Northern Europe, Viking / Norse culture, ca. 800 to 1100 CE. A stunning long-knitted silver chain ending in two cast terminals with miniscule repeating triangular designs held together by a thin, twin-looped bar spiraled in-between. From a narrow, twisted loop with coiled ends hangs the likeness of the fabled Mjolnir, a heavy solid-silver Thor's hammer amulet comprised of two broad lateral faces, a slender handle, and an integral suspension loop. The hammer is stamped with similar triangular motifs as the terminals as well as tiny circles on the obverse side, and the verso is unadorned. The chain exhibits small areas of emerald-green and azurite patina, imbuing it with a gorgeous, well-aged appearance. Size of chain: 15.5" L (39.4 cm); size of hammer: 1.625" W x 2.375" H (4.1 cm x 6 cm).
Small Thor's hammers were worn as religious amulets throughout the Viking era, usually made of silver and typically hung on silver chains. Some even made it to the Christian era; there is a famous example of a Thor's hammer amulet from Fossi, Iceland, that has been turned into a cross (they are also invoked nowadays to describe the power of the surprisingly-mighty Icelandic football team). The chain itself, meanwhile, is a style of knitwork done with thin silver wire that seems to have originated with the Vikings.
The important Viking metalworking shops correspond to their great trading ports and proto-urban centers - Birka, Helgo, Sigtuna, and Lund in Sweden; Ribe, Haithabu (Hedeby), and Fyrkat in Denmark; and Kaupang and Trondheim in Norway. Silver was the principal currency of the Viking world, which stretched from Russia to northern Canada at the height of their influence. In many places, the Vikings kept silver not as coins, but as jewelry, a wearable form of currency that was not subject to the authority of a monarch or mint. One of the most common archaeological finds from the Viking period is a hoard of metal objects, often buried in the earth or deposited in bodies of water, like river beds. These are found in great quantities throughout the British Isles and the Nordic countries.
What was the meaning of such hoards? Were they treasures buried for safe keeping, perhaps by people fleeing violence who did not wish to travel with heavy loads and who died or forgot before they could retrieve them? Or does their presence in rivers suggest votive deposits, gifts and offerings to spirits who lived in the water?
See similar examples in: Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga. Ed. Fitzhugh and Ward. Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection
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Expected age-commensurate surface wear, small nick to verso of hammer, slight bending to overall form, especially to the wires holding the chain, light age patina, light fading to stamped designs, with some small areas of wear to chain and hammer, otherwise intact and near-choice. The chain itself is in very nice condition, with no breaks to the links. Amethyst in photo for support/display purposes only.