BCH-SIL-00113

Maeshowe Dragon Large Brooch

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This marvellous creature was carved by Vikings 900 years ago on the wall of Orkney's great Neolithic monument, Maeshowe.

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Dimensions: 42mm x 44mm

Maeshowe Dragon

It was Christmas, 1153. Earl Harald Maddadsson led his men eastwards from Hamnavoe towards the Bay of Firth. Perhaps they were heading for the tiny island of Damsay, and its great drinking hall and winter residence.


But half-way through the journey, a wild blizzard blew up. Fearing they’d be smoored under snow and frozen to death, Harald directed his Vikings to the nearest shelter. This turned out not to be a warm and welcoming farmhouse, but a mysterious stony mound rising out of a banked enclosure. Orkahaugr, the Norse called it. Now we know it as Maeshowe.

Maeshowe Dragon jewellery

Once sheltering inside, the Norsemen amused themselves by carving messages in twig-like runes on the walls. One particularly skilled carver left behind this striking dragon with its fierce grimace and wings ready for flight. Not a friendly-looking beast, but a suitably impressive Viking emblem!


Nine centuries later, Ola Gorie, freshly graduated, remembered what was at the time a little-known image hidden at the back of a dark mound. She crawled inside Maeshowe with torch and sketchbook and created her first ever jewellery design.


Launched in 1960, and still a favourite, this collection marks the birth of modern Orkney jewellery. But it’s also a direct link with our distant Viking past and their midwinter adventure.