As the archaeologists were sifting through a mass of iron lumps, they found a bronze lump with a dragon. The little dragon was normally placed on a dragon needle, but the needle for this item was missing. It turned out that the dragon fit in the mould that was found at Birka in 1870, and which forms the dragon that has become Birka’s signature mark.
“This dragon head has become a symbol of the Viking Age”, said Lena Holmquist, lecturer at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University, and one of the project leaders for the excavations at Birka. “For many years, there has been an ongoing debate as to where the dragon head was made. With the discovery, we hope to show that it was produced here in Birka.”
In an interview with Radio Sweden, Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, another project leader added, “The dragon has been part of the excavations since the late nineteenth century, when the mould was found. The image has been used by many different expeditions and researchers.”
She explained, “There are other dragon heads from the Viking age and we all know of the ships with the heads in the sterns, but there have been no actual finds that we can confer on. We also have other, small dragon heads made out of copper or bronze but they don’t look like this one. They look more Chinese even if they are clearly Scandinavian, Viking-age finds. This one, though, is the symbolic dragon and it also has some resemblance to the dragon’s heads found on the rune stones.”
The excavations at Birka were conducted in April and early May, and will continue next year, with the excavation area being expanded You can learn more about the find and see images of the dragon’s head from the Birkas Black Earth Harbour 2015 Facebook page: