To please the god of gold
Edge to edge war rises;
And human blood like a river
Damascus steel flows along the blade!
People are dying for metal
People are dying for metal!
(Verses of Mephistopheles from the opera "Faust")
People have always been fascinated by gold, which was used primarily to create valuable jewelry and objects. Many museums around the world have the so-called "Golden Rooms", which are the most real treasures. For example, when I was in the Hermitage I saw there the famous crest from the Solokha burial mound, and golden rams from Siberian finds … And there was a lot of all kinds of gold. Many … There is a "Golden Room" in the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. Her collection contains a total of 52 kilograms of gold and over 200 kilograms of silver. But it is clear that it is not the weight of the metal that draws attention to it. Both scientists and visitors are interested in what was made of this metal and how and where these items were found from it.
The Golden Room at the Historical Museum in Stockholm.
For some reason, some believe that the territory of Sweden was a backward region, that only in the era of the Vikings, that is, merchants and pirates, Arab silver poured there and gold appeared, but this is not at all the case. The era immediately "before the Vikings" was very rich.
Moreover, the period between 400 and 550. is referred to in Sweden as the "Golden Age", and the years 800 to 1050 (Viking Age) are sometimes referred to as the "Silver Age". Moreover, the precious metal ended up in Scandinavia, of course, both in the form of ingots, and also in the form of products, and they often melted in local smelting workshops and turned into new things and so on endlessly. Although something got into the burials and treasures, and thus reached us.
Entrance to the Viking Museum in Stockholm.
The oldest gold objects include spiral ornaments that, for example, Scandinavian women wrapped around their elbows as early as around 1500 BC. And next to them are two gold bowls from Blekinge and Halland, made several centuries later from thin sheet gold. There are practically no signs of use on them. Both were probably made as sacrifices to the gods.
From the very beginning, gold and silver had connotations of power, wealth and luxury. Rings, decorated with spiral motifs, and later with snakes and dragons, adorned the hands of their owners for a very long time. For several centuries, from the beginning of the first century AD, they were the main indicator of female status; today they are found in the graves of adult women. Men also wore rings and signet rings. For example, one such gold ring from Old Uppsala clearly belonged to a man. Made somewhere in the Roman provinces, it may have been a reward for valor in battle. Another ring, decorated with garnets and almandines, from the era of the Great Nations Migration, contains the Greek inscription: "Younes, be kind." This ring was found in Södermanland.
The Roman Empire also left behind original jewelry or gold pendants called "bracteates". Found in Scandinavia, they were clearly modeled after Roman originals depicting the emperor, but with motifs from local folklore traditions. There are also snake-headed rings in the museum's collection, which are clearly inspired by Roman fashion. Such jewelry was worn by both men and women.
The unique masterpieces that can be seen in the "Golden Room" of the museum in Stockholm include three golden collars, two from Gotland and one from Åland. Made in the 5th century, they were discovered separately in the 19th century, but without any other finds. These collars are sometimes considered the oldest regalia in Sweden, but we do not know who wore them and what function they performed. One theory suggests that they were "worn" by statues of the gods, while another that they were worn by women or men who were political or religious leaders. We can say for sure that these collars were used because they show signs of wear, and part of the decoration has come off altogether. The collars consist of tubes bent into a ring and can be opened with a simple locking device. Their decor is replete with miniature figurines of humans and animals, the meaning of which has been lost for us. You can see stylized faces, women with pigtails in loincloths, naked shield-bearers, snakes and dragons, wild boars, birds, lizards, horses and fairy-tale beasts, they are all so small, they are barely visible to the naked eye.
Gold collar V century from Gotland.
Some items, including helmets from Wendel and Uppland, are also decorated with chased bronze plates depicting scenes from Scandinavian mythology. Moreover, this is clearly a local work, because bronze stamps for the manufacture of bronze sheets that adorn these helmets were also found in Oland. That is, in the north of Uppland, already in the era before the Vikings, powerful leaders ruled, who had the opportunity to order such helmets for themselves.
In the 9th or 10th century, in burials and treasures one can find heavy silver necklaces and magnificent gilded brooches for a woman's costume. They represent the peak of the decorative arts of the time. Elegantly ornamented bracelets and twisted hand rings are commonly found in women's hoards, as are the many beads for which glass was imported from Europe.
Textile tools: exhibits at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.
However, even in the Viking Age, people continued to hide treasures of silver and gold in the ground. One of the largest medieval treasures in Europe is the Gotland dune treasure. It included lovely belt buckles, glasses from the east, and local pendants. Other caches also included jewelry, pearls, and drinking cups showing Russian or Byzantine influences. Many of the Gotland treasures were buried in the ground in 1361 when the Danes invaded the island. One day, researchers digging up the field discovered a huge cache that was presented as the largest Viking treasure in the world. The treasure contained thousands of silver coins, dozens of silver ingots, hundreds of bracelets, rings, necklaces and more than 20 kg of bronze items. In total, the treasure was valued at over $ 500,000.
There are many treasures in the northern regions of Scandinavia. They consist of small objects of silver, tin and copper alloy, as well as animal bones and antlers. The Golden Room contains the largest Sámi treasure in Sweden, from Gratraska, on Lake Tjauter in Norrbotten.
Model of the port of Birka from the Historical Museum in Stockholm.
But it is understandable that some of the finest exhibits in the Golden Room are war booty. The sacrament bowls, altar and crusader staves of bishops came to Sweden from different parts of Germany during the Thirty Years War.
It is believed that the famous reliquary of Saint Elizabeth contained the skull of this saint. This is a stunningly refined example of European jewelry. The reliquary fell into the hands of the Swedish army in 1632 when they captured the Marienberg fortress in Würzburg. Well, it is clear that he never got back to his homeland.
A fisherman at work and talking. Diorama from the Viking Museum in York.
So the study of the treasures of the "Golden Room" alone of the Historical Museum in Stockholm unambiguously shows, firstly, the presence of developed skills in working with gold and silver just before the so-called Viking era, with the dominance of gold products. During the Viking Age, the number of buried precious objects and Arab silver dirhams increased significantly, but silver as a metal began to dominate.
An exhibit of the Royal Treasury in Stockholm. These are not Vikings, of course, but the skill of the creators of this armor is impressive.
In Sweden, there is a law according to which all finds in the earth since the 17th century, made of gold, silver or copper alloys, if they are more than 100 years old, are redeemed from those who found them by the state. This gives an unusually large number of gold and silver items, which in Sweden are in the hands of the state.
As a conclusion, we can say that the masters of the V - VII and VIII - XI centuries. mastered the technology of drawing and casting, embossing, grain, filigree, notching for metal, knew how to use the "method of the lost shape", they were familiar with the technique of processing precious stones, and the manufacture of multi-colored glass beads. The handles of the swords of the Vikings themselves were very laconic, but with great skill, but the swords and their decoration will be described some other time …