Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ring Pins...

Ring Pin (David Robertson) and Antler Comb (Dave Cox) at LAM

The object under discussion here is the bronze ring headed pin found at L'Anse aux Meadows. This object was the defining one that proved that the site was both Norse and Viking Age.

" ... A few questions came up during last weekend's display which I could not answer. ... Is it certain that the ring pin was used as cloak pin? Some of the handyman visitors to my display speculated that it was in fact a plumb bob, used for setting poles or ship masts straight. This is an interesting idea, and I experimented. The narrowed area just below the ring is perfect for wrapping string into, and when the pin is hung by the ring at the end of a string, the swiveling ring helps dampen the ring's pendulum swing. In construction projects using tall poles or in setting ship masts which were frequently lowered and raised, a plumb bob would be very useful to make sure the object was set vertically. And it's just the kind of thing to be forgotten on the ground at a construction site, or buried with the mariner who used it, to be found a millenium later by the archaeologists. If it's a cloak pin, why does a cloak pin need a swiveling ring on the top, but nothing to keep the heavy blanket sections it is holding tiogether from simply sliding apart along the pin? The contemporaneous twisting ring-brooch style cloak pins from viking and celtic sites have a locking method to prevent this from happening. ... "
Dave Nordin

Your description is workable - but is a possible secondary use. Ring pins are common in both Iceland and Norse Ireland bracketing 1000 AD. In burials they are found either at the centre chest (women) or on the right hip or right top shoulder (men). Pretty obvious.

In this use, take a smaller gather of cloth. This should fit along the cylinder part of the pin. There is then a bit of a 'stop' at the slightly wider square pin. Also, if you take a length of wool and attach it to the ring end, you can wrap this cord around the pinch of cloth once in place. This pretty much locks the ring pin in place. (Does that make sense??)

Although there may be a requirement for that degree of accuracy (the suggestion as a plump bob) in ship construction, it certainly would not be required for house building! The buildings at LAM - or Greenland or Iceland for that matter, use a simple timber frame to support the turf blocks that insulate the roof. The walls are piles of turf blocks - each roughly a half metre by on metre and about 15 cm thick. The wood is all cut straight from log, so all the elements are tapered and irregular to begin with. Anything placed straight by eye would be more that square enough!

Interior of reconstructed Long House at LAM.

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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