Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Sample of "Silk For The Vikings"

Persian silks from the Oseberg burial (Photo:  KHM:UiO)*
In 2014, Professor Marianne Vedeler of the University of Oslo in Norway will  be publishing her latest book, Silk For The Vikings, about how the Vikings used silk and the sources of the silks that the Vikings obtained.  

A recent news article provides a tiny taste of information from Professor Vedeler's study of the subject. On Friday, Science Daily published an article discussing some of her conclusions as they relate to the Persian silks that were found among the textiles in the Oseberg ship burial.

The Persian silks consist of many small strips and fragments of strips that likely had been used to decorate clothing.  The article states that the Oseberg Persian silks are "the oldest find of Viking Age silk in Norway," though it's not clear from the statement whether there are pre-Viking-age silk finds in Norway.

Professor Vedeler takes pains to note that although a greater quantity of silk has been found in the graves at Birka in Sweden, "...there are no other places where so much and such varied silk has been found in a single burial site as in Oseberg,"  The Oseberg grave apparently contains silk from fifteen different textiles, as well as embroideries and tablet-woven silk and wool bands.  A good color photograph of some of the Persian silk fragments appears with the Science Daily article, but an even better one appears in an article about the Persian silks on Past Horizons, here.  I've reproduced it here.

A more sobering detail in the article is that though the Vikings obtained and proudly wore silk, they did not manage to obtain the best quality of silk then produced, ending up with fabric that was about medium in quality.

The interview with Professor Vedeler was done by the research magazine Apollon. If you can't wait for Silk For The Vikings to reach the booksellers (David Brown Book Company, Oxbow's American affiliate, is taking pre-orders at $40.00 USD), check out the Apollon article, which has a bit more information; you can find it here.

* KHM:UiO indicates the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, with which Professor Vedeler is affiliated.

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