Grave Discovery Brings Viking Fashion To Doncaster Museum

By David Prudames | 12 November 2003
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Shows a photograph of the excavated, but broken sections of what was once a Viking metal bowl.

Photo: a couple of bits of mangled metal to some, but an ornate and precious bronze Viking bowl to those in the know. © Northern Archaeological Associates.

A rare set of brooches unearthed in the grave of a Viking woman are set to take pride of place at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery following their discovery by archaeologists.

Dating back to between AD 860 and 900, the grave was found during the laying of a sewer pipeline near Adwick-le-Street, just outside Doncaster.

The brooches are the oldest of their type to be found in the UK and are only the fourth set to be discovered as part of a Viking burial, the most recent of which were excavated in 1867.

Shows a photograph of two excavated patterned, Viking metal brooches.

Photo: brooches such as these were commonly worn by Norse women to hold up pinafore style dresses. © Northern Archaeological Associates.

They will go on display at the museum next year alongside a decorated bronze bowl, an iron knife and an iron key also found in the burial.

According to Peter Robinson, Keeper of Archaeology at Doncaster Museum, "it’s an absolutely stunning find!"

Speaking to the 24 Hour Museum Peter explained how the discovery has led to a reassessment of Doncaster’s Viking past.

"The important thing for Doncaster is that there is very little previous evidence that places the Vikings here," he said.

Shows a photograph of the full excavated grave of a Viking woman, a skeleton and two brooches are clearly visible.

Photo: archaeologists were thrilled at the rare discovery of a female Viking burial. © Northern Archaeological Associates.

"There’s one find of a Viking war axe that was found in Doncaster and a couple of stray metal detector finds, but they are really indicative of the usual view of marauding invaders."

"This find actually shows that they weren’t just going around and pillaging, they were coming over to settle and we have now got proof that Vikings did settle in Doncaster."

Unearthed in 2001, artefacts discovered in the burial, including the human remains, have undergone a lengthy period of research that has revealed much about where they came from and how they got there.

The brooches are of a type which is oval in shape and exclusively Scandinavian in origin. As standard items of dress for a freeborn Norse woman, their discovery in the grave suggests that it belonged to an immigrant.

Shows a photograph of two excavated patterned, Viking metal brooches.

Photo: the brooches are only the fourth set to be found accompanying a burial. © Northern Archaeological Associates.

Analysis of the woman’s teeth and bones at Durham University revealed that she probably grew up on the Norwegian coast and was at least 45-years-old when she died.

Experts believe she could have come to Britain with a husband as an economic migrant and set up home in the area, which would at the time have been under Norse rule.

The finds, which cost £1800 were bought for the museum by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council with assistance from the Resource/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

They will go on show in the institution's new medieval gallery, which is due for completion next year and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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