Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Viking Bead Resource

Viking age beads from Lund, Sweden,
in the Lunds universitets historiska museum
Photo by Wolfgang Sauber (Wikimedia Commons)
I recently found an excellent blog, written by an archaeologist whose primary interest is the Viking age.  The blog is written by Matthew Delvaux and it's called Text and Trowel.

Matthew is a PhD candidate, and he is concentrating his research on slavery during the Viking age. This subject requires substantial research with regard to Viking age production and trade, and as a result he has spent a non-trivial amount of time amassing information about Viking beads.  That is what piqued my interest in his research.

If you are interested in full color photographs of Viking Age beads with informative captions, I don't have to encourage you further; you will find Matthew's blog well worth your time whether you read anything beyond the captions on the featured photos.  As further enticement to the less-bead-oriented, here's an example of information I learned from Text and Trowel.

In this post, Matthew analyzed over 1,400 Viking age glass beads by color to try to ascertain patterns that might tell things about the way the Vikings thought about color, and about their color preferences.  In doing so, he used the Munsell color system. which defines each color according to three attributes:  1) hue (i.e., which basic color, such as red, yellow, green, etc., the particular color falls into); 2) value (how light or dark the color is); and 3) chroma (how drab or brilliant the color is).

It's worth reading the actual post for Matthew's observations.  His overall conclusion is that the Vikings preferred blues that were deep and pure in tone, but some of his intermediate conclusions are even more interesting:
  • Beads in dark blue shades were the most numerous single category of the beads studied, and  were the most similar in hue (i.e., without great differences in hue/value/chroma);
  • There are two looser grouping of colors that we'd think of as blues/greens:  a set of blues that  are brighter and lighter, and a grouping of greenish blues, including shades we'd now call  turquoise;
  • There were two groupings of reddish colors.  One corresponds to the oranges/ambers/reds colors of natural amber, while the other seems to be almost a catch-all for reds and yellows that don't correspond well to colors that amber can have.  
In any event, Text and Trowel is well worth following for those interested in Viking age costume and material culture.

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