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St Patrick's Isle Pagan Lady Burial Necklace

Date made: mid-late 10th century

Description: This remarkable collection of colourful beads was discovered in the grave of a woman who had been buried on St Patrick’s Isle just over one thousand years ago. The beads were loose in the grave, but all lay around her neck. The reconstruction of the necklace is conjectural and contains 51 out of the 68 found around the neck area in the grave.

The variety of beads is unusual and perhaps indicates access to wide geographical and cultural environments. Most of the beads are made from plain glass in different colours – white, red, yellow, green, orange and blue. Some of the plain green glass beads were already three hundred years old when the woman wore them. Some of the beads are patterned glass of a type made in the eastern Mediterranean, some are flower-shaped and some are spiralled. Others are made from amber and one is made from jet.

This woman was buried during the time of the Vikings and it is unusual to get such a richly-furnished female grave. The beads may have been souvenirs from her husband’s travels. Other grave goods found with her remains have been interpreted as domestic trappings – she was the head of the home. But perhaps she was also something else – a wise woman, a healer, a shaman – and the beads were payments from those she treated.

Materials: amber, glass, jet, pottery

Date found: 1984

Object name: necklace

Collection: Archaeology Collection

ID number: 1984-0016/20

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