Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Article on an Ancient Garment

Today, I found a new article by Marianne Vedeler and Lise Bender Jørgensen, analyzing a Norwegian ancient garment find. The citation is as follows:
Vedeler, Marianne & Jørgensen, Lise Bender. Out of the Norwegian glaciers: Lendbreen—a tunic from the early first millennium AD. ANTIQUITY 87, pp. 788-801 (2013).
Professor Vedeler has uploaded a PDF copy, and is in the process of downloading a Scribd copy, to her account on academia.edu, where it can be downloaded for free to members (membership is free and members do not have to be academics). The URL for the page where the article can be downloaded is here.

This is an analysis of the wool tunic, found on land revealed by the thawing of a Norwegian glacier, that I wrote about here nearly two years ago.  According to the article, the tunic has been radiocarbon-dated to between 230 and 390 CE.  Since it was not found on a body (it was found in a pile, crumpled up instead of folded, and "bore traces of close association with horse dung"), it cannot be said with certainty whether it was made for a man or woman, though the article notes that from the measurements (the chest area measures about 1.08 meters around) it would fit a slender man.

Since the article is available for free I don't need to describe it in detail, but I will mention some interesting details about the tunic's fabric and construction.
  • The neckline of the garment is boat-necked, with a slight, stand-up rim all around. (p. 792-793).
  • The garment is woven of several different colors of undyed sheep's wool, including white, brown and black. (p. 790).
  • The body of the garment is woven from a 2/2 diamond twill. (p. 790).
  • The sleeves of the garment are woven from a different 2/2 diamond twill than the body (determined by which threads of the weave are of which colors). (p. 790-91).  The authors suggest, based on that fact and the fact that the sleeves are sewn with a different quality of thread than the body, that the sleeves may have been added at a later date to what was originally a sleeveless garment. (p. 793).
  • The colors used to weave the fabric used in the body of the garment create a houndtooth-like pattern that obscures the fact that a diamond weave was used.  (p. 791; see also picture p. 793).
  • The garment was well made and of good quality, but had been much used and was patched.  (p. 793).
  • The armholes of the garments are rounded.  (See, e.g., sketch on p. 798).  This is a feature that sometimes is not found in garments of significantly later date.
  • Other textile fragments were recovered from the same general area.  According to the article, "Currently, approximately 50 fragments await dating and analysis and, as global warming progresses, more can be expected. They promise to shed further light on dress, textile design and textile production in the first millennium AD—and earlier." (p. 799).
I commend this well-written and well-illustrated article to anyone interested in the clothing worn in Northern Europe during the first millennium CE, and I will continue to keep an eye out for further research on the Lendbreen finds.

EDIT:  (9/10/2013)  The article is no longer available for free download on academia.edu.

EDIT:  (11/20/2013)  The article is once again AVAILABLE for free download on academia.edu.  The link in my post above has been changed to correctly point to the new download link.


  1. The September/October issue of _Archaeology_ magazine has an article on people doing archeology on ice fields. They note that clothing is often found all by itself. Turns out one of the last stages of hypothermia is a sudden feeling of intense warmth, and the victims will often strip.

  2. The possibility that the garment was found isolated because it was stripped off due to hypothermia did occur to me, but we have too little information at this point to tell.

  3. Thank-you for pointing out the link on Professor Vedeler's Academia account!
    (Did you notice she has put up her book "Klær og formspråk i norsk middelalder"? I think you'll like it! http://www.academia.edu/1890814/Klaer_og_formsprak_i_norsk_middelalder)

  4. No, I hadn't! I shall have to go and see! Thank you!

  5. You might be interested in my work: I started to weave a fabric, inspired by the find from ÖLendbreen; not a 1:1 copy but rather close to it. Please feel free to take a look at my blog. It s in german but there are some photos: http://textileflaeche.blogspot.de/
    24. Dec, 27. Dec, 1.Jan

    1. Hello, Marled, welcome to my blog!

      My efforts to learn German have not met with much success so far, but Google Translate helps, and the pictures of your weaving are very impressive. Thanks for the link!

  6. Thanks for the warm welcome and if you need any translation please ask!