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The mystery of the Pagan Lady's necklace
Pagan Lady's Necklace: Manx National Heritage

This necklace hails from a time when Vikings ruled the land and seas.

It is made up of 73 glass beads which in turn have been sculpted from stones found all over the world.

Its discovery in Peel Castle is unusual because during this period it was more common for men to be buried with such high-status symbols.

The fact that a woman was buried with this fine and rare necklace has led to much discussion among experts about women's role in Viking society.

When Manx National Heritage was tasked with coming up with the Isle of Man's 10 most significant museum objects, there was much debate about what should be chosen.

Peel Castle courtesy of Manx National Heritage
The necklace was excavated at Peel Castle on the west coast of the island

But everyone agreed on one object, the Pagan Lady's necklace.

From England, Ireland, the Baltic sea area, Continental Europe and the Middle east, the stones which make up this necklace travelled far and wide before they were put together as a piece of jewellery.

It demonstrates the existence of powerful and high status females in a period of history that is usually dominated by men.

But it also it shows that even in ancient times people appreciated ornamentation and personal decoration.

One thing is for sure, the people involved in making, giving and wearing this necklace liked pretty things.

But not everything surrounding this discovery was quite as obvious.

Curator at Manx National Heritage, Allison Fox said mystery still surrounds the owner of this fine necklace.

"She was buried within the Christian cemetery at Peel Castle but she had grave goods with her which is a feature of a Pagan burial. Early Christians didn't feel the need to take treasures into the next life.

This woman would have dispensed advice and could have been seen by her local community as having special powers.
Curator, Allison Fox

"This woman was also buried with various charms - there were two pieces of stone which looked like a tiny pestle and mortar and she also had a long iron rod down by her side.

"The interpretation of these finds at the time of the excavation was that the Pagan lady was something of a domestic Goddess, someone who was in charge in the home."

The beads from the necklace were thought to have been gifts from her husband who had travelled extensively.

However, a few years ago, said Allison Fox, new research emerged which shed a different light on the Pagan lady.

"A man called Neil Price had been examining similar female graves from this period in time and he came up with an alternative theory.

"He had the idea that this sort of grave was the final resting ground for a wise women. This woman would have dispensed advice and could have been seen by her local community as having special powers.

"She would have been paid with things like beads, would also have possessed charms and perhaps the iron rod was more of a symbol of her status. Perhaps she was a wise woman, a healer, a shamen".

The Pagan Lady's Necklace is currently on display at the Manx Museum in Douglas.

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