Document Type


Peer Reviewed





Artifacts of female dress such as brooches and pendants have long been objects of interest to scholars of late Iron Age /early medieval Scandinavia. They figure in dating and tracing stylistic developments, and their presence is often (controversially) used to help assign gender to burials. There are three types of pendants which constitute a type of feminine adornment unique to Viking Age Gotland: the so-called tongue, sieve, and ladle pendants. The purpose of this paper is to examine these pendant types and the possible symbolic and magical functions behind their forms and manner of use, and how these functions intersected with the ideologies mapped onto female bodies in Old Norse culture(s). The pendants’ appearance as fixed and incomplete sets is analyzed, and the designs of the “tongue”, “sieve” and “ladle” are located within the wider field of Iron Age iconography - particularly in association with the depiction of idealized gender roles. In conclusion a hypothesis as to why these particular amulets were used exclusively by wealthy Viking women is presented; that the tongue, sieve, and ladle pendants signaled and were involved in the construction of a particular type of elite female identity linked to specifically feminine forms of embodied power and prestige within late Iron Age society.


Many thanks to Dr. Karen Overbey for all her very thoughtful critique and help throughout the revising process.To the other anonymous reviewer for their insightful input on the article. And the staff of MFF for providing such a wonderful forum for women and gender research!


Amulets, Viking Age, Vendel Period, Iron Age, Early Middle Ages, Archaeology of Gender, Archaeology of Dress and Adornment, Jewelry, Gotland, Early Medieval Archaeology, Old Norse Religion, Women and Gender Studies, Burial Archaeology, Archaeological Theory, New Materliams, neo-materialismu

Rights Information

Copyright © 2017 Meghan P. Mattsson McGinnis