Monday, April 12, 2021

New Source of Information About Early Textiles

This week, courtesy of Katrin Kania, I learned about a free, searchable database of scholarly publications.  It's called Digital Vetenskapliga Arkivet, or DiVA, and it allows one to search for books, dissertations, and articles published by scholars at nearly 50 different universities in Scandinavia. (The above link goes to the English language version of the home page; for the Swedish version of the home page, go here. Best of all, DiVA is absolutely free to use.  You can go directly to the DiVA search page from here

Naturally, DiVA includes dissertations, articles, and other works that are not related to textiles, clothing or the Vendel and Viking Ages.  In addition, many of the works findable via DiVA are not in English.  However, I still found an excellent work relevant to textile-related Vendel period studies with my first search:  

Malmius, Anita.  Burial textiles: Textile bits and pieces in central Sweden, AD 500–800 Doctoral Dissertation, Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies (2020 (English))

I am really looking forward to reading this volume of Anita Malmius's work, which on first glance appears very comprehensive.  I look forward to further searching on DiVA for other useful papers when I have more time (and brain energy!) to invest.  In the meantime, by means of this post I hope to make DiVA available to more costume researchers, and perhaps to people with different reenactment-related interests as well.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A very old basket

Today, I came across a news article from the Jerusalem Post. The article is about an archaeological find of a basket, with a lid, in a cave in the Judean Desert. The picture with the article shows the basket, looking not only complete, but in good condition with only a little visible damage.  One might buy such a thing for a few dollars or Euros at a yard sale or a used goods shop. 

But this basket is no thrift store find. It is 10,500 years old, made during the Neolithic period, and believed to be the world's oldest surviving basket.  The dry climate of the Judean Desert likely is responsible for preserving the basket so well.  It is still remarkable that it survived because there was evidence that looters had come within 10 cm of the basket, when they stopped digging for some unknown reason.

The basket is also very large.  Its capacity has been measured at 92 liters.  It was empty and closed when found, but a small quantity of soil was found inside.  The researchers hope that analyzing this soil will help identify the basket's original contents.  

Basket weaving is the cousin of, and believed to be the forerunner of, cloth weaving.  As such, it belongs to the chain of handwork that includes the history of cloth and of costume.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

A New Prince

Empire awake.  
Empire, at rest on a sofa at the rescue place.
Meet Empire!  (He's named after the apple variety, not the governmental entity, because his mother's name is Apple; his siblings also have apple variety names.)  We are bringing him to live with us on Friday--the pictures with this post were taken by the woman who runs Fosterlings, the cat rescue operation that has made it possible for him to survive and begin to thrive, and for us to adopt him.   

Empire (or "Empy" for short) is only a bit over 4 months old  He's younger than the other cats I have adopted, but he has a combination of playfulness and an odd maturity for his age that is appealing to me.  He is also willing to be petted, and tolerates being picked up.  Like Zola, he is part Maine Coon, as the pictures demonstrate (the large, tuft-filled ears, the larger-than-average paws). Clicking on the photo should get you a much larger, detailed version of the same photo.

EDIT:  (2/15/2021)  I learned when I got his file after the adoption papers had been signed that Empy was born 9/20/2020 (like Sugar, he was born in a rescue facility to a mother who had been rescued).  That means he'll be exactly 5 months old this Saturday.  Unlike Sugar, the woman who placed him with us knows who his father is.  He is a large Maine Coon she describes as "25 pounds of solid muscle."  

2ND EDIT:  (2/19/2021) After checking his records, I can confirm that Empire will be 5 months old exactly tomorrow, February 20, 2021; he was born on September 20, 2020.

3RD EDIT: (3/10/2021)  I misread the form containing Empy's birthdate: It's actually September 16, 2020.  Close enough, though, to confirm that he'll be 6 months old next week!

Friday, January 22, 2021

A Sad Farewell

Long time readers will recall my (few) posts about Sugar, my first cat.   Today, Zola, Sugar's successor, died at the age of almost 9 years, of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.  My first post about him after we adopted him can be found here.   I'm not feeling like talking more about his passing just now.  If you wish, you can find more about that at my Instagram account, here

Zola, at about 5 years old.

Friday, January 15, 2021

New Viking Clothing Web Exhibit

Recently, the National Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, reconstructed two complete outfits, a man's outfit and a woman's.  The man's outfit is based upon a grave in Bjerringhøj, in Jutland, Denmark.  The woman's outfit is based upon a grave at Hvilehøj, also in Jutland.  Both are dated to the 10th century CE.  

The University of Oslo's Museum of Cultural History has created a virtual web exhibition based on these costumes, which may be read and viewed here. Further discussion may be read on the reconstruction project's Instagram, which can be accessed here. This post is based upon the information that appears in the web exhibition. 

Left: reconstruction of the costume of the man buried 
at Mammen, Denmark. Photo via Wikimedia Commons*

As has almost always been the case with Viking age grave finds, the textiles recovered from the grave are sufficiently small that ascertaining what scraps came from which garments or items of grave furniture is a matter of interpretation.  The results of the interpretation by the Danish archaeologists may be seen in the photographs of the exhibition.  However, to whet my readers' appetites for viewing the web exhibition, I will provide a brief summary here.

Both the man and the woman are depicted as wearing outer garments made from fur; a cloak in the case of the woman and a coat in the case of the man.  Both wear goatskin shoes, in styles copied from shoes found in Hedeby.  The man's clothes also drew upon the textile finds in the man's grave at Mammen (also in Jutland), which has also been dated to the 10th century. 

The man's clothes feature a belt that ends in large triangular pendants.  The insides of these pendants are decorated with nalbinded fabric fashioned of silver and gold threads, rather like the large bands (believed to have been cloak ends) of the Mammen costume.  His undyed wool shirt is decorated with colored embroidery of a number of different motifs, including motifs found on the man's tunic at Mammen.  The reconstruction includes tablet woven bands trimming the edges of the shirt sleeves and pants, but the grave find appears to indicate that the Bjerringhøj man's shirt was trimmed with red silk fabric in a samite weave, decorated with a gold-thread heart motif.  That fabric was reproduced separately, and a photograph of the reconstructed samite also appears in the web exhibition.

The woman's gown is made from wool, with woven-in geometric designs in the chest area (because all of the geometrically decorated wool in her grave was found in the chest area). Remains of tablet woven bands with metal threads were found in her grave, and appear as part of the edging on her fur cloak.  No brooches, either tortoise-shaped or otherwise, were found in the grave, and therefore none appear in the reconstruction, but some glass beads were found, which are reproduced as a necklace.  A Frankish coin from the middle of the 10th century appears to have been the centerpiece of this necklace.

Without more specific information about the actual textile scraps recovered, it is impossible to deduce all of the reasons supporting these costume interpretations (e.g., why was the man's costume reproduced with yellow pants?).  I will be looking out for a report of the reconstructions, and reviewing the Instagram account of the project very closely!

EDIT:  (1/17/2021)  I recommend checking out the project's Instagram (link above).  It contains a number of pictures not featured in the web exhibition, including a back view of the man's reconstructed coat.

* Nationalmuseet - The National Museum of Denmark from Denmark, CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday, December 20, 2020

A Wealth of Tutorials

Recently, I learned that the Handcrafted History blog contains a wealth of free tutorials--51 to be exact--for projects of various complexity and length. The blog is a wonderful place to explore, particularly if your costuming interests lie in the medieval period.  

Many of the tutorials are in English, though some are in Swedish.  Many of them are for 15th century clothing, though by no means all--there are a few tutorials for Viking age clothing. and one for a "bathhouse babe" type of sleeveless shift.  All are well-illustrated with color photographs.  I suspect that the ones in Swedish could be adequately navigated by English-speakers using Google Translate.

Linda, the blogger, runs a small (mostly) historical clothing business.  You can find her on Instagram (where I first found her), Facebook, Etsy, and Patreon.  Her Etsy site sells kits which consist of patterns and instructions to make small projects.  Note that if you decide to contribute to her Patreon account, she will be able to make more free tutorials available on her blog.   

EDIT:  12/22/2020 Corrected description about Linda's kits, which include patterns and instructions but NOT materials.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Newly Discovered Viking Burial in Central Norway

Beads found at Hestnes, in Central Norway.
(Photo: Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum)
This week, I read an article about an archaeological dig this fall by archaeologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology ("NTNU").  The dig was in Central Norway at Hestnes in Heim municipality.  The article appeared in, and can be read here

The researchers were surprised to discover a grave, because no other graves have been found anywhere nearby.  Even more interestingly, the grave was nothing like any other Viking era grave finds in Central Norway.  It was a chamber grave, of which few if any have been found previously in this region.  Such graves are characteristic of more urbanized areas than Central Norway, such as Birka and Hedeby.  It was possible to tell the burial had been a chamber grave from the imprints left were the supporting poles had been, the remains of the chamber walls, and the size of the "chamber" where the remains lay.  The way chamber graves are built, the "chamber" is dug into the earth, and a lid is placed upon the top after the deceased person and her grave goods have been deposited.  This particular grave has been dated to between 850 - 950 CE.  

The article from does not mention any textile remains, but there were a number of jewelry finds, including a pair of double-shelled tortoise brooches, a tri-lobed brooch, and a large number of tiny beads.  A photograph of the tiny beads that appeared in the article is reproduced with this post.  339 of the tiny beads had been located as of when the article was written, each of which is between 1-2 mm in size.  Beads in that size range are typically called "seed beads" today, and they have been, and still are, used for embroidery on clothing.  The article observes that, according to one of the NTNU researchers, a similar find at Hedeby has been interpreted as containing the remains of beaded embroidery.  

The tortoise brooches, which at other sites have been found to contain bits of textile from the dead woman's clothing, here contained fragments of bone and teeth, which have not yet been analyzed.  A spindle whorl was also found in the grave.  

It was suggested by one of the researchers that the woman had come to Hestnes from the south (e.g. closer to Hedeby or nearby areas) and had been buried with jewelry characteristic of her home region.  

I will be looking out for analyses of this grave in the hope that some textiles, or other materials giving a clue as to her costume, are eventually located.  I will also look out for articles on other Viking women's graves containing large numbers of seed beads.  Perhaps we are looking at the first hints of finds showing another distinctive fashion among some Viking women.