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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guldgubber: Ancient Miniatures of the Northmen

Hungry Ghosts is sick again, and thus will create a diversion. Travel back in time to the Viking Age and view some ancient metal miniatures recently discovered in Denmark. The artifacts are from the collection of the Bornholms Museum near Copenhagen.

These figures known as Guldgubber or Guldmaend are of uncertain purpose - some represent gods, kings, or warriors; others perhaps sacrificial victims, or commemorative wedding gifts. They are made of gold or a gold-tin, and are rarely found.

This Guldgubbe with a crown-like object on its head was found in August 2011 by Vestermarie in Denmark.

Here is another Guldgubbe found at the same site. He clearly has a Dwarfish appearance despite the shameful absence of a beard.

This picture illustrates the size of the Guldgubber in mm. Our noble Guldgubbe is about 15mm wide and 30 mm tall, while the Dwarf is rather square in shape, about 25mm x 25mm.

More about this pair can be found at the link below, which is also the source of the photos.

A more recent find, just a month ago, in Smørenge near København. This Guldman has a more complex 3-dimensional shape and defined facial features. The increased level of detail suggests a representation of a more important personage or a more valuable sacrificial offering to the gods. The age has not been determined yet. He is about 35mm tall and 10mm wide, but is missing his slotta-tab.

More details are available from the Borholms Museum about this

This pair date from approximately 500-600 A.D., and were discovered in 2005 in Pedersker. They are between 25-30mm tall. The bent-legged posture suggest that they may be representations of deities, which were seated upon thrones in a miniature altar made of wood or bone. The stretched arm position may be a symbol of the deity providing forgiveness or accepting a prayer or sacrifice.

Details from Bornholm again: http://bornholmsmuseum.dk/arkeologi/nyefund9.htm

This flat and rather abstract example was found in January, also from Smørenge. It has a similar emphasis on the arms and hands, typical of other finds. The flap on the neck represents a collar, of which the other half has broken off. (http://bornholmsmuseum.dk/arkeologi/amandgubbe.htm)

This concludes our tour of golden statuettes from the age of the great migrations in Europe. As we can see, there is a great variety in the artistic style of the Guldmaend. And, as many of these Guldgubben were found recently by amateurs working near large cities or in remote locations, many more remain to be uncovered.

More can be learned about these gold men and their wide variety of shapes in the article linked below by Margrethe Watt (in English):

And a couple more articles for our Swedish readers by Lars Lundqvist:

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