Gold Bracteate

Date: 400–600

Culture: Scandinavian

Medium: Gold

Dimensions: 1 7/8 x 1 3/4 x 3/16 in. (4.8 x 4.4 x 0.4 cm). .3oz (8g)

Classification: Metalwork-Gold

Credit Line: Purchase, Gift of Dr. Mortimer D. Sackler, Theresa Sackler and Family, and John W. Byington Trust Gift, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.583


Bracteates likely derived from Roman/Byzantine portrait medallions, presented by the emperor to forge personal and political alliances. Here, however, the imperial image has been transformed into a depiction of what is probably a god from the Nordic pantheon, his oversized face balanced atop a galloping horse with horns. With their skillful workmanship and allusions to the Roman/Byzantine world, gold bracteates conveyed both the sophisticated taste and high social status of their owners, who wore them as fine jewelry and hoarded them as treasure.