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The Valkyrie Figurine, Harby

The Valkyrie figurine, dating from around 800 AD, was found in December and immediately after preservation was exhibited at the National Museum in Copenhagen. It was then included in an exhibition devoted to the Viking Age that opened there in June and at the British Museum in 2014.

The legends of the Valkyries - sinister associates of the god Odin who descend to the battlefields to choose which warriors will die - were among the most enduring in Scandinavian folklore and literature. Later images, often inspired by Wagner's music, tend to be romantic creatures with loose curls and lush bodies.

The thumb-sized figurine is made of gilded silver inlaid with black niello. The Valkyrie is stoutly dressed, armed with a double-sided Viking sword and a round shield, and her hair is neatly twisted into a long ponytail that forms a loop, suggesting that it was worn as a pendant.

Small flat images of walking women, believed to represent the Valkyrie, have been found on many Danish Viking sites, but nothing like this figurine. Its survival is something of a miracle: its shins and feet are missing, and it was found among fragments of scrap metal, so someone may have started chopping it up to melt it down and extract the silver it contains.

Mogens Bo Henriksen, archaeologist and curator of the Odense City Museum on the island of Funen near the site of the find, described the statue as "unique" and said: "There can hardly be any doubt that the figure depicts one of the Valkyries of Odin that we know of. they are taken from the sagas as well as from the Swedish picture stones of the time around 700 AD," he said.

The statue was found in late December by Morten Skovsby, who was learning to use a metal detector with three amateur archaeologists near the village of Horby.