Unique gold figurine of naked woman found in Denmark

June 12, 2013 - 06:12

A small figurine depicting a slim, naked woman was recently found in a Danish field. Strangely, this is the fifth in a series of tiny golden human figurines found recently in the area.

The head of the figurine viewed from three angles. (Photo: René Laursen)

A field on the Danish island of Bornholm has in recent years been the site of many surprising archaeological finds. The most recent one of these was of a golden figurine of a naked woman.

The small, heavily arched figurine is only 4.2 cm tall and weighs 3 grams, has many details and bears the mark of quality craftsmanship.

Stretched arms and sagging breasts

The woman has a long and slender body, which may have been made out of a thin bar of gold. The head is elongated with a protruding jaw and incised hair. The breasts are sagging and below both shoulders are notches, indicating that her arms have been tied around her body.

The arms are stretched and the thumbs are pressed against one another, while the other fingers are facing downwards. On the stomach is a more clearly incised belt decorated with a zig-zag pattern, and the private parts are clearly visible between the short and thin legs.

Possibly a symbol of fertility and health

The golden woman appears to be either standing on her toes or jumping up athletically with the insteps stretched. And above the elegantly shaped feet, the calves and knees are clearly visible.

When viewing the figurine from the front, it is tempting to associate the naked, buxom, athletic female figure with fertility and health.

Close-up of the golden figurine. Note the belt and the rings around the feet and the arms. (Photo: René Laursen)

Remarkably, the back side has ten prominent ‘teeth’, something that has never been seen before.

Naked female figurines are a rarity in Nordic Iron Age art, where male figurines dominated.

The fifth figurine in the series

The golden woman is the fifth in a series of small, golden human figurines from the Smørenge field on Bornholm. The first four are all believed to depict men, while there is no doubt about the gender of the last addition to the series.

The first figurine was found in the spring of 2009, together with a number of other finds, including several gold-foil figures, while the next three appeared in spring 2012.

Common to all the five figurines is that the heads are plastically formed, but otherwise there is a great deal of variation.

The plough separated the figurines

The five figurines were probably buried in the same place, individually or collectively, at some point during the 6th century AD, i.e. the Migration Period.

A parade of the five golden figurines that have been found so far in this exciting field on Bornholm. (Photo: René Laursen)

Three of them were found within five metres of each other, while the other two were found 10-15 metres further away. Presumably it was the plough that separated them.

This location may have been chosen due to the presence of one or more springs.

Only an excavation would give more information about the characteristics of the place, and such plans have now become a high priority.

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This article is reproduced on this site by kind permission of Skalk, a Danish periodical with articles about Danish prehistoric and medieval archaeology, history and related topics.

Read the Danish version of this article at videnskab.dk

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Translated by
Dann Vinther

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