Description: Northern Europe, probably Eastern area, Viking, ca. 9th to 11th century CE. An incredibly rare hammered and stamped silver disc, covered with very lightly raised, almost granulated outline iconography of a round spiral form in the uppermost portion (assuming the deer are oriented to stand upright), two standing deer facing the center, a triangle with three interior triangles, and a raised, round boss radiating tiny dots that probably represents the sun. Size: 4.7" W (11.9 cm); 45.4 grams
The iconography of the piece is fascinating, and reflects the importance of the sun to the Norse. As a seagoing people, the Vikings used the sun to navigate; recent scientific studies have shown that they did indeed use sunstones, light-fracturing crystals of calcite (known as Iceland spar), in order to find the sun through dense fog and clouds. They also celebrated the sun for its connotations of light and life. In the opening lines of the Voluspa, the first poem from the Poetic Edda, the sun (sol in Norse) is introduced as a goddess and sister of the moon. Stag symbolism was especially associated with Freyr, one of the most important Norse gods, who was associated with both virility and the sun. Spirals are relatively rare iconographically for the Vikings, and the placement of this one in the "sky" of the design may symbolize an astrological event. The triangle motif was an enduring symbol, widespread throughout the Viking world, found from the Slavic countries to Iceland. It was often decorated with granulation as here, but its meaning is unknown.
Provenance: private New York, USA collection
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Condition Report: Slight bending to form with very light tarnish/patina. Small areas of wear to the stamped motifs, especially towards the edges.
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