Pins from Jarlshof, Shetland

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Postcard of Pins from Jarlshof, Shetland.
© National Museums Scotland

Pins from Jarlshof, Shetland

These bone pins were found at the site of the Norse settlement at Jarlshof in Shetland. They were used as dress or hairpins between 800 and 1100.

Two of the pins are carved with elaborate three-dimensional animal heads. The pins with an axe and cross on their heads were probably religious amulets as well. The axe was a symbol of the Norse god Odin, as well as the Christian St. Olaf.

Bone pins are common finds from Viking settlements, reflecting their common use as dress pins to fasten clothing together or as hairpins. A number of finely carved pins were found at Jarlshof.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-136-636-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0035: Early Scottish Shelter - Life in the Prehistoric Home (multimedia essay)
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  X.HSA 124
Date: Between 800 and 1100
Material: Bone; animal head
Bone; axe head
Bone; cross head
Bone; two animal heads
What: Pin
Pin, dress / hairpin
Pin, dress / hairpin
Where: Scotland, Shetland, Sumburgh, Jarlshof
Scotland, Shetland, Sumburgh, Jarlshof
Scotland, Shetland, Sumburgh, Jarlshof
Scotland, Shetland, Sumburgh, Jarlshof
Description: Dress pin or hairpin of bone with two animal heads, from Jarlshof, Shetland
Animal-headed dress pin or hairpin of bone, from Jarlshof, Shetland
Axe-headed bone pin from Jarlshof
Cross-headed bone pin from Jarlshof
  • Graham-Campbell, J. Viking artefacts. A select catalogue. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1980, nos. 211, 213, 214. 
  • Hamilton, J.R.C. Excavations at Jarlshof, Shetland. Edinburgh: Ministry of Works Archeological Reports 1, 1956, pp 124-5, 141, 148. 
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