On April 22, 2014, Paul Uniacke was exploring a field near Revninge in the east of Denmark with his metal detector when he discovered a small fine figurine. He instantly recognised it as Viking Age and contacted Østfyns Museums, who confirmed this and started the process of conservation.

Rare find

The discovery of this 4.6 cm high gilt silver figurine contains a wealth of detail giving new knowledge about costume and jewellery of the period. “Small characters from the Viking period are extremely rare and the Revninge-woman’s dress is incredibly detailed which will contribute to the discussion on the appearance of clothes and how they might have been worn,” explained archaeologist Claus Feveile, Department of Landscape & Archaeology at Østfyns Museums.

Surprising details

There is no doubt that the small figure with her hair tightly drawn back into a bun is from the Viking Age. Some details however are quite surprising.

For instance, the body of the figurine is two-dimensional, but the head is three-dimensional which is rather unusual. The figurine must have been worn as a hanging decorative amulet, as through the back of the head there is a small hole. The arms of the woman are placed down her sides with her hands on either side of her abdomen. The dress has long sleeves and is ankle length. Each section of the costume is picked out with different decoration, representing various textile and dress making techniques. The stamped circles round the neck might be depicting a pearl necklace.

Valkyrie or fertility goddess?

What causes the greatest excitement is the three-lobed item of jewellery that sits between her hands. Found in graves this item is usually place on the chest area. So archaeologists had never seen where it was really meant to be located during the life.

Dated to 800 AD, it might represent a goddess, like a Valkyrie or and can be understood in a variety of ways. They might represent goddesses like Valkyries or one of the Norns but archaeologists tend rather to link Revninge Woman to the fertility goddess Freya.

In 2013 at Hårby a Valkyrie figure with a face that looks like Revninge-woman was found, however unlike the Hårby Valkyriethe Revninge Woman carries no weapons, and the position of the hands and the lobed jewellery over the stomach may refer to fertility, making it more likely she represents the goddess of fertility.