Hybrid beasts of the Nordic Bronze Age





Nordic Bronze Age (NBA), hybrid, cosmology, elite, animism


During the Nordic Bronze Age (NBA), hybrid beasts contributed to cosmological and mythical narratives on the main media of metal and rock. These hybrids are composed of body parts from particular animals – including bull, bird, snake, horse and human – which entangle with particular objects or images. On metalwork, they appear especially on bronze razors but also on shields, bowls, combs, helmets and in the shape of figurines. Their main occurrence clusters in the later part of the NBA that is characterised by social change. Especially cremation as the total metamorphosis of the human body aligns with a nexus of analogues firmly linking interspecies composites with ideas of bodily fluidity and transformation. Overall, this may be understood as a way of perceiving, and potentially controlling, the world. NBA hybridising art does not indicate that the religion of the era is reducible to mere animism throughout, but society certainly retained and put to use properties of an animistic tradition. Supported by contextual data, the article proposes that the hybrids related to shared NBA myths and religious practices while also legitimising the privilege and leadership of the upper echelons of NBA societies.

Author Biographies

Laura Ahlqvist

Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

Helle Vandkilde

Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark


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How to Cite

Ahlqvist, L., & Vandkilde, H. (2018). Hybrid beasts of the Nordic Bronze Age. Danish Journal of Archaeology, 7, 180–194. https://doi.org/10.1080/21662282.2018.1507704



Research Article