In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Scandinavian Migration-Period Gold Bracteates

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  • Encyclopedias

Medieval Studies Scandinavian Migration-Period Gold Bracteates
Nancy L. Wicker
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 May 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0107


Scandinavian bracteates of the Migration period (5th and 6th centuries CE) are small disks (usually 1.5–3 cm in diameter) equipped with loops for suspension as pendants. Wear patterns on the loops show that they were worn around the neck. Around one thousand of these objects have been discovered, mostly in southern Scandinavia but also spread across Europe from England to Hungary. They have been discovered in hoards, graves, and stray finds, and they date to approximately 450–550 CE. The imagery, which is stamped in the central area from one side, usually depicts male figures and stylized animals. These images have been considered important for understanding the iconography of pre-Christian Scandinavia, and runic inscriptions such as “I give luck” on bracteates suggest that they were used as amulets. Bracteate research has been important for scholars of archaeology, art history, the history of religions, philology, linguistics, and runology. Twelfth-century silver German coins made by a one-sided bracteate technique are not considered in this article.

General Overviews

For several decades, the basic reference work on bracteates was by Mogens Mackeprang, who published a catalogue of them arranged geographically. Mackeprang illustrated bracteates at a scale of 1:1. In the 1960s Karl Hauck began investigating their iconography, and he and his colleagues published a seven-volume corpus of bracteates. This system is largely replacing use of Mackeprang’s catalogue, and more-recent publications refer to bracteates by Hauck’s “IK” (for Ikonographischer Katalog) numbers.

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