Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Find of the Century

The article that has excited me the most in NESAT XI is one about a grave find that I hadn't even been aware of before I started reading the book.  That article describes a grave find in Hammerum, Denmark that has been dated to the early third century C.E.:  
Mannering, Ulla and Knudsen, Lise Raeder.  Hammerum:  The Find of the Century. NESAT XI (pp. 154-160).
Three graves have thus far been excavated at Hammerum, but it's Grave 83 that Professors Mannering and Knudsen call the "find of the century."  This find contains the complete costume of the young woman buried there, along with two other textiles whose functions are tantalizingly suggestive.   The woman's coiffure also survived nearly intact, which may well provide information that will eventually allow her entire appearance to be reconstructed even though no remains of the rest of her body--not even a single bone--survive. The find is all the more exciting because the grave goods found with her body were not extensive or rich, which may indicate that the woman in Grave 83 at Hammerum shows how ordinary women dressed in Denmark during this period.

The most striking element of the find is the survival of a nearly complete peplos, or tube-shaped dress, which was generally worn by women throughout Europe during this period.  This peplos was woven in wool in a 2/2 twill.  The Mannering-Knudsen article indicates that this is the presently visible color; dye testing has been completed but the results are being reserved for the final write-up about the find. (p. 160)  Missing warp threads fall in narrow stripes, and some parts of that warp pattern are preserved, indicating that the stripes were woven from white wool. The peplos was trimmed with a woven band in red, white, and blue.  No metal was found in the grave, and it is unclear whether the dress was fastened at the shoulders with wood or bone pins or was sewn together.

Two other textiles were found in the Hammerum grave, both in a fragmentary form; Professors Mannering and Knudsen refer to them as Textile 2 and Textile 3 (the peplos is called The Dress in the article).  Textile 2 is a also a 2/2 twill, woven from a "whitish" wool.  It too has stripes, but here the stripes appear also to be in white wool, indicating that the striping was done with wool of a different texture creating a tone-on-tone pattern.  The pieces of this textile were found on the top part of the Dress and around its back.  The authors do not speculate about its function, but that location suggests a scarf or small shawl, as does its probable size--127 cm wide (about 50 inches).  Textile 3 is woven from white and red wool in a 2/2 twill.  It was found underneath the woman and near her knees, but it is too fragmentary to ascertain the textile's pattern, let alone its clothing function.  Professors Mannering and Knudsen have determined that this textile was at least 23 cm wide by 48 cm high (about 9 inches by 18 inches).

The most exciting part about the clothing of the woman in Grave 83 is the evidence that she was not particularly wealthy--i.e. the total absence of metal jewelry or other metal grave goods.  The authors believe this indicates that the woman in grave 83 is wearing the type of clothing an ordinary woman might have worn in third century Denmark. That's a true rarity in archaeological finds (though NESAT XI also has articles that discuss a different "ordinary person" outfit--that of the Gunnister Man--in great detail).  It's wonderful to see archaeology  giving the world information about the clothing of the ordinary person in ancient times. 


  1. Fascinating write-ups!

    Out of curiosity, where does one acquire NESAT XI?

    1. Glad you enjoyed them. One reason I do summaries of NESAT articles (other than having made no progress on costuming projects lately) is because I know many people can't afford them, but if they learn from my write-ups that there are NESAT articles that affect their area/s of interest, they can try to ILL them.

      I know of two vendors selling NESAT XI, at this point. One is the publisher itself, Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH. That will probably work better for you if you're based in Europe. You can order it from this page on Verlag's website:

      The other place is a small American bookseller, Potboiler Press. The relevant page is here:

      For a little while, The Book Depository (a British company that ships worldwide for free: recently bought out by Amazon) had a few copies for a reduced price, and that's where I bought mine, but they don't seem to have it now.

    2. Thank you! And thank you for the summaries. One day I might buy NESAT XI, but yes, you're right, it is quite expensive (and especially so if you're only really buying it for the Lengberg report).