Fall AS XLVI (2011)
Volume XVII, Issue 1 (#63)

From the Nachalnik

I never was able to get word on Pennsic, so there's nothing to publish in this issue for the first time in our full history. I guess that what happens at Cooper's Lake stays at Cooper's Lake – at least this year! But I would imagine that folks had fun and there was the usual exchange of ideas and sources,

As well, it's been a busy time for me and for others, there isn't a large amount of content to this quarter's issue. Still, this is the start of our 17 th year, so I'm pretty proud of that! And I hope you will enjoy Ásfríðr's fascinating piece on penannular brooches.


The Mysterious “Omega” Brooches - Part Two

By Ásfríðr Úlfvíðardóttir

Following on from the short article in issue 60 of Slovo , I have discovered some more information about the “Omega” brooches to share with the Slavic Interest Group.

It seems the name given to these brooches is syulgam in Mordvin-Moksha or syulgamo in the Eryza language (Mordovia Wiki). There are, broadly speaking, four main styles of brooch. The first style is rather simple, made of wire and bent into shape. The second style, like those from Efeafsk (Sheppard, 1904), have the ‘legs' of the brooch flattened, while the third has patterns – geometric or granulation work - decorating the flattened legs. The fourth is the eye-catching style with perforations so that beads, coins or cowry shells can be attached.


Three of the four major ‘types' of brooch:


The simplest style, with slightly flattened terminals. Courtesy of Sandy Sempel, Fr öjel Gotlandica, Australia.


Longer, flattened legs. From Sheppard (1904).


The most complex style, with simple granulation patterns, and piercings to suspend more ornaments. Reproduction by Keith 'Chips' Whitthread, Australia.


The quoted source which some websites of antique dealers and jewelers use, regardless of the precise style of the brooch, is edited by V. Sedov and titled Finno-Ugri i Balti v Epokhy Srednevekov'ya which covers the archaeology of Finno-Ugric and Baltic peoples of the Middle Ages. While this book does include drawings of Mordvin jewelry, it does not have the examples seen online of scrollwork-decorated legs, and the type with perforations, which are described online as 9-16 th century “cloak pins” or Viking Age brooches “used on women's apron dresses” (e.g., Raymond's Quiet Press, 2010; Sulik, 2011). Just how true are these merchant's and antique dealer's claims?

It is probably safe to say that two types of Omega brooch can be dated to the Middle Ages – the simplest bent-wire style, 10-11 th centuries (Golubeva 1987b; Hull and East Riding Museum, 2010) and the slightly more complex brooch with flattened-out legs, sometimes with what appears to be very simple dotting on the legs, dated 12-15 th centuries (Golubeva 1987b).

The elaborately decorated omega brooch style, with granulation work on the legs, at earliest, appears to date to the 16 th -17 th centuries (Alihova et al., 1964). Brooches with scrollwork patterns, as seen at Raymond's Quiet Press, have been dated to the 17 th century (Mordovian Republic History Museum, 2009). This does not bode well for these brooches being Viking Age or dating from the 15 th century or earlier Medieval period.

It seems that the brooch style with perforations evolved even later. Vinnichek (2001-2) says that the brooch dates to the 17-18 th centuries, which is not surprising given its similarities to 19 th century examples collected by ethnographers, where the threading holes are used to attach densely beaded panels decorated with cowry shells, bells, beads and chains (e.g., Suomen Museot Online; Heikel, 1896).

So where does this leave the many Viking Age re-enactors who like to wear these brooches for an exotic touch to their outfit? Sadly, only the very simple bent-wire style appears to be contemporary to the Viking Age. The slightly more complex style with flattened terminals is dated to the middle ages, far later than the Viking Age. But even then, these brooches are part of a fashion particular to the Mordvins, not the Norse who lived around the Baltic coast. The fancier, decorated and pierced styles are even more chronologically distant, dating from approximately the 17 th century, and are almost outside of the period of interest for the Slavic Interest Group. You cannot deny that these are striking pieces of dress, which is why it seems such a shame they are being worn in such an anachronistic manner.


Drawing of a 19th century Mordvin woman wearing a syulgam at the throat. (Heikel, 1896)


But, for the sake of completeness, it is worth knowing how these brooches were worn. Certainly, there is no evidence of apron dresses or cloak fastenings! As suggested in the previous Slovo article, it appears that historically and modernly these s yulgam are worn as a shirt or shift-brooch (Prokina, 2007; Suomen Museot Online; Alihova et al., 1964; Heikel 1896 ). According to Alihova et al., (1964), the simplest styles of brooch worn in the 10-11 th centuries appeared in male graves, fastening the slit of a shirt.


Brooch SU4531:15, from the National Museum of Finland. (Heikel, 1896)


Brooch SU4532:14, from the National Museum of Finland. (Heikel, 1896).


Sadly, the only reconstructions I have been able to find of pre-19 th century feminine Mordvin dress, dates from the 8-9 th centuries (Golubeva 1987b; Stepanova, 2005), before wire-like Omega brooches became fashionable and so I have been unable to verify Sheppard's claim that the jewelry was “found in rows, resting upon the bones of the chest” (1904). Although Sheppard does not mention the gender of the deceased, according to Alihova et al (1967) the earliest syulgam styles appear to have been worn by both men and women. Grave plans of Muromian women, another Finno-Ugric tribe who were assimilated by the Kievian Rus in the 11-12 th centuries, show brooches similar to the omega style, but cast to shape, sitting at the hip, or on the chest (Golubeva, 1987a). But the accompanying reconstruction drawings simply show the brooches decoratively pinned to a shirt or dress. This may be due to a lack of preserved textiles being found with the jewelry. It is only later in this fascinating brooch's evolution that it became an important element of feminine dress.


•  Alihova, R.F., Voronina, R.F., Tsirkin, A.V. 1964. Kelgininskii mogilnik: Predvaritelnoe soobshchenie Online at: http://zubova-poliana.narod.ru/archeology-kelgininsky.htm

•  Golubeva, L.A. 1987a. “Muroma” in Sedov (1987)

•  Golubeva, L.A. 1987b. “Mordva” in Sedov (1987)

•  Heikel, A.O. 1896. Mordvalaisten pukuja ja kuoseja. Online at: http://www.archive.org/details/mordvalaistenpuk00heik

•  Hull and East Riding Museum. 2010. Online Collection Catalogue Online at: http://www.hullcc.gov.uk/museumcollections/ collections/

•  Mordovia Wiki Syulgamo . Online at: http://www.mordovia.info/wiki/ %D0%A1%D1%8E%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B0

•  Mordovian Republic Combined Local History Museum. 2009. Arkheologiy Online at: http://www.mrkm.ru/?cat=part1&sub=5

•  Prokina, T.P. 2007. Mordovskii narodnyi kostyum – Mordovian National Costume (Saransk: Mordovia Book Publishers)

•  Raymond's Quiet Press. 2010. Viking Women's Dress Brooches, Shawl Pins . Available online at: https://www.quietpress.com/vikingbrooch.html

•  Sedov, V. 1987. [ed] Finno-Ugri i Balti v Epokhy Srednevekoviya. Moscow.

•  Sheppard, T. 1904. Ancient Russian Ornaments and Weapons. The Antiquary 50(290); 50-4. Online at: http://www.archive.org/details/antiquary06unkngoog

•  Stepanova, J. 2005. Kostyum finno-ugrov epohi srednevekovaya Online: http://archcostume.narod.ru/gallery_finn.htm

•  Sulik. 2011. Bronze Mordvinian Cloak Pin
Online at: http://www.etsy.com/listing/68985951/bronze-mordvinian-cloak-pin

•  Suomen Museot Online. Solki
Online at: http://suomenmuseotonline.fi/fi/ohde/Suomen+kansallismuseo/SU4531%3a15?museum=kansallis*&itemIndex=7377
and http://suomenmuseotonline.fi/fi/kohde/Suomen+kansallismuseo/SU4532%3a14?museum=kansallis*&itemIndex=7379

•  Vinnichek V. 2001-2 “Arhyeologicheskie issledovaniya v raione Ust-Uzinskogo mogilnika” Finno-Ugrica; 44-55. Online at: http://www.tataroved.ru/publicat/fu_5-6.pdf


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The publisher and editor is Paul Wickenden of Thanet (Paul Goldschmidt), 5625 Highland Way, Middleton WI 53562, 608-827-6891, e-mail: goldschp@tds.net. There is no subscription fee and copies of this quarterly newsletter are available free of charge from the editor. Slovo is also available on-line at the Interest Group web site (http://slavic.freeservers.com).