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Unst, Shetland

Postcard of Brooch.
© National Museums Scotland


This brass oval brooch was found with a bronze box on Unst in Shetland. It is a type worn by Scandinavian women. Both objects are probably from a Norse woman's grave, dating from between 850 and 900.

The oval brooch is divided into panels by mouldings and knobs, many of them missing. On the panels on the long sides are figures of long-necked birds facing each other. The knob between them is decorated with a human head.

Oval brooches are a very distinctive form of Viking ornament, worn by women in pairs on their shoulders to hold up a pinafore. Scandinavian women were buried in their finery and with a range of everyday objects.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-099-759-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0036: Kiloran Bay Viking Burial (multimedia essay)
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  X.IL 313
Date: 9th century
Between 850 and 900
Material: Brass or bronze; oval; bowl-shaped; ornamented with figure of a human head; pin missing
Where: Scotland, Shetland, Unst
Description: Oval brooch of brass or bronze ornamented with the figure of a human head, with textile imprint on reverse, from a grave on Unst, Shetland, 9th century
  • Graham-Campbell, James and Batey, Colleen E. Vikings in Scotland. An Archaeological Survey. Edinburgh: University Press, 1998, p 64. 
  • Grieg, Sigurd. Viking Antiquities in Scotland (=Viking Antiquities in Great Britain and Ireland, Part II, ed. by Haakon Shetelig). Oslo: H. Aschehoug & Co., 1940, p 103. 
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