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St Patrick's Isle Pagan Lady burial necklace

Date made: Viking: 800-1265, deposited c.AD 930

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 1,000 years ago and which is one of the most richly-furnished female burials outside of Scandinavia. The beads were loose in the grave, but all lay around her neck. The reconstruction of the necklace is conjectural but contains most of the beads found.

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 glass in the plain green glass beads was already three hundred years old when the woman wore them. Some of the patterned glass beads were made in the eastern Mediterranean, other beads are made from amber and one is made from jet.

In 2007 analysis of the woman’s skeletal remains suggested that she was not local, but had moved to the Island during her life.

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

Subject tags : #MM100BEAUTIFULTHINGS


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Is there an image of the entire collection of beads with an archaeology sketch of in situ placement of each? - Severin Roberts Report this

Would it be possible to get a scale or any dimensions for the beads? - Amy Selmer Report this

Why were only 51 put on display? - Matthew Howard Report this