Monday, May 8, 2017

Iconic Costumes

The figure from the Oseberg cart
(Photo:  Museum of Cultural History, Oslo)
My wonderful spouse recently gave me this book as a birthday present:
Mannering, Ulla. Iconic Costumes: Scandinavian Late Iron Age Costume Iconography. (Oxbow Books, Dec. 27, 2016).
Iconic Costumes is the English translation of Professor Mannering's dissertation, which had been published in Danish back in 2006.   The basis of the analysis is examination of as many of the clothing images from pre-Viking and Viking age representations of the human figure, including those from jewelry, guldgubbar (tiny stamped pieces of gold foil whose intended purpose is unclear), bracteates, helmet ornamentation, and other places.  What Professor Mannering has done is look for patterns in the representations, to see what information those patterns could provide about clothing in prehistoric Scandinavia.

The Søgård kilt.  (Source--Iconic Costumes)
The first 40 pages (which is all I've read so far) have filled me with questions, and inspiration. But I have learned something already from the book.  It turns out that there are archaeological finds of kilts--short, wraparound skirts--in  male graves.  A wool kilt was found in the young man's grave at Borum Eshøj (dated to about 1345 BCE) and a leather kilt was found in a grave at Søgård (dated to the Roman period), both in Denmark. (I'm not sure why I didn't realize this earlier, since there are other references to this fact in the literature).  That makes me wonder whether the odd figure on the Oseberg cart (see image to the right) really is intended to be male, after all.

I intend to write about my thoughts concerning Iconic Costumes after I have read and digested it.  If any of my readers obtain and finish the book before I do, please feel free to discuss it in the comments.


  1. I'm loving it. I disagree with some of her conclusions (ain't science wonderful?), but it's a nice solid piece of work!

    At every step she lays out her evidence, her thought processes and her conclusions. I do wish that she'd updated the chapter on Jewelry to include the Valkyrie figures over the last 10 years, though. And that's my *only* complaint.

    1. Hi, Susan! Thanks for visiting.

      I've gotten to page 50 something, and so far there are questions her research raises for me, and a few things I disagree with. But her exposition is meticulous and packed with information, only some of which I'd known before. Worth every penny my husband paid for it, and then some.