By Michèle Hayeur-Smith
Vinland Revisited, the Norse World at the Turn of the First Millennium, edited by Shannon Lewis-Simpson (St. Johns, 2003)
Introduction: The most widespread use of jewellery is as body adornment. This paper will address the social dimension of jewellery and will look at the Icelandic mortuary material from the Viking period and its place in the North Atlantic context. In this paper, I am putting forth a hypothesis on the function of the oval brooch and similar Scandinavian ‘type’ object, in the settlement and early Commonwealth periods of Iceland. The focus will therefore be placed on female adornment rather than male, though data regarding both genders will be reviewed. This hypothesis may be applicable to other areas colonized by the Norse. I am suggesting that oval brooches (along with pagan burial practice in general) in the early part of the settlement may have changed social significance from that which they represented at home, to become symbols associated with personal and cultural identity, as well as being symbolic items connecting the settlers to their cultural past.