Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Book on "Viking" Clothing

From several of the mailing lists to which I subscribe I've learned about a new book, coming out in December, that purports to provide patterns for garments found at the Herjolfsnæs site in Greenland. It's called Norse Clothing Patterns: Reconstructions of Viking Garments from Greenland, by Else Østergård, Anna Norgard and Lilli Fransen (translated by Shelly Nordtorp-Madson). It's being published by Aarhus University Press, and David Brown (source of the link above) will be selling it for $30 USD. Those of you who are interested in medieval costume will recall that Ms. Østergård is the author of Woven Into The Earth, which described, depicted, and analyzed the Herjolfsnæs garments in detail.

It sounds like an interesting book, though the title is a complete misnomer. The earliest of the Herjolfsnæs finds has been dated to the late 12th century CE, and most are 14th or 15th century--long after the passing of the Viking Age. Still, I likely will purchase a copy anyway, if only in hopes of finding clearer explanations for some of the garment construction techniques discussed in Woven Into the Earth.

But I want to read NESAT X first. :-)

EDIT: I stand corrected. Pearl pointed out on the Norsefolk2 list that a few Viking Age finds turned up at the Landnáma farm at Narsaq, at the oldest building from the "Farm Beneath the Sand." (See Woven Into The Earth, page 123). The finds sound tantalizing from Ms. Østergård's description, but they are too fragmentary to generate an actual Viking age costume from them. She says, in Woven Into The Earth:
Textile fragments from Landnáma Farm at Narsaq (Ø 17a), from the oldest building at 'the Farm Beneath the Sand,' (64V2-III-555) and from other Norse localities show that settlers' clothes had elements known from the 'Viking costume.' For example, there are pleated fragments of both linen and vadmal, linen drawstrings with overhand knots, dyed wool textiles and korkje-coloured piled weaves as well as madder-red diamond twill.  There are also many 'piped' garments.

But although the Greenland landnáma textiles have a Viking age element, they are difficult to place as belonging to the costume of that age, since they are stray finds without established relationships. No whole Greenlandic Viking age costume can be assembled, so it is necessary to look at garments or parts of garments found outside Greenland if we are to form an impression of the clothing of the settlers.

So it doesn't look as though the new "patterns" are likely to include Viking era patterns, unless they include a pattern from a find outside Greenland.

SECOND EDIT: One of the members of a costume-related list to which I subscribe is personally acquainted with Else Østergård, and asked her to clear up what the book really will be about. The answer:
Danish title: Nordbomønstre - dragtsnit fra middelalderen. The English title is: Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns.

There are no Viking Age garments, the book deals with costume from c.1200-1500, the oldest garment from Herjolfsnæs is C-14 dated to the 13th century, the most recent to the 15th century.

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