March has been pretty fruitful for news in ancient Germanic studies. From a new Birka-type Viking Age crucifix found on the Danish island of Funen, to a new translation of newly discovered fragment of an account of a Gothic invasion of Greece, to the implications of a curious belt buckle found in a Viking Age grave in Jutland, and finally to new images of a Viking Age hoard found in Scotland, there's plenty to talk about here.Read More
The National Museum of Denmark has announced that a team of archaeologists has discovered a large of golden spirals—nearly 2,000—dating from the Nordic Bronze Age in Boeslunde, Denmark. The purpose of the Boeslunde Spirals are unknown. According to the National Museum of Denmark:
[Archaeologists] do not know what they've been used for, and they have never seen them before in Denmark. The archaeologists at the Museum Zealand and the National Museum of Denmark are facing a little mystery, when they consider what they have just excavated.
Maybe the spirals have been attached to cords which have served as a small fringe on a hat or a parasol. Perhaps they have been braided into the hair or been embroidered on the suit. The fact is that we do not know, but I tend to believe they were part of a priest king’s costume or headwear, says [curator at the National Museum of Denmark] Flemming Kaul about the strange spirals.
The spirals were discovered in what is now a field in the small town of Boeslunde, located not far from the western coast of Zealand, Denmark. The objects were clustered together in what was once a leather-lined box (since decayed). This is not the first time the field has been excavated. According to the National Museum of Denmark's press release, "a couple years ago" amateur archaeologists discovered two large golden rings ("oath rings"—a practice that appears to have continued in the area until Christianization). Subsequently, the Museum Vestsjælland returned to the site for further excavations, resulting in the yield of golden spirals.
The area is rich in similar gold finds. As a result, archaeologists interpret the area as having been a holy location in the Bronze Age in Nordic Bronze Age religion, and subsequently the items found in the vicinity were probably votive offerings to beings—perhaps gods—in Nordic Bronze Age religion, forebear to North Germanic religion.
Outside of the National Museum of Denmark's rich Nordic Bronze Age exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark, the museum hosts a variety of original articles about Nordic Bronze Age finds on their website, which readers can browse here.
* "Guldspiraler er en gåde for arkæologerne" — Original Press Release from the National Museum of Denmark (in Danish)
* "Gold spirals are a mystery to archaeologists" — English Language Press Release from the National Museum of Denmark
Freja is the fourth most popular newborn girl name in Denmark in 2014, according to Statistics Denmark. Freja entered Statics Denmark's list of most popularity child names in 1994 at #42 and has steadily become very popular. This popularity appears to have peaked in 2009, when the Freja was the #1 most popular name for newborn girls that year. The name has hovered around the top most popular newborn girl names since.
The modern Danish personal name Freja derives from Old Norse Freyja, a theonym (god name) referring to the major goddess Freyja. The name itself transparently means 'Lady' (the name of her brother, Freyr, is 'Lord'). Freyja is thought to have been a title for the goddess, who is otherwise know by at least several other names. The usage of a derivative of the goddess name Freyja as a given name is a recent development and does not appear to have historical precedent in the region.
While the list of newborn girl names primarily shows the influence of names deriving from Latin in the decision making process. However, another name deriving from pre-Christian North Germanic religion, Nanna (from the name of the Old Norse goddess—#38), also appears on the list, along with other Old Norse-derived names such as Signe (#32) and Astrid (#41). Newborn boy names show less of an influence from Old Norse, with a scant few representatives from the Danish language's ancestral name lexicon (for example, Aksel at #26 and Asger at #47).