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27.12.2020

Winged Man, Uppakra

In September 2011, a very interesting object was discovered during a research excavation of an Iron Age settlement in Uppakre in the very south of Sweden. The find and object were described and analyzed by Mikaela Helmbrecht in an article in the antiquarian magazine Fornvännen.(2012). The object is 7.5 cm long, 4.5 cm wide and weighs 52.6 grams. It is an openwork piece with high relief, made of gilded copper alloy. Three iron rivets on the back show that it was going to be fastened to something, but since the object shows no signs of wear, we can conclude that it never happened. It is gilded on all sides, including the reverse, which is unusual and therefore costly. It is slightly bent in the middle, and it has been suggested that it could be a sheath hat or fixture. However, this seems unlikely as it is too heavy for that.

The object is shown from a bird's eye view: we see a man intertwined with a pair of wings - a mixture of a human body and a flying machine. It depicts a winged man wearing armor and boots, with a beard and possibly a helmet. His hands are linked to his wings and plumed tail through a shield-shaped point structure in the middle. This type of ring chain motif is common in the Borre style; consequently, the object probably dates to the mid-Viking period, 950-1000 A.D. Some scholars have linked the ring chain to symbolic binding and crossing.

Already during the field research, the male figure on the object was identified as Velund (based on the idea of Johannes Miaris Sundberg and Bengt Soderberg), the legendary master smith who was captured by the king and horsed up to prevent him from escaping. After that, Velund had to make jewelry for the royal family. But he got his revenge by killing two of the king's sons and making drinking bowls with silver jewelry from their skulls. Velund also raped the king's daughter and left her pregnant. He then managed to escape captivity.
Velund's story is told in the Edic poem Vǫlundarkviða and in Þireks saga af Bern , where his name is Velent. In other narrative sources known from ancient Scandinavian and Western European texts, Velund is also mentioned as a master blacksmith.

The object was found at Uppakra in Scania, which was part of Denmark during the Viking Age. Uppacra is one of the nodal points of southern Scandinavia, a dense settlement with a long tradition, a so-called "central places" complex, whose roots go back to 100 B.C. Extensive metal detecting as well as geophysical research and archaeological excavations were carried out on the site, the results of which showed that the entire settlement area covered about 40 hectares.

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