The three project parts
Part 1: Viking Age Textile Production
The aim of the first part of the project is to make Viking Age textile production visible and tactile. This part has its starting point in analyses of known archaeological finds of textile tools, textiles, skins and fibres from graves and settlements. By using controlled fibre sorting, spinning and weaving experiments we recreate a selection of textile samples that convey tactile and visual aspects of the Viking Age cloth culture. The three planned samples are based on textile finds from Hedeby Habour in Northern Germany. This locality is selected because it represents a different selection of textiles and production techniques than seen in contemporary grave finds. Likewise, it is important that a large part of the Hedeby textiles have been identified as parts of known garment types that were made for everyday use.
The outcome of Part 1 is a wooden chest, the so-called “Textile & Tool Box” that contains textile samples as well as reconstructed textile tools and fibre samples. The chest is based on the chest from Mästermyr, Gotland in Sweden and can be used for exhibition, outreach and teaching purposes at universities and museums.
First step was analyses of the wool fibres from all the sampled archaeological textile finds from Hedeby Habour which was the compared to the wool qualities from different modern sheep breeds. The result matches fleeces coming from the Spelsau sheep and this is the raw material selected for the reconstructed textile samples. In general, the sampled Viking Age wool has proven to be much coarser than the wool earlier recorded from the Danish Bronze and Early Iron Ages.
The first experimental and reconstruction work took place during the winter 2018/2019 at Land of Legends in Lejre. The first textile sample is based on the textile find H14AA/B from Hedeby Habour, interpreted as part of a spencer dress. The warp was spun on a drop spindle with a 20 g whorl on a 19 cm long spindle. The weft was spun with a 15 g whorl on a 19 cm long spindle. The weaving of the 60 cm x 60 cm tabby textile took place in January 2019 with a weaving speed about 3 cm/hour.
The second textile is based on the textile find H2, interpreted as part of hose. The warp was spun on a drop spindle with a 26 g whorl on a 19 cm long spindle. The weft was spun with a 20 g whorl on a 19 cm long spindle. The weaving of the 60 cm x 60 cm 2/2 twill textile took place in spring 2019 with a weaving speed about 3 cm/hour.
The third and fourth textile samples are based on the 2/2 twill finds of H39A and H11 respectively. The weaving of these samples takes place in the winter 2020/21 at Centre for Textile Research.
Part 2: Viking Age Male and Female Clothing
The aim of the second part of the project is to reconstruct a male and a female outfit, based on the content in two Danish inhumation graves. The selected male grave from Bjerringhøj (also known as Mammen) is dated to AD 970-971, while the female grave from Hvilehøj is dated to the late 900s. The graves are located near Viborg and Randers respectively, in Denmark. In spite of the fact, that the textiles from both graves are very fragmented, they are nevertheless much larger than what is in average preserved in Viking Age graves in Denmark.
The outcome of Part 2 is two high-status outfits that can be used for exhibition, outreach and teaching purposes at universities and museums.
The analyses of the textile and skin fragments from Bjerringhøj and Hvilehøj was started in the winter 2018/2019 and finished in the winter 2019/2020, taking place at the Conservation Department at the National Museum of Denmark in Brede. All objects have been photographed by the Roberto Fortuna and Jenny Sundby with their high resolution camera. Photos with light from beneath have revealed an until now unrecognized world of stitch holes in the embroidered textile fragments from Bjerringhøj, representing degraded and now lost stitches and sewing.
The textile-technical analyses include measurements of fragment size, fibre type, thread diameter, thread density, twist directions ect. Analyses of skin/fur, tanning methods, dye stuffs, tablet weaves, silk samites, beads, iron objects, shoes and feathers/down were performed by a large range of specialists. The embroidered textile fragments from the Bjerringhøj grave, have been reunited using Photoshop giving each pattern thread a colour code and hereby puzzling the fragments together. These data form the base of the many decisions taken during the reconstruction process. The two outfits are now finished and will be on display from June 2021 in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. Several specialist articles, a book and a design manual are further outcomes of this project.
The reconstruction process and the outfits are also presented at the webpage of Museum of Cultural History in Oslo. Read more here.
Part 3: Viking Age Clothing and Textile Catalogue
The aim of the third part of the project is to create an overview of the many different sources linked to Viking Age clothing design. The archaeological sources consist of preserved skin and textiles, but also jewelry and other accessorizes. Iconographic sources, such as gold foil figures, pendants and tapestries contribute with knowledge about visual appearance and combinations of clothing items. Other important sources are contemporary and later written sources, such as the Icelandic Sagas, travel descriptions and chronicles. As many sources as possible are gathered in order to show the variation of Viking Age life and avoid garment stereotypes.
The outcome of Part 3 is an online open-access clothing catalogue, intended as a new platform and base for future interpretations and reconstructions of Viking Age clothing expressing different societal and status segments.
This part of the project will take place in 2022.
Centre for Textile Research
We collaborate with Centre for Textile Research (CTR) at University of Copenhagen. The center focus strongly on textile history and archaeology via substantial research programs as well as via research training of young scholars. It has a variety of activities connected to textile history and involving universities, museums and design schools. Read more about CTR.