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Manufacturing Techniques of Belt and Harness Fittings of the 10th Century AD

Manufacturing Techniques of Belt and Harness Fittings of the 10th Century AD

By Natalia Eniosov and Veronica Murashov

Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol.26 (1999)

Abstract: The present study includes approximately 900 items of belt and horse harness fittings. They have been found on the Upper Dnieper, Smolensk region, the site of the Gnezdovo settlement and cemetery dating from the end of 9th to the beginning of 11th century. One hundred and eleven samples of belt and harness decorations were investigated, using emission spectroscopy and metallography. Consequently, we may propose several reconstructions of the main fabrication techniques: (1) where a pattern was individually cut by a chisel; (2) where a wax model was composed by free-hand; (3) where the wax models were made by casting in stone, clay or metal moulds; (4) where every metal object was cast in a clay mould made by the impression of a model or a previously cast ornament. According to emission spectrography, copper with low impurities is the largest group in the selection. Different types of brass and bronze were used too. There is no connection between the type of casting and the composition of the alloys. Examination of a large number of objects permits us to conclude that belt and harness decorations from Gnezdovo were formed under the influence of different manufacturing techniques. We can identify Scandinavian, southern Russian and Volga Bulgarian among them.

Introduction: This investigation comprises a study of an extensive body of belt and horse harness fittings. They have been found at the Gnezdovo settlement and cemetery excavations carried out from 1874 to the present day. It is the biggest Viking Age cemetery in Europe, situated on the Upper Dnieper, 15 km south-west of Smolensk, Russia, dating from the end of the 9th to the beginning of the 11th century AD.

Gnezdovo was connected with the “intercontinental’’ trade route ‘‘from the Varangians to the Greeks’’ and has yielded a large collection of artefacts. The unusual wealth of its finds and the type of society that they reflected have become important points in the discussion about the origin and development of the early urban centres in Europe. The great number of truly Scandinavian dress accessories, magic objects and weapons found in Gnezdovo has been estimated as the result of an immigration of Scandinavians.

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