I have already written a post about the Oseberg ship and its finding during the early 90’s of the XX century (1904) in a burial mound near Oseberg farm, in the Vestfold county in Norway. One of the most well preserved findings of the Viking Age, unfortunately looted during the early Middle Ages, but even so what remained there was a really exciting and princeless findings for the archaeological studies.
Apart from the two female skeletons found there, which was the main subject of my previous writing about the Oseberg ship on another post, there were other burial goods, all the precious metals have been taken by the thieves, but what seemed to them to be worthless, is indeed a marvelous treasure the understand the lifes of these people during the Viking Ages. One of the most interesting Oseberg discoveries is the so called Buddha-bøtte or Buddha bucket. It is a pail with two identical figures forming the joints of the pail handle. Both figures represent a man seated in the Lotus position. The head is flat and his face with the eyes closed has a very peaceful expression. The man’s breast is ornamented with red and yellow in the technique of champlevé enamel used in the decorative arts, as well as panels in the glass work technique of millefiori. Four swastikas on the enamel decoration have the common shape of those in the Buddhist tradition, in which this symbol represents auspiciousness and good fortune, which is indeed an universal symbol that dates from prehistoric times, very common in shamanic comunities and the Norse peoples also used it. But this artifact shows that the Vikings could in fact have met Buddhist missionaries during their expeditions. It is also interesting to know about the Sixth-century Buddha statuette from northern India that was found on the island of Helgö, in Sweden, something that I have also written about and you can take a look at the lable of “Archaeology” which shows indeed the contact that the Nordic people had with other cultures, so far from their homeland, the trading routes that have been settled during this time, theexchange of culture, ideas, religion and the trade communities of other countries that have settled in the Norse lands and apparently they all got along pretty well, according to the archeolofical findings of Helgö. However, the Oseberg Buddha is different, it does not seem to have been imported from Asia. Researchers point to either Ireland or England as the possible places of origin. Hexham bucket decoration represents a flat human head with the same type of broad face and the same stress on the eyes. Among other parallels, the hanging bowl found at Löland, Norway, and the one found in the Maas, Holland, are similar examples. Both have human shaped handles with red and yellow enamel decoration. Perhaps the most striking parralel to Oseberg Buddha are the anthropomorphic escutcheons on the Myklebostad hanging bowl, which have similar elaborate champlevé in red, yellow and green, with panels of millefiori. However, the man is not seated, but standing.
Suffice to say that the identity of the man here represented remains a mystery. It could be Buddha himself, or a different type of foreign art that the Norse adopted and created the image of one of their leaders in this shape, or probably the representation of one of their gods? We might never know, but it is interesting to see how far people went and the many cutural diversity already existing in Europe in these ages.
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