Monday, January 2, 2017

An Interesting Viking Fabric

Fabric found against tortoise brooches from Bryndum
Church Grave No. 12  (Photo: Sydevestjyske Museer website).  

Happy (only slightly belated) New Year!

Yesterday, I found a news article from late 2016 from the Sydevestjyske Museer website.  The article, written in Danish by museum curator Michael Alrø Jensen, was about a new archaeological dig in Denmark; it can be read in Danish here.

The dig is of a Viking age burial ground, located at Bryndum Church.  Fourteen graves were found, and although only a third of them contained artifacts, some of those artifacts were very interesting.

In particular, Grave 12 contained a pair of tortoise brooches of a new type, along with an unspecified number of beads, and the remains of a knife that appeared to have been hung from one of the brooches.  The brooches preserved several layers of fabric, a close-up photograph of which appears in the article.   Interestingly, the caption in the article refers to the stripes shown above as "diagonal stripes" ("diagonalstriber" in the original).  I'm not quite sure what is meant, as the stripes above do not appear diagonal to me (though the fabric does have the diagonal ribs of 2/1 twill).  However, this fabric fits in well with the few other Viking age clothing textiles known to have involved a pattern, in that the stripes are small and modest, and small, fine patterns rather than bold large ones seem to have been characteristic of Viking age clothing.

The article closes with a promise of "exciting studies", and I agree.  I will be on the lookout for publication of a scholarly report about these fascinating finds.  The new brooch type is very interesting, and the layered textile clump measures roughly 5 cm by 10 cm (a substantial size for a Viking textile specimen).  Just thinking about what information can be gleaned from these items is thrilling to me.  If your costume interests involve the Viking age, put Bryndum Church on your radar; you'll want to read any publication of these finds too.

EDIT:  Corrected caption on photograph above, consistent with Anna-Carin's comment, since she reads Danish much better than I do.  She says that the textile was found on the front of the brooches, not the reverse as I'd originally reported in the caption.

8 comments:

  1. Are the diagonal stripes formed by having diagonal twill with different colours for warp and weft?

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  2. I don't really know the answer to your question, Shelagh. All I know is the reference to "diagonal stripes" in the caption on the Museum's article page, and what can be gleaned from the photo the Museum published, which I've reproduced with my post. I will say, based upon the photo, that this doesn't look like stripes formed by the different colored warp/weft effect to me; they almost look painted on, though there's no mention of that as a possibility in the article. It will be interesting to see what analysis of this find reveals.

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  3. The caption says "narrow diagonal stripes in alternating dark and light color", so I'm thinking maybe some over-zealous editor has messed with the image. I.e., somebody who didn't read the text properly rotated the image 45 degrees and cropped it, because they thought it was shot at an odd angle. (BTW, it says the fabric is from the top of the brooch, not the reverse.)

    Maybe a diagonal twill where warp and weft are different fibers, and different colors (e.g. linsey-woolsey)?

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    1. Anna-Carin--thanks for the correction.

      Your thought about the twill having warp and weft in different colors parallels Shelagh's and you both could be right; I just don't have very good skills at analyzing weaves.

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  4. It might be a mix up of diagonal twill (kiper) and diagonal stripes!

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    1. It might be a mix of diagonal twill and diagonal stripes, Marled. But it's undeniably fascinating, and I have heard of no find quite like it, which is why I wanted to "boost the signal", so to speak, and get reactions from friends who know more about early period textiles than the average historical costumer.

      My guess--and it's a pure guess, given my poor skill at analyzing weaves--is that the stripes are not diagonally placed on the fabric but are formed by using different colored yarns in the twill weave.

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  5. Yes, I agree. So my very cautious guess in looking at the photo is: stripes run vertically, twill runs diagonal.

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    1. That makes sense to me, Marled. I wish I had a better idea of the scale of the bit of fabric shown in the photograph, but I'm guessing from the article that those stripes are very fine indeed.

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