120

12 Concluding remarks 120

CHAPTER 4: Synthesis and conclusions 121

1 Types of Scandinavian amulets in Viking Age Poland. A summary 121

2 Other signals of pre-Christian Scandinavian beliefs in Poland 124

3 Scandinavian vs West Slavic amulets 125

4 Future research possibilities 127





Reconstructed Viking Settlement near Wolin (Jomsborg)



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