The Vikings demonstrated their strength, wealth, creativity, and skill in many ways. One of the ways they displayed all of these qualities was through the style of their clothing. The style of clothing and jewelry varied and evolved throughout the Viking Age. Clothing differed according to gender, age, and social/economic status. Men wore tunics with pants, and women usually wore strappy dresses worn over underwear. The upper classes wore jewelry, fabrics, and furs imported from other countries, such as the Byzantine Empire. They were acquired through extensive trade throughout Europe. These expensive luxuries demonstrated the power, wealth, and importance of those who wore them. Most people wore clothes made from local materials such as wool and linen. Women wove them using local materials. The incredible craftsmanship of Viking culture can be seen in many items, such as brooches, that the Vikings used and wore in their daily lives. The detail and intricacy of these items show how much time and labor was put into the craftsmanship.
Brooches were worn by Viking women to secure their tunics. There are many styles of brooches, such as the animal head brooches, which were worn in pairs to fasten the straps of their tunics. They were worn on either side of the collarbone. There are also brooch boxes, which were worn under the chin to fasten a cloak or shawl and could be worn in conjunction with another matching pair of brooches. They were usually hollow and had a large round hole in the back, which made the brooch handy for storing small items. Many brooch specimens are very worn, meaning that they may have been passed down from generation to generation and used frequently. Box type brooches are often found on Gotland, an island off the coast of Sweden.
Gotland is a large island in the Baltic Sea, about 50 miles east of mainland Sweden. This island has many small coastal settlements from the Viking Age, which began as small villages and evolved into larger cities. Gotland became a common stopping place for merchant ships. Excavations have shown that many items of foreign origin have been found on the island, indicating trade in the area. Coins and other treasures and artifacts of the Viking culture were found on this island in great numbers. Gotland was an important island for the Vikings of this era.
This brooch in the shape of a rounded box was found on Gotland and is believed to be from the early Viking period, the 8th-9th centuries. It is made of copper alloy and has a diameter of about 5.2 cm. It depicts many animals with elongated limbs that are intertwined with each other. The brooch in the form of a rounded box is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The top of this brooch is divided into four sections with images of various animals, as are the sides, which are also decorated. It depicts the heads of animals such as birds and cats, with round eyes, open jaws and clawed paws. Their bodies, limbs and paws are extremely elongated and intricately intertwined with each other. This is an example of the traditional "grasping beast" style of the Viking Age.