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Showing posts from May, 2015

A Viking Sword Chape and the Hávamál Story of Odin's Self-sacrifice

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A distinctive style of 10th century Viking sword chape is decorated with a wonderful piece of Borre-style art. An anthropomorphic figure is intertwined with a living tree, hands together at its own throat, its mask-like face having ears at the top (like a bear). The design is repeated on both sides of the chape. The human/animal face mask suggests a shamanic character.


Sword chape, copper alloy, 69 mm, Paulsen (1953) type B, 10th C. An anthropomorphic figure is intertwined with a living tree, hands together at its own throat, its mask-like face having ears at the top (like a bear). 
This form is discussed at length in Hedenstierna-Jonson (2002). The closest published match is an example from Koroston, Ukraine (Figure 4, 2 in Hedenstierna-Jonson 2002). Photographs of this well known example (from "Igor's grave") have been recently published in Androshchuk & Zotsenko (2012, pg 155) and in Williams et al. (2014, pg 107).

Hedenstierna-Jonson writes that the locations of…

A Viking Bound Gripping Beast Pendant and the Lokasenna Story

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A very distinctive 10th century Viking Borre-style gripping beast pendant portrays a four legged figure with an impish cat-like face, two arms bound to a framing structure and one paw gripping part of the creature's own contorted back.

The figure itself is hard to interpret, lacking a tail, apparently a quadruped and bearing a forward-facing short mischievous face with long ears. The creature appears on the older "Carolingian" animal-head post from the Oseberg burial (Graham-Campbell 2013) and in a number of later Borre-style designs. A distinctive feature of the design in this pendant, however, is the binding of two of the creature's arms to the circling frame.

The motif was widely used in pendants in the tenth century, with findspots ranging from Scandinavia to England to Ukraine and Russia (e.g. Graham-Campbell 2013), which makes me think that it may refer to a well known story. The two main clues may be that the creature is bound and that, given its lack of cons…

A Journey to the Peruvian Amazon: "From the Andes to the Amazon"

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Admiring the evolution of the active rivers in the headwaters of the Amazon on Google Earth Engine the other day, I remembered this 1995 journey to Manu. I was particularly interested to see the eventual cut-off of the meander loop where we saw water flooding over the meander neck and trees toppling into the river on December 11th 1995 (near the macaw clay-lick).

My original photos are lost, but I'll see what I can rescue from copies (the small images). The text below is from a 1996 article in "Le Perroquet", Gabon. I have added images from Google Earth.

The terrain between Cusco and Manu. 

From the Andes to the Amazon