Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Brief Observation about the Skjoldehamn Hood

19th century Finnish woodsman
Readers of this blog with an interest in the costume of the residents of Scandinavia during the Viking age will doubtless be familiar with the Skjoldehamn find; a body with a complete costume consisting of a shirt, an over-shirt, belt, trousers, foot-wrappings, socks, shoes, and a hood that was found in northwestern Norway during the 1930s. Originally feared to be the body of a recent crime victim when it was first discovered, the age at death, ethnic origin and gender of the body continue to be debated, with the latest hypothesis (by Dan Halvard Løvlid) being that the buried person was Saami from late in the Viking period.

A few months ago, I stumbled across the image to the right in a web article about Finnish axes.  The image was captioned:
Karelian man in a woodsman's outfit with the distinctive “kukkeli” hood and a Karelian type axe with partial collar of the shaft. Louis Sparre 1892. Source “Kalevalaseura – The Kalevala Society of Finland”.
I don't know much about Finnish axes, either in the 19th century or otherwise.  What struck me about this image is that the hood the man is wearing is made in the same shape as the Skjoldehamn hood, though the man shown wearing it is a 19th century CE Finn; not a Swedish Viking, and not a member of the Saami people.   It raises interesting questions about the culture to which the wearer of the Skjoldehamn outfit belonged, as well as questions about how much utility lies in using later period costumes as a basis for inferences about clothing worn by earlier cultures.   If any of my readers know anything more about the above image and its provenance, please let me know in the comments.

12 comments:

  1. Given the location and history of Karelia, it is possible that this woodsman was in fact Saami rather than Finn - and if not, his people would have plausibly been in contact with the Saami for a very long time (going back to the prehistory of both groups). Thus the hood could be Saami even if no transmission from or through Viking-era Norse-speakers was involved.

    Another possible diffusion path is from the Swedes, who have been in Sweden since the immediate post-Viking era (1200s) and probably earlier. But they might have picked it up from Saami or Finns earlier.

    My own best guess is that this hood pattern is very old and shared sufficiently among all three groups (Norse-speakers, Finns, Saami) that trying to trace an origin to any one of them is probably futile. For that matter we see archeological very similar garments all over Northern Europe back to the bog burials Iron Age times, don't we? I don't think they can be used to deduce much about the wearer's culture.

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    1. Dan Løvlid cautiously favors the theory that the wearer of the Skjoldehamn garments was Saami. If you follow the link in my post to Løvlid's paper, you'll see why--there are visual resemblances both to modern Saami costume and earlier Saami clothing. (The rest of the forester's clothing in the 1892 image in my post, by the way, bears little resemblance to the Skjoldehamn outfit.)

      On the other hand, to my knowledge hoods like the one in the Skjoldehamn find aren't particularly associated with the Saami, and the design is much less fitted than medieval European hoods in general. Carolyn makes a good point about the hood resembling a Roman cucullus more than anything else, though I thought of the cucullus as having a somewhat smaller, rounder face opening and being rather cone-like in shape.

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  2. I'm pretty sure the Karelians are ethnically Finnish, not Sami.

    The garment name is interesting, though; I wonder if it's etymologically related to the "cucullus" garment which looks much the same.

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    1. I don't think Eric meant to imply that the Karelians were Saami--merely that Saami lived in/near Karelia.

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    2. You may be right about the "kukkeli" name indicating something of the hood's ancestry. We know from the Eura find that the peplos was worn in Finland, and continued to be worn after most of the rest of Europe had abandoned it. Perhaps the cucullus came to Finland as a result of Roman activity also, and had a similarly long history.

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  3. Very interesting! The triangular shape of the hood hem is very characteristic of the Skjoldehamn pattern, with the two inserted squares, and the same is clearly visible in your drawing. But is there any evidence for the cucullus having the same shape?

    I recently made myself a linen version for keeping the sun off my face, because it was the most defensible garment I could think of for that purpose.

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    1. As I said, the cucullus is thought to be more conical (and also somewhat longer still), as in some of these images: http://tempus-amparo.blogspot.com/2006/07/calendario-de-el-djem-iv-invierno.html ; http://animulavagula.hautetfort.com/archive/2006/12/index.html (about a third of the way down the page); http://jfbradu.free.fr/celtes/mosaique-st-rom-gal/transport-fumier.php3 . I'm not clear if the word also applies to long cloaks with hoods, but my search turned up plenty of images of those also.

      Ingaborg: While I'm sure your linen hood is both effective at keeping off the sun, you needn't have limited yourself to that. Broad-brimmed hats were worn by the ancient Romans as well as into the Middle Ages. Granted, mostly such hats were worn by laborers and travellers, but they were certainly known and appear in period art. The medieval ones were even often made from straw.

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  4. It's worth mentioning that the Skojldehamm hood has tie strings in the back of the hood that were tied under the chin. The drawing of the 19th century hood gives no sign of similar strings.

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  5. There is an old 19th century photograph the drawing is based on. Unfortunately I couldn't find it with google, but if I remember it correctly the photo is off an older man in Karelia, taken by I.K. Inha, a famous finnish photographer. The outfit was something that was described as being used for forestry, probably hunting. Very old-fashioned given the time. Notably it was clearly made locally by the villagers and didn't look dyed nor decorated: a really simple hood made of white-ish fabric.

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    1. Thanks for your comment about the photograph! That is very interesting. Maybe I can track it down on Google or elsewhere.

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    2. https://www.kuvakokoelmat.fi/pictures/view/SUK77_90

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    3. Anonymous: Thank you for supplying a link to the photograph!

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