Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finds from Anglo-Scandinavian York

I recently learned (again, from a mailing list) that the York Archaeological Trust in Great Britain has placed a number of its out-of-print books here for free download.

The availability of this new resource is interesting to me because the YAT has published numerous books of material culture finds on the Coppergate dig in York. The Coppergate dig is located in the heart of what had been the Danelaw, and the Coppergate finds give insight into Anglo-Scandinavian culture. [N.B.  Because these documents are book-length and demand for them has been brisk, it can be challenging getting one of the downloads to complete correctly.  Keep trying, and consider obtaining a software package that will accelerate the process.]

However, I have been able to download a copy of Finds from Anglo-Scandinavian York by Ailsa Mainman and Nicola Rogers. This volume includes an interesting variety of small finds, from jewelry to buckles to game pieces to nails to fragments from jars and other storage containers, and more.  Some of the more interesting tidbits of information I have gleaned from skimming through the manuscript include the following:
  • A lot of portable sharpening stones, for sharpening needles and small blades (the book refers to them as "hones") were found.  Some of them were pierced on the end and could be hung, and at least one has a copper ring through the perforation, suggesting that it may have been worn as a pendant.  Most of them were made from schist.
  • Amber (of a type that comes from the Baltic) beads and amber waste material were found, suggesting that Baltic amber was imported raw and worked into beads and other artifacts at the Coppergate site.
  • 243 sewing needles were found in the Viking age stratum of the site.  89% of the needles were made of iron.  There were a very few needles made of bone or copper alloy. 
  • A very small number of buckles and strap-ends were found.
  • The few brooches that were found were made from an assortment of non-precious metals:  "Coppergate produced a total of nine disc brooches, of which one was made of copper alloy (10428), two of copper alloy and iron (10429–30),four of pewter (10600–3), and one of lead alloy with possible silvering on the front (10604). The ninth brooch was found during the watching brief at Coppergate (10629) and is made of lead alloy." (p. 2571).
  • A substantial number of straight pins used in dress were recovered; they included some like the ring-headed pins found in the Viking age digs in Dublin, but included lighter pins with different ornamental details including polygons, trapezoids and spirals.  (See p. 2579 for illustrations).
  • There were also finds of glass rings, which I can't find the reference for right now.
In short, this volume provides some interesting small details about ornament in Anglo-Scandinavian York.  More importantly, the fact that YAT has made this and other books free suggests that other out-of-print volumes may show up on the site in the future. There are two out of print YAT volumes by Penelope Walton Rogers (back when she was just Penelope Walton) that address textile finds in the Viking age stratum at Coppergate. Those are not available for free download now,  but I'm hoping that they will be soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment