Ardersier Norse mount

01 February 2013

News Type:
Find of the Month

This mount was recently found at Ardersier, and is now in Inverness Museum. It is decorated with an interlaced animal with an almond-shaped eye in a Norse style called ‘Urnes-style’. Brooches and mounts in this style were mass produced in Scandinavia between 1050 and 1150, with moulds found at Lund in Sweden dating 1100-1150. Similar animals also appear on Scandinavian runestones of the period. Brooches in the openwork style have been found throughout the areas the Norse travelled, with fine examples in silver known. There are few Urnes-style mounts or brooches in Britain, however, although the style did give way to an English variant which was often plaed on stirrup mounts.

The Ardersier mount is copper alloy, rather than silver, and it is not clear what it would have been attached to. However, the beast is well drawn and sinuous, and when polished, it would have been a striking, and probably fashionable, accessory.  No other examples are known from Scotland, as far as I know.

This brooch dates centuries after the main Viking raids on Scotland. Was it a chance loss by a traveller using the ferry crossing between Ardersier and Ross-shire, which has a long history? Was it a find from England, brought up with the Norman lords who were pushing into this area around this time? Or does it relate to the rebellions against the Scottish crown in Moray at the time, which were probably supported by the Earls of Orkney? All would provide a context for this lovely find.

Further Information:
Owen, Olwyn 2001. 'The Strange Beat that is the English Urnes Style,' in Vikings and the Danelaw, ed. James Graham-Campbell et al., pp. 203-222.

Some examples of finds from England are discussed and illustrated on the Portable Antiquities Scheme website

The British Museum website illustrates an example from Sweden

 

An ARCH course, funded by High Life Highlands, will be exploring Ardersier Heritage in February and March. Part 1, on Tuesday and Thursdays, 7-9:30pm, will provide a heritage overview from Mesolithic times to the present with examples from the area. In Part 2, on Saturdays, 9th -30th March, 10am-1pm, there will be opportunities to research showing sites, finds and buildings of interest. Further details in the Events section of the website. All welcome!
 

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Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH), The Goods Shed, The Old Station, Strathpeffer, Ross-Shire, Scotland IV14 9DH
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