This document began life as a class handout for a course taught in 1993 at an event held by the East Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. It is intended for use by re-enactors of the Viking Age.
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Copyright © 1993 Carolyn Priest-Dorman.
Only by playing the part of a Viking from a specific time and place can one bring to the status of an SCA Viking its appropriate glory and respect. It is a sad fact that no one really respects generic Vikings. But hang a date and a locale on your persona, and be able to demonstrate it in your choice of clothing, and poof! Instant respect! This pamphlet is designed to help you design Viking clothing ensembles that look like they come from a particular time and/or place. By dint of assiduous documenting, it is also designed to help guide those who are interested in further research. It is not intended to instruct the reader in garment construction beyond some suggestions for seam placements. For help with construction, take this pamphlet to your local clothing maker, point out the drawings, and beg for help; who knows, perhaps you'll start a fashion trend!
The finds that are considered in this paper come from several times and locations in the Viking world. They are organized by article of clothing: trousers, stockings, undertunic, overtunic, coat, cloak, and accessories. Some information on appropriate trimmings is included, and regional and historical differences, if discernible, have been highlighted. It is impossible in this limited work to address all the issues, such as textile and color choice, that must be taken up in a serious attempt to construct a Viking ensemble; much of that material is available elsewhere, so only a few passing suggestions for textile and color choices are included in this work.
Statistically, fewer finds of known clothing-related textiles exist for Viking men than for Viking women. This is largely because textiles are most often preserved by proximity to metal (in jewellery or other grave goods) or tannin (from wood) in a protected inhumation (ground burial); but many men in the pagan Viking Age were cremated rather than buried. Inhumation customs also seem to have differed somewhat for men and women. Women were buried wearing a great deal of their jewellery, including metal brooches and pins. This meant that any textiles in the immediate area of a brooch or pin, such as an undergarment or overgarment, had a chance of surviving. Men, on the other hand, required fewer pieces of jewellery to hold together their garments than women did, which meant that less garment metal went into a man's grave than into a woman's. The man's garment which did require jewellery, the cloak, was often lain in the grave near, rather than on, the body. This meant that the preservation action of the jewellery could only work on the nearby cloak rather than on all the layers of clothing not in contact with the cloak. Sometimes other metal grave goods preserve bits of textiles associated with the grave that may have nothing to do with the garments themselves, such as the sails in a ship burial, the linen wrapping around a swordhilt, a tapestry-woven pillow cover, or a coarse blanket used to cover the burial.
Because of the difficulties associated with reconstructing men's clothing in the Viking Age, we are forced to take and struggle to integrate whatever information we can scrape together. Because of the library difficulties of acquiring materials written in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic, we are often limited to works in English. Accordingly, much of the information presented here comes from single, elaborate inhumations such as the Mammen oak cist burial (Denmark) and the Evebø stone cist burial (Norway), both of which have excited international interest leading to write-ups in English. The Viking period at various sites in England, Scotland, and Ireland is also fairly well-covered by publications in English. Many secondary works in English also address the larger picture of Viking Age textiles in such specialized locations as Denmark and York, England. Materials on Icelandic sites are woefully sparse, especially on this continent, so the brave Icelanders will unfortunately have to remain outside the scope of this work for now. However, some more scholarly series of works are available in German on such urban sites as Hedeby (Denmark) and Birka (Sweden); these are responsible for a much broader and more complete picture of men's garb in the period, if you can locate them and can read German. Some translations from works in German by Inga Hägg have been made accessible to me through the generosity of Mistress Marieke van de Dal, sine qua non, ne plus ultra, whom I thank profusely.
This pamphlet considers some of the finds from Sweden (Birka), Norway (Evebø), Denmark (Mammen, Hedeby), England (Jorvík, Repton), the Orkneys, and Ireland (Dublin). (Other finds may be included in future incarnations of this work; stay tuned.) Although the Evebø burial is technically a "Migration Era," or pre-Viking, find, dating to the fifth century, the author finds it impossible to resist including information on a man who was buried in one outfit containing not only multicoloured plaid pants but also a plaid cloak of a different design and three different kinds of intricately patterned tablet-weaving. The sixth-century Sutton Hoo find is included occasionally for comparison purposes because the evidence suggests that the site reflects Swedish ancestry and burial habits.
From the Bronze Age onward, it seems that the basics of men's clothing in Scandinavia changed little, consisting of trousers, tunics, coats, and cloaks. While the materials composing the garments changed from hide and leather to wool and, ultimately, linen, the cut changed more slowly, if at all. Decoration, on the other hand, seems to have changed quite a bit in the several centuries between Evebø and New Birka.
Many textiles in the Viking Age were made of worsted wool in twill patterns. These wools were carefully woven, supple, attractively textured, and often dyed in bright colors. It's a very poor Viking indeed--one who not only didn't have an armring to his name but also didn't have a decent weaver in the entire extended family!--who would have had to make do with the horrible, scratchy, coarse wools we SCA Vikings are led to believe are the only ones "period for Vikings." Oddly enough, as time went on and the warp-weighted loom was supplanted by the horizontal loom beginning near the end of the tenth century, later period Viking wool fabrics became coarser, fuzzier, and thicker than earlier period ones. This is because the process of extensive fulling and napping was reintroduced to the textile industry, and that's the tip of a textile production history iceberg that you can run up against some other time. For now, suffice it to say that a great many Viking Age wool garments, particularly the fancy ones, were of fine, soft, bright, and well-made wool fabrics.
Certain areas also had ready access to linen, such as England, which produced it, and Sweden, which imported it; as fragile and rare as linen remains are, there is nevertheless much more archaeological evidence for the use of linen in those areas. Silk was available all over the Viking world by the ninth century, and it was liberally used by some of the people buried at Birka in the mid- to late-tenth century. Although there is no evidence of cotton yet from Viking graves, it is known that in the tenth century the Byzantine army issued a cotton padding garment, the bambakion, as part of its outfit (Teall 1977, 204). Varangians, at the very least, would likely have experienced this garment.
Some fabrics, such as linen and some naturally-pigmented wools, were most often used undyed. Many wools, however, were dyed in attractive colors, and there are a few examples of woad- or madder-dyed linens. The most common colors which have been found in dye analyses of Viking Age fabrics are red, mostly from madder; blue, from woad; yellow, from weld and an unidentified yellow dye, possibly either broom or a tannin-based dye such as onion skins; purples and violets, from lichens or from overdyeing with some combination of lichens/madder/woad; and greens, from overdyeing with an unidentified yellow dye plus woad (Walton 1988, 17- 18). Some evidence of brown from walnut shells has also been found, as well as one or two pieces that were intentionally dyed very dark brownish-black with walnut shells and iron (Hägg 1984, 289).
The chemical evidence seems to point to a preponderance of particular colors appearing in particular areas: reds in the Danelaw, purples in Ireland, and blues and greens in Scandinavia proper (Walton 1988, 18). Although it is carefully hedged, there is a hypothesis in the scientific world that this might possibly reflect regional color preferences rather than archaeochemical factors; feel free to use this Viking heraldry if you like the idea. At any rate, it is helpful to make friends with a natural dyer and find out more about the appearance of the colors produced from these dyestuffs. They'll be gratified and encouraged by your interest in their art form, and you'll learn a lot about the Viking aesthetic.
Iconographic evidence in such forms as the Gotlandic picture stones and the Oseberg tapestry suggests that the Vikings wore at least two types of leg coverings: a wide, knee-length, baggy type and a narrow, full-length, more fitted type. Unfortunately, not many finds are clearly identifiable as trousers, and in most cases the cut of the garment is not obvious from the remains. That said, on to the evidence.
Several finds of trousers dating to the Migration Era (between the fall of Rome and the official Viking Age) serve to demonstrate that Scandinavian use of trousers in at least the narrow form goes back a fairly long way. The trousers found more or less intact at Thorsbjerg Mose in Denmark (Hald 1980, 329), with their sophisticated Migration Era cut requiring three separate pieces for the crotch gusset alone, by themselves can serve to disprove any claims that early period garments are simple and untailored. At the ends of the legs, the Thorsbjerg trousers extended into foot coverings, just like children's pajamas.
The remains of a Migration Era man buried in a mound at Evebø farm in Gloppen, western Norway, provide proof that multicolored plaid was not unknown in the Scandinavian world. This man wore trousers in a pattern of 15x15cm plaid, in at least three colors--red, green, and blue (Magnus 1982, 69). Because the wool from which the trousers were made is not creased or pleated, it is more likely that these trousers too were of the narrow variety.
The tenth-century caulking rags excavated from Hedeby harbor yielded some garment fragments believed to be the remnants of the crotch of a pair of baggy men's trousers, also known as "knickers," "plus fours," or Pumphose. (In the East Kingdom these are also widely known as "balloon" or "Viking funny" pants.) The fragments from Hedeby were of fine wool tabby in a crepe weave. They suggest that the pair of trousers were of two colors: some of the fragments are dyed yellowish, others red. The similarity between the Hedeby fragments and the crotch cut of the Thorsbjerg trousers is what allows for their identification as trousers (Hägg 1984, 31-2). Unfortunately, not much can be deduced about the overall shape of these pants from the fragments that remain.
The remains of one pair of trousers found at Birka were probably of the short and baggy variety. The trousers were of linen (or lined with linen) with little metal eyes set into their lower edges; the stockings were wool, with little hooks sewn onto them. The stockings were hooked to the lower edges of the trousers just below the knees. These little hooks used to connect the trousers and stockings, called "garter hooks" in most of the literature, show up all over Northern Europe in early period, from Birka to Winchester (Owen-Crocker 1986, 93) and even in Jorvík (Hall 1984, 121); they seem to have been most consistently used in Saxon areas. It is not always certain how they were used, however; often they were used not on trousers but on the garters that cinched them. This undisturbed and unusual example of their use is one of the things that makes the Birka find so valuable.
A fair amount of information is available on the cut of the smock layer during the Viking Age. Most of the smocks found have been of wool, although many women's smocks made of linen were found at Birka. It is likely that smocks in the Danelaw and Ireland could have been made of linen. Many fragments of linen garments have been found at ninth- and tenth-century Jorvík, most with flat-felled seams which, as Penelope Walton says, are suitable for undergarments (Walton 1989, 408).
The Migration Era jarl at Evebø wore two tunics, one over the other. His knee-length, red wool undertunic was trimmed at neck, wrists, and hem with complex wool tablet-weaving patterned with beasts of various descriptions in yellow, red, and black (Magnus 1982, 68-69). The cuffs were secured with bronze wrist clasps, a feature not uncommon to early Anglian graves in the same period (Crowfoot 1952, 91). Unfortunately, not enough of his tunic survives for us to be able to reconstruct its cut.
The smocks worn at Hedeby seem to be of two basic types. Both types share the elements of rounded neckline, rounded armholes for set-in sleeves, and separate front and back panels sewn together at the shoulders (Hägg 1984, 171). They differ in the construction of their side-seams: one type has narrow, slit sides, and the other has wider construction with inserted gores for fullness at the hem. Most were wool, and some were dyed (Hägg 1984, 289). Sleeves tapered in width at the lower arm, so that they fit fairly snugly at the wrists, and they could also be cut in more than one piece to achieve a more complicated taper.
There is less to go on with the Birka smocks, but a few facts are evident. Some of the Birka smocks seem to have had keyhole necklines rather than rounded ones. The front and back panels were cut in one piece and not sewn together with shoulder seams (Hägg 1974, 108). This construction makes them much closer in design to the current SCA conception of the T-tunic than the Hedeby smocks are; however, judging from earlier Scandinavian finds of tunics, they probably had separate sleeves sewn to the body of the smock.
In general, it is probably safe to extrapolate from the information available on smocks in order to get some idea of how tunics and coats could have been cut in the same times and places. As is the case with the smock/undertunic, both wool and linen overtunics are represented in the finds.
The Evebø jarl's overtunic was wool, possibly blue, decorated at the neck with tablet-woven wool bands patterned with animals in two colors. Somewhere on this tunic some silver clasps were attached, but, due to the slightly irregular procedures followed in this excavation, it is unknown whether they were cuff clasps or clasps for front of the tunic (Magnus 1982, 68). Because the red undertunic was so elaborate, with its tablet-woven trims, the blue overtunic may not have been an overtunic (i.e., a pullover garment) at all but rather a coat (i.e., something that opens down the front): then the silver clasps would have been used to clasp it together on the chest.
At Jorvík in the ninth and tenth centuries, strips of plain tabby-woven silk in bright colours were used to edge overgarments (Walton 1989, 369), much the same way as one might use bias tape today except that the silk was cut along the grain, not diagonally across it. There is ample evidence for usage of figured silk samite strips as edgings at Viking Age Dublin (Pritchard 1988, 158). The Mammen grave revealed a similar use of samite strips (Hald 1980, 110-111). The fashion is also represented at ninth- and tenth-century Birka, where several overtunics, both men's and women's, were ornamented with strips of this type of samite plus, in several cases, metal-brocaded tablet-woven bands on the chest and arm areas.
Grave 735 at Birka, dating to the mid-tenth century, revealed a unique ornamental overlay in a combination of samite and many strips of silver-brocaded tablet weaving (Geijer 1938, 165-6). The overlay consisted of eight parallel bands sewn horizontally on a rectangle of silk. This particular man's grave is the find which has inspired drawings of men in Rus riding coats in many Viking picture books, including Almgren and the cover of the Osprey Elite Series book on the Vikings. However, as is often the case in secondary works, the illustrators got it all wrong. The man buried in Grave 735 was not wearing a buttoned coat; he was wearing a closed-front overtunic of bluish-green wool with the elaborate overlay appliquéed on the chest (Geijer 1938, 166). Although the shape of the finished overlay is not entirely clear from the reconstruction, Hägg suggests that additional strips of silk and tablet weaving ran up his arms (Hägg 1986, 69) as well as around the arms of the tunic.
Another tenth-century Birka overtunic was of linen decorated with long vertical strips of brocaded tablet-weaving from shoulders to calves (Hägg 1986, 69), which must have looked somewhat like Byzantine clavii. It was also trimmed with Chinese self-patterned damask silk (Geijer 1983, 86); at the time the man was buried, the silk would have been several hundred years old!
There are two basic manifestations of the coat layer in Viking archaeological contexts. For ease of differentiation I call them the "jacket" and the "coat." The jacket wraps around without a fastening device, while the coat is buttoned. It is possible that they simply represent variations of the same garment; they do not appear to have been worn together.
The jacket is found in several spots in the Viking world, and it seems to have a very old tradition. An early defining example of the type is the human figures depicted on the Sutton Hoo helmet, who are dressed in what look like bathrobes. This garment consisted of a short tunic open all down the front with diagonal, overlapping flaps. There is supporting evidence from Saxon graves in both Europe and England for a clothing layer of this type, ornamented on the lapel and down the front with gold-brocaded tablet weaving. It is thought that the garment may have had some military or ritual significance (Owen-Crocker 1986, 114-115).
The jacket fragments found at Hedeby were made of plain 2/2 twill. The complete garment is thought to have been hip-length and trimmed with fake fur made of wool along the hem and down the front edges (Hägg 1984, 204).
The coat, also known as the "caftan" or "Rus riding coat," may have been an explicitly eastern (Swedish/Rus) phenomenon. We have solid evidence of it only at Birka in the ninth and tenth centuries. It is a long coatlike overgarment, buttoned from neck to waist and decorated with specialized and elaborate metal trimmings. The remains of five such coats were found, each with a row of cast metal shank-buttons; several other coats were identified which, while they had the right sort of elaborate trimmings, had no associated buttons. Wood or bone buttons, however, would leave little or no trace in a burial, and it is likely that these coats were also buttoned (Hägg 1986, 68). It is thought that this garment was borrowed or adapted from the Byzantine skaramangion, which was the standard day garment for the Emperor and his court (Geijer 1983, 99).
Our old friend, the man in the coat on the cover of the Osprey Elite book, makes another appearance here to warn you about misunderstanding the coat layer at Birka. The trimmed lapel/collar this man is wearing is an artist's misinterpretation of the Reverskragen, or lapel, which was found in some of the other graves at Birka. The Reverskragen probably belongs on a jacket, not a coat. Also, the archaeological evidence from Birka does not support the conclusion that the coat was ornamented with crosswise bands on the chest, as many illustrators depict it: the overlays are found in one piece on the breast, which could not happen if the garment they decorated were a coat that buttoned. However, coats were frequently decorated with strips of metal knotwork mounted on strips of silk samite; tiny metal studs held the silk to the garment (Hägg 1986, 57).
The basic elements of the Viking cloak ensemble are a rectangular cloak and a cloakpin. Cloakpins can be of the pennannular type or of the ring-headed pin type. Cloaks come in a variety of weights and weaves, from lightweight patterned twills to the heavy napped "fake-fur" types known as rogvarfelðr.
The Evebø jarl was wrapped in an elaborate lightweight rectangular cloak with fringed edges. It was red plaid with blue and yellow stripes in a 12x12cm repeat. At the edges were tablet-woven bands of either blue or green with beasts in either yellow or red (Magnus 1982, 68). No cloakpin was found.
Fragments of red and undyed tufted wool, possibly from fake-fur cloaks, were found at Jorvík (Walton 1989, 319). Also, Grave 750 at Birka revealed the remnants of a heavy cloak with blue and red pile as long as a thumb (Geijer 1938, 132).
The wool cloak found in the Mammen burial included fancy embroidery in two colors of stem stitching. The motifs included two different versions of repeating human faces and hands in a variation of the "gripping beast" style, as well as a scrolling leafy motif that looks very Saxon (Hald 1980, 104-5). The cloak was also strewn with gold foil paillettes or spangles (Hald 1980, 102).
The men's burials at Birka included cloaks worn to the grave or deposited near the body. These cloaks were most frequently thick, heavy blue ones (Hägg 1986, 68) worn pinned at either the shoulder or the hip. Several burials included a cloak deposited near the body. Of the five men's burials dating securely to the ninth century, all wore cloakpins at the shoulder (Hägg 1986, 66). Several cloaks from the tenth century were found pinned at the hip rather than the shoulder, and some were deposited next to the body instead. Hägg thinks that the practice of burying the cloak elsewhere in the grave than on the body might have arisen because clothing the body in the cloak would obscure the man's burial finery worn underneath it (Hägg 1986, 68). However, this hypothesis assumes that Birkan finery in the tenth century would have had to be somewhat more glitzy than in the ninth, which is not necessarily the case. Additionally, this practice is not unknown in earlier times: the Sutton Hoo burial also included a cloak deposited separately.
Indications of other garments in use during this period are few and far between, but they do exist. The caulking rags from Hedeby included some remnants thought to be a man's vest. They were made of thick, napped wool; the vest would have been hip-length and fitted fairly close to the body (Hägg 1986, 204).
Cross-gartering in the Frankish and Saxon sense is not generally believed to have been practiced in Viking dress. However, strips of fabric widely agreed to be leg-wrappers have turned up in various locations around the Viking world. At Hedeby several strips were found which had been woven to a 10cm width (i.e., not cut out of a wider fabric); they were woven in various twill techniques, with a purple herringbone twill as the finest example. Similar strips have also been found at many north European sites (Hägg 1986, 159-60). These leg-wrappers would have been worn by spirally wrapping the strip around the calf starting just below the kneecap and finishing at the ankle, where the excess can be tucked into a shoe.
At Birka three classes of headwear have been identified. At least two types definitely correlate to a specific other garment: the Types A and B hats are found in graves where the coat, whether with or without metal buttons, is also found. Type A, found in both ninth and tenth centuries, is a peaked hat, at least partly made of silk, with either metal knotwork running up the center front of the peak or a silver, funnel-shaped ornament at the top of the peak and silver mesh balls dangling from the pointed end. Type B Birka is a more sedate tenth-century innovation also worn with the coat; it seems to be a closer-fitting, round low wool cap decorated around the circumference of the head with one or more strips of metal knotwork or braided spiral wire. A relationship between the hat and coat is frequently emphasized by the use of similar knotted trim to decorate both the hat and the coat. Type C headwear at Birka consists of a metal-brocaded, tablet-woven fillet or headband--perhaps the hlað mentioned in the sagas (Hägg 1986, 70). Of all three styles, Type C is the only one that appears in graves without the coat layer.
A really unusual piece of headwear was found with the Mammen burial. It has been reconstructed as a padded circlet of tabby silk decorated with brocaded tablet-weaving. Rising from the circlet are two triangular silk "pennons," with gold-wire mesh in the center of each. The headwear also has slivers of whalebone in it, probably to help it stand up straight (Hald 1980, 106-108). It might have looked somewhat like a bishop's mitre in silhouette. This burial also yielded bracelets of brocaded tablet-weaving on a ground of padded silk (Hald 1980, 106), possibly also in imitation of ecclesiastical garb.
In the Orkney Islands off Scotland a complete wool hood was found which has been tentatively dated to the Viking Age. Its one-piece cut it is more simple than the hoods of the Middle Ages; the hood section is squarish with no tail, and the cowl is small and conical. It was made of herringbone twill trimmed with deep bands of textured tablet-weaving in two colors, and it had twisted fringing a foot long (Henshall 1954, 10).
While the leather itself may not have survived, there is plenty of evidence for metal harness-mounts on leather straps in Viking Age burials. Similarly, belt buckles, strap-ends, and belt-slides are also common finds in Viking men's graves, even if the leather upon which they were mounted has disintegrated. Viking Age belt buckles do not appear to have been as elaborate as the Sutton Hoo buckle or the other famous early Saxon buckles. Most were simple bronze ovals with a protruding tongue and a flat plate to rivet to the leather; they would not look particularly out of place on a modern belt. Some buckles were carved of bone (Waterman 1959, 91).
Various types of belts were found at Birka. Some leather belts were mounted all along their length with wide flat metal plaques; the one in Grave 1074 had two hanging ends, also with mounts (Geijer 1938, Taf. 40). These belts were worn mostly by the men who had cast-metal buttons on their coats. A couple of elegant belts found at Birka were made out of silk samite decorated with a hanging fringe of silver-wire knotwork. Again, they seem to have been worn by some of the men buried wearing the coats with metal buttons. Since only fragments survive, it is difficult to know what the completed appearance of such a belt would have been; they seem to have been about 6cm wide, with knotwork on the short edge (Geijer 1938, Taf. 28). Perhaps the belt was tied at the waist and the two ends hung loosely; the knotted edging may have functioned in place of strap-ends, weighing down only on the hanging ends of the belt. Remnants of belts were not found in graves of men who wore overtunics at Birka (Hägg 1986, 69); it is impossible to know whether these men did wear belts, or from what materials they might have been made.
Both "soled" shoes (made with separate soles stitched to the uppers) and "hide" shoes (upper and sole cut in one piece and then stitched to itself) were known in the Viking Age. Most shoes were either half-boots or ankle shoes; some were slip-ons, some tied with leather lacing, and some used lappets with cylindrical leather buttons. A few examples of half-boots exist from Hedeby close by means of three wide lappets (Groenman-van Waateringe 1984, Abb. 39). Goatskin was often used for shoes, as was deerskin, calf, sheep, and cowhide.
According to Gräslund, Viking men did not commonly wear neck ornaments (Roesdahl and Wilson 1992, 191). I do not think she means to exclude the famous twisted neckrings that occur in so many Viking hoards; I think she means the elaborate necklaces, composed of many different kinds of beads and pendants, that women in this period wore. Amulets, of course, are a different matter altogether. Thor's hammers, for instance, are found all over the Viking world. They must have been worn even on raids: one of the Viking warriors buried at Repton, Derbyshire, a casualty of the campaign of 873/4, wore a simple silver Thor's hammer between two unmatched glass beads around his neck (Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1992, 49).
This book has much to recommend it, but its reconstructions of men's garments are 25 years behind the times and even misunderstand much of the material that was available when the book was written! The man wearing the cruciform headband and the little scarf with the stag on it is based on misinterpretations of factual evidence from Birka. Don't make the mistake of basing your garb on this fellow.Biddle, Martin, and Kjølbye-Biddle, Birthe. 1992. "Repton and the Vikings." Antiquity 66, no. 250, pp. 36-51.
Preliminary write-up on the ninth-century Viking site at Repton, Derbyshire, England, which is the first Viking burial site in England to be excavated using modern techniques. Not a lot on dress here, but fascinating from the historical perspective.Crowfoot, Elisabeth. 1983. "The Textiles." The Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, Vol. 3, ed. Angela Care Evans, pp. 409-479. London: British Museum Publications Ltd.
Comprehensive and in-depth discussion of the Sutton Hoo textile finds, including speculation on garments and household furnishings.Crowfoot, Grace. 1952. "Anglo-Saxon Tablet Weaving." The Antiquaries Journal 32, pp. 189-191.
Photos and discussion of the tablet-woven cuffs associated with some early Anglian wrist-clasps, plus reference to comparative materials from Migration Era Norwegian finds.Geijer, Agnes. 1938. Die Textilfunde aus den Gräbern. Birka: Untersuchungen und Studien III. Uppsala: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akadamien.
This book is an early paradigm of archaeological textile scholarship, but it's not available in translation. Great plates of metal trimmings, and extensive lists of textile finds broken down by grave.Geijer, Agnes. 1983. "The Textile Finds from Birka." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe, ed. N.B. Harte and K.G. Ponting, pp. 80-99. London: Heinemann.
Good, digested, English version of Birka III. Skims over all the types of garmet-related finds from Birka. Great photo of some Viking macramé in situ, some diagrams of the patterns on tablet-woven metallic trims, and brief discussion of the unusual embroidered and twisted wire trims.Groenman-van Waateringe, Willy. 1984. Die Lederfunde von Haithabu. Berichte über die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu. Neumünster: Karl Wachholtz Verlag.
Great documentation for period leatherwork here--includes many kinds of shoes, a quiver, and a variety of construction stitches. In German, but with lots of diagrams and suchlike.Hägg, Inga. 1974. Kvinnodrakten i Birka: Livplaggens Rekonstruktion pa Grundval av det Arkaeologiska Materialet. Uppsala: Archaeological Institute.
An early survey of the Birka finds; short German summary at the end. Her later works are much more useful, though.Hägg, Inga. 1984. Die Textilfunde aus dem Hafen von Haithabu. Berichte über die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu, Bericht 20. Neumünster: Karl Wachholz Verlag.
Write-ups on the garment pieces used as caulking that were discovered in Hedeby harbor. Distinguished by careful analysis of weaves, suggested reconstructions of cuts, and useful information about sewing stitches and techniques. Lots of good photos and diagrams for those who don't read German.Hägg, Inga. 1986. "Die Tracht." Systematische Analysen der Graberfunde, ed. Greta Arwidsson, pp. 51-72. Birka: Untersuchungen und Studien, II:2. Stockholm: Almquist and Wiksell.
A modern re-analysis of dress at Birka, building on the work of Geijer but also incorporating microstratigraphic work on some of the preserved lumps of textiles. Quite valuable: confirms or refutes many of the major assumptions about clothing in the period, and even offers fledgling theories of the evolution of fashion.Hald, Margrethe. 1972. Primitive Shoes, trans. Ingeborg Nixon. Archaeological-Historical Series I, Vol. XIII. Copenhagen: The National Museum of Denmark.
Some outdated information now superseded by many recent finds of Viking Age shoes, but this book has much to offer: patterns for many different types of shoes from the Bronze Age onward.Hald, Margrethe. 1980. Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials, trans. Jean Olsen. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark.
In addition to write-ups on a huge variety of finds of textiles from the Bronze Age through the medieval period, this book contains a good diagram of the Thorsbjerg pants pattern. Good drawings and a few very good photos.Heath, Ian. 1985. The Vikings. Osprey Elite Series 3. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd.
A good, concise book on Vikings from the military standpoint, with several reasonable colour drawings. The most undocumentable features of these plates are the cross-gartering--a Frankish and Saxon style--and the trimmings on the bottoms of tunics--only found at Evebø so far. Although it's nice they included one, the drawing of women's garments is pretty bad.Hall, Richard A. 1984. The Viking Dig: The Excavations at York. London: The Bodley Head.
Photos and line drawings of some of the finds of everyday objects from various levels of the York dig, including a tenth-century spur, the Coppergate helm, and several Viking artifacts.Henshall, Audrey S. 1954. "Early Textiles Found in Scotland," Part I. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 86, pp. 1-29.
A brief catalogue of some SCA period Scottish textiles, Part I lists the indigenous rather than the imported textiles. Good line drawings and a photo of the hood, which may well be Viking Age in origin.Magnus, Bente. 1982. "A Chieftain's Costume: New Light on an Old Grave Find from West Norway." Textilsymposium Neumünster: Archäologische Textilfunde, 6.5 - 8.5.1981., ed. Lise Bender Jørgensen and Klaus Tidow, pp. 63-73. Neumünster: Textilmuseum Neumünster.
A catalogue of the six textiles from the Evebø find, a man's burial from the fifth century containing, among other things, plaid pants and cloak. Some garment information is included.Owen-Crocker, Gale R. 1986. Dress in Anglo-Saxon England. Wolfeboro, NH: Manchester University Press.
Assembles linguistic, iconographic, and archaeological information on men's and women's clothing in England from the period of the Saxon invasion to the Norman invasion. Not without its flaws, but the best one-book version out there; good footnotes and bibliography. Recently issued in paperback.Pritchard, Frances. 1988. "Silk Braids and Textiles of the Viking Age from Dublin," in Archaeological Textiles: Report from the Second NESAT Symposium, 1-4 May 1984., ed. Lise Bender Jørgensen, Bente Magnus, and Elisabeth Munksgaard, pp. 149-61. Arkaeologiske Skrifter 2. Købnhavn: Arkaeologisk Institut, Købnhavns Universitet.
Information on motifs for metallic trims, circa tenth to twelfth century.Roesdahl, Else. 1982. Viking Age Denmark, trans. Susan Margeson and Kirsten Williams. London: British Museum Publications, Ltd.
A very good general history book distinguished by reproductions of the drawings made of the Mammen embroideries when they were excavated in the nineteenth century.Roesdahl, Else, and Wilson, David M. 1992. From Viking to Crusader. New York: Rizzoli International Publications Ltd.
This is the catalogue of the 1992-1993 exhibition presently touring Europe, the largest exhibition of Viking Age artifacts ever mounted. Some of the photos and exhibits are being reported and published for the first time in this book. A few of the the write-ups are not in line with current thinking, and the two-page article on dress has many serious inaccuracies, including the "reconstruction" of the Mammen outfit on page 193 that has ignored such elementary information provided by the original find as which embroideries were in proximity to others! Still, on grounds other than that of garb documentation, it's well worth the $65 it costs, and it's still in print as of February 1993.Teall, John. 1977. "Byzantine Urbanism in the Military Handbooks." The Medieval City, ed. Harry A. Miskimin, David Herlihy, and A.L. Udovitch, pp. 201-205. New Haven: Yale University Press.
A short chapter on Byzantine economics and supplies, based on several military treatises from the period. De Obsidione Toleranda, the actual source for the information on the bambakion, is not available in English, as nearly as I can tell; this mention of the bambakion in English is therefore rather valuable.Walton, Penelope. 1988. "Dyes of the Viking Age: A Summary of Recent Work," in Dyes in History and Archaeology 7, pp. 14-19.
Although kind of technical, the best few-page summary out there. Contains information on spectrochemical analysis as well as botanical information for various Viking Age dyes.Walton, Penelope. 1989. Textiles, Cordage and Fiber from 16-22 Coppergate. The Archaeology of York, Vol. 17: The Small Finds, Fascicule 5. Dorchester: The Council for British Archaeology and The Dorset Press.
Careful, detailed archaeological analysis of the textiles found from the late ninth- through early eleventh-century period of the Anglo-Scandinavian site of Jorvík. Lots of very solid information on the fibers, weaves, colors and construction stitches used there, and on textile production generally.Waterman, Dudley M. 1959. "Late Saxon, Viking, and Early Medieval Finds from York." Archaeologia XCVII, pp. 59-105.
Great to-scale line drawings and some photos of everyday items such as horsetack, garment pins, styli, belt fittings, and sword fittings from York.Wise, Terence. 1979. Saxon, Viking and Norman. Osprey Men-at-Arms Series 85. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd.
The colour drawings of Viking garments share the flaws of Heath's book: cross-gartering and too much trim on the bottom of tunics. Still, not a bad source for a good, rapid, overall idea of men's garments.
This page was created on 10 October 1996 and last updated on 4 February 1999.