Thursday, June 25, 2009

More on the Pskov Finds

Today I was re-reading Google Translate's English rendition of the Russian article I'd located on the Pskov finds, and noticed that it contains an interesting paragraph about a second find containing textiles. Google Translate renders this paragraph as follows:

"For samples of organic decay of the chest defined tissue, which was buried sew clothes (studies performed ES Zubkova and OV Orfinskoy). Was able to establish four types of textiles of various colors and types of binding. In the records and annotations of materials are listed as red-brown silk fabric ( «samid»), thick woolen sarzhevogo mixing red, blue linen cloth binding and non-woven textiles of vegetable origin ( «bat»). Some fragments are preserved, and traces of the seam pattern. EA Yakovleva suggests that the burial clothes were of cotton. As the author writes in his report «bat», probably used in a quilted warm clothing, as well as stratigraphically located between two layers of tissue, and, on top «sarafan» In addition, in the layer were found separate cotton fibers and indeterminable plant fibers. Sample decay of the board, the underlying bone, showed the presence of remnants of red woolen cloth."

I suspect "samid" should be translated as "samite", a weave characteristic of Eastern silks of the period. The presence of cotton clothes, if confirmed, is very interesting indeed. However, it's possible that the "cotton" in question was only cotton batting, used in the "quilted warm clothing"--a use found during the medieval period in Europe much earlier and more commonly than woven cotton cloth.

The red and blue color scheme, on the other hand, appears in other prestigious burials of the Migration Period and in the early medieval period. Indeed, it is shared by the other Pskov textile find, the one including the apron dress remnant.


  1. Hi Cathy
    I came back to this post today after digging around (yet again) trying to make sense of apron dresses. The Pskov finds call this a Sarafan, and I'm pretty much convinced that one style of hangeroc is basically the early Rus sarafan style, with fabric straps that go over the shoulders like a sun dress. This could have side gores or a wonderful pleated construction. There are some excellent patterns on the net.The links on this page source two good examples:

    I'm becoming convinced that the multiple styles included a peplos / Hulderamose style dress pinned with straps at the shoulder - like a Roman Stola - with brooches. I can't see all those thumping great turtle brooches worn half way down your chest: they distort everything. I'm thinking they were pinned at the shoulder. Like this:
    and this:
    Shelagh Lewins quotes Inga Haag on her discussion of the Hedeby finds "It's hard to find definite references to the pinafore in Old Norse: Falk suggests the word "smokkr", from the Old Norse smjœga, "to cling". Rigsm. 16 says "the sleeveless garment was fastened on the shoulders with brooches" (Blindheim 1945 interprets dvergar as brooches). But this is still open to debate."

    And finally (because I'm on a roll), I'm thinking that the 'tight' effect might have been made using laces at the sides. Any of these styles could have been made to fit with gores, panels (a la Hedeby) and side laces, like a Dragkyrtill, allowing a well fitted dress to last through a pregnancy or two. I'm sure if I had to make a dress by first growing the sheep, and all steps between, I'd want it to fit through a few pregnancies. Again, Inga Hagg as quoted by Shelagh Lewins, "Sadly the Haithabu find doesn't tell us much about the side seams. Geijer thought the dress hung as loosely as a bib from its brooches (Vierck, 1981), so the side seams would have posed no problems to the wearer. However, a dress as close fitting as the Haithabu pinafore seems to have been, would have required an opening in order to put it on. The Old Norse laced dress or dragkyrtill was laced together at the sides (laz ar siþu, Falk 1919, p 158), and our dress may have been similar."
    You probably know it very well, but those quotes are on

    Anyway, 3 styles: sarafan with fabric straps 'built in', peplos/stola with shoulder brooches, and a laced dragkyrtill. I'm going to try to make all 3. If you find any images of a dragkyrtill, please let me know.
    Yours in re-enactment solidarity.

  2. Baggage: I suppose that some apron dresses might look like a sarafan, though there's no indication that I know of that the Russian sarafan came into being before the 16th century, and Slavic clothing (as opposed to clothing in regions where the Vikings had influence) looks very different from Viking clothing and uses different types of jewelry. On the clothing of the Kievan Rus see

    I've seen the Finnish reconstructions before, and every time I see them I wonder what the evidence for those U-shaped flaps to which the brooches are pinned might be. It looks very attractive, but I don't know of a shred of evidence for it in Finland (though I don't know a lot about the Finnish archaeological evidence in general). What I do know about the Viking evidence is that what you see are thin loops and straight edges--nothing like the wide U-shaped straps in the Finnish reconstructions.

    With regard to your "dragkyrtill" idea,there wouldn't be a lot of evidence in the graves of laces unless lacing rings were used, and they would not need to have been. So I wouldn't rule out side-lacing as a possibility at least for late Viking garb. But I don't think the Hedeby evidence is particularly relevant on that score. I made a Hedeby dress and it fits quite close, but it has no openings on the sides; I put it on over my head and it stretches (a bit) to fit due to the nature of the wool; see

    Finally, I would appreciate seeing a picture of a dragkyrtill, since I'm having trouble finding one on the web.

    Thanks for your links and comments! They were very interesting.