I got a chance to look at the pages and pages and pages of inspirational research she had last summer (and am honored that she let me geek out over it). She spoke earlier this year about naalbinding at a conference at the Centre for Textile for Research in Copehagen (she has a link to her session on her blog). I highly recommend taking a look at her new page if this art interests you!
This topic frequently comes up amongst both my fibre arts and my SCA/Viking Age friends. People often ask me what the history is, and my research in this area is very limited, but I absolutely need to share Anne Marie Decker's (Magistra Sigrid Briansdotter in the SCA) work, and new blog, on the topic. https://nalbound.com/
I got a chance to look at the pages and pages and pages of inspirational research she had last summer (and am honored that she let me geek out over it). She spoke earlier this year about naalbinding at a conference at the Centre for Textile for Research in Copehagen (she has a link to her session on her blog). I highly recommend taking a look at her new page if this art interests you!
Today a received an email from a woman named Beth that assists with a children's library reading group. She said they have covered a viking story in their readings and now the children are very interested to learn more about the history of the Norse people. To help learn how they dressed, they have researched things here on my site. This absolutely delights me!
Beth also told me that one of the young ladies in the group, named Audrey, has been researching on her own and came across some information on viking age teeth and health she wanted to get the information she found shared as well and I am happy to do that for her: https://smilesincluded.com/viking-teeth-and-health/
I also had a strong interest in history (and historic dress) when I was growing up so I am happy to give a shout out to these kids who are eager to learn as well!
Last month I talked about basic supplies you need to get started working with glass. (The post can be found here .) I mentioned that I would also share my preferences for the glass itself soon, so here is my opinion filled post on the topic!
When starting out with making beads, most people use what is called "soft glass". This category includes soda-lime glass (the most common) and also lead glass. "Hard glass" is borosilicate glass (Pyrex glass used to be made from borosilicate). Soft glass melts at lower temperatures, making it ideal for those working on a hothead torch (it is also less costly than boro).
When looking at glass suppliers, you will see glass within the Soft Glass category is often noted with a COE number. COE stands for Coefficient of Expansion, is a way of noting how something changes in size with a change of temperature. This is important because you need to make sure that the glasses you are using together will be compatible and the first thing to check is that the COE matches (note, COE alone does not promise that your glass will play well together, some colors just don't want to be friends with others and there is still going to be trial and error involved and it will definitely help to chat with more experienced lampworkers when issues arise). The higher the COE, the "softer" the glass is.
I pretty much only use 104 COE. There are several manufacturers and a very wide range of colors in this category. I do have some 96 COE frit (crushed glass that is used to decorate glass goods) because in small doses it will work with 104, and I bought a few rods of Bullseye (90 COE) because they had colors I needed to test out. I am being careful to keep those rods of glass away from my batches of 104 because mixing the two will most likely result in cracked beads.
With all of that in mind, here are some of the major brands of glass:
Effetre (Moretti): This Italian glass has been around since the Renaissance. I would say 75% of my glass stash at this time is Effetre. It melts easily on my torch, comes in a wealth of colors, and many shops have regular sales on this one which lets me keep my favorite colors in stock. They have all of the basic colors needed for historic beads as well. My favorite vendors for this brand are Mountain Glass, Howaco, Wale Apparatus, and Frantz.
A couple of personal opinions I want to note here about Effetre (your experiences might well differ, and I encourage you to play around as much as possible, with as many colors and brands as possible):
CIM (Creation is Messy/Messy Glass): CIM glass is made in China and it comes in a pretty wild array of colors. Many of their glasses are translucent or opal, rather than transparent or opaque. Often a rod will yield a bead that has striations of light or darker glass, or that will strike to a slightly different shade than the rod itself. Many of my favorite colors from this manufacturer are less useful for historic reproductions, but still can make incredibly beautiful jewelry. My favorite vendors for this brand are Mountain Glass and Howaco.
Devardi: I started with Devardi glass, which is produced in India, and still love many of the colors. This is still a "soft" glass, but it tends to be quite stiff compared to some of the others in the 104 category. I actually found this very useful as a beginner because I had time to work the glass without it getting too goopy and dripping right off the mandrel (something that totally happened to me the first time I tried Efftre on a duel fuel torch, lol). The other benefit to this one is that it is very cheap, especially when you buy in bulk. I really do recommend buying one of their bulk lots of random glass and just enjoy playing with when you start out.
Double Helix: Once you start working with glass you will see this name come up frequently or you will see lampworkers posting their beads with wild iridescent effects. This company makes a range of silver glasses (these are the ones that will have iridescent, pearl or color changing effects) as well as superb clears. These glasses are very pricey, and many of them will not work well (or at all) on a hothead torch. If you want to test the waters, I recommend getting one of their reduction frits to play with first to start learning how to bring out the wonderful metallic effects of their glasses. And if you enjoy encasing, their clears can be life changing (and yes, buy the "seconds" as they are cheaper and wonderful to work with).
A few other random bits of information:
As far as vendors go, Mountain Glass is by far my favorite. The guys there are fantastic at helping you find what you need and letting you know immediately if something is out of stock. They also ship very, very quickly. They have soft glass sales every month, as well as a weekly special. They are located in North Carolina, but are preparing to open a West Coast facility this year as well. If you are looking to upgrade a kiln or torch, I very much recommend talking to them, because they will be more than happy to help you figure out what you need (without trying to sell something you don't need). I happily give them my business whenever possible.
Howaco has the best non-sale prices on Effetre that I have found anywhere. Her prices are extremely good at all times. Another bonus of this vendor is that you can buy a single rod of glass so that you can test a color before ordering more. Note that this is a smaller shop, so that it can take a little more time for her to process and ship your order (especially if you are ordering a ton of single rods, as each has to be labeled before being packaged up).
Devardi is my staple for inexpensive tools and certain colors of glass (as well as bundles of cheap glass for dabbling). They also have excellent customer service and very quick shipping.
For whatever reason, when I was scanning through images of Viking Age beads on Unimus.no, I fell in love with this little yellow stripey one from Kaupang. Honestly, I do not much even care for the color yellow, but this bead fascinates me
I was pleasantly surprised when going back over the Birka material (below left, grave 56) that I found the same style of bead depicted there as well, and again in the finds from Møre og Romsdal (below right).
Now I am looking carefully at everything in hopes of finding yet more of these!
And yes, I will be finishing my post on glass sources this week. I also barely got to work on beads this last weekend because I was busy installing better ventilation in my workspace. Breathing is important ;-)
Having only been working with glass for a few years, I am by no means and expert, but given that several folks have asked me what I would recommend they get to start, I figured I have enough experience at least to share what is working for me, and I what I consider my personal necessities.
I started out with a ton of things, including many that I did not even know how to use. It was amazing to have all the tools at my disposal from the start, thanks to a wonderful Christmas gift from my boyfriend. He had basically bought me a whole studio kit from Devardi and I could just dive right in. Not everyone can or wants to jump in that hard from the start, so I am going to let folks know what I use the most from my initial set up as well as the other things I have added on my journey.
One quick note about vendors before I go further. I use three main suppliers for my glass and tools. My favorite by far is Mountain Glass. The folks there are super nice and very helpful when it comes to helping you decide what it is you need. Their customer support is fantastic. They also ship very quickly, and while I have not yet done it myself, I understand that they also price match their competitors. I recommend signing up for their weekly emails as they always have great sales going. Plus sometimes they send you get cool weird things like posters, stickers or even a music CD in your packages. ;-)
Another supplier I use is Howaco Glass. This vendor has low prices on soft glass, and carries the major brands I love. She also allows you to purchase a single rod of a color. This is WONDERFUL for when you just want to test something out. Shipping is not super quick, but I have never had an issue with my orders and I love the prices and convenience of buying just a single rod.
Finally, I want to talk about Devardi. Sometimes if you mention that name on some of the glass forums, you will get some pretty harsh reactions. People either love or hate these products. Personally, I think their kits for starting out are pretty fantastic for those who want to jump right in with all the tools at a good price. Their marvers and mandrels are good quality and the price is fantastic. Their glass is usually the big point of contention with folks. It is "stiffer" than other "soft" glasses. This means it can sometimes take a little longer to melt and work. Personally, I was GLAD to have that extra time when I was just starting out. It saved me a lot of dripping drooping glass. There are some professional artisans that prefer this glass for certain things because the stiffness allows for some pretty cool sculptural work as well. I absolutely LOVE some of their colors (cobalt blue transparent, for example), and I have found others just are not to my taste (I find their clear clouds up and gets muddy with a hothead, and also is too stiff for encasing). My recommendation regarding glass is to learn the basics and then sample everything out there (all brands) and find what suits your style and budget. You cannot bead the price for bundles of Devardi glass to just get your feet wet and learn how to make beads.
I guess I should mention this sooner rather than later. Be careful. Read everything you can find on working glass and the safety precautions you should take. Note that large propane tanks need to have long hoses so that they can be stashed outside while you work. Make sure you are torching over a non-flammable surface (an aluminum sheet on your work station will suffice), make sure your torch is not too close to the wall. Eye protection made for glassworkers is important (there are different grades protection depending on what type of glass you are working, look for didydium safety glasses). And proper ventilation IS A MUST. I work in a drafty garage, have open doors and windows near me, and only work for a short span of time at once. As I am working longer stretches, I am now in the process of building a proper ventilation system (fans, ductwork, etc). Note that the issues with ventilation are not really over the fumes from your fuel, but rather it is to remove the gasses from the melting glass (which can contain metals) from your air. This is very important. Please read up on ventilation for glass work. A start on safety can be found here.
My torch is a simple, single fuel torch from Devardi. It is essentially their version of a Hothead torch that is used by glassworkers all over the world. Note that this is different than the torches you buy at the hardware store, so I do NOT recommend getting one of those to start. The Devardi version of the Hothead is very inexpensive and you can get a brand name Hothead from Mountain Glass or other vendors. I use my torch with camping canisters of propane. Some others prefer to use Map-Pro or other cutting fuels. I will also soon be switching my set up to using large tanks of propane rather than the 1lb tanks now that I am making more beads in a sitting, I don't want to have to change a tank out as often. Note that you will also need some sort of bracket with which to mount the torch to your work surface. I use the one shown at the right.
Other torches need two fuels to work, usually propane or something similar, and oxygen. These torches start at a couple hundred dollars and run into the thousands. You also need a source of oxygen, either tanked oxygen (not legal everywhere), or an oxygen concentrator (which can be quite pricey, even for a refurbished one). I took a class once and it used a duel fuel torch and I made a hot mess of the glass straight off because the extra heat from the torch, plus a softer glass than I was used to, it just melted and dripped onto the table. I am more experienced now, am used to the softer glass, and itching to work faster, so at some point I might add this type of set up to my studio space (though I will not forsake my hothead).
Note that cooling and annealing are two different things. Beads MUST be annealed before using them, and they absolutely must (this is not even remotely optional) be properly annealed before selling them. For annealing you really need a kiln of some sort. There are many varieties on the market, and occasionally you might find one on craigslist. They come in digital and analog versions, and a variety of sizes and have a range of temperatures depending on the type of work you will use them for. I personally have used a Paragon Bluebird, and hope to eventually purchase a Paragon Caldera with a Bead Collar. I am opting for a smaller kiln, that can fire at a higher temperature as I also plan to use it for Precious Metal Clay work and for melting metals for casting. When it comes time to purchase a kiln, I highly recommend you talk to experts like the guys at Mountain Glass.
Devardi also sells a Mini Annealer. Again, this item is a huge point of contention amongst long time glassworkers, as to whether it truly anneals or not. I have been using one for two years, and my beads take some pretty hefty abuse and they are holding up, but I am waiting to get the Caldera before I start selling any of my work. I am very happy with this little device and love that it has enabled me to really get use out of my creations thus far. The annealer can also be used as a rod warmer (which is something I will discuss a bit further down).
Mandrels and Bead Release
There are literally hundreds of tools you can use to shape your glass. They come in a range of qualities, prices and styles. I personally love the many graphite marvers that came with my initial set up and some of these are still in my most-used tools.
A handheld marver is a must for me. Mine is an aluminum one from Devardi, but they also come in graphite. You will hold a tool like this in one hand while you roll the bead across the surface to smooth or flatten it.
Other marvers have shaped surfaces that allow you to consistently make beads of a certain size or shape. I have a dozen of these and my favorites can be seen below. You do not need these to start out, as a simple marver paddle and gravity can make beads of many shapes and sizes, the shaped marvers just allow you to do it a bit quicker and more consistently.
Aside from marvers, you will need some sort of poking tool. I prefer the tungsten probe from Mountain Glass. I actually have a couple of sizes, but the one linked here is the one I most commonly reach for. Some sort of rake is also needed to drag designs or dots on your glass. Stainless steel dental picks work great as do the steel tools in wax carving sets (which can be obtained cheaply). Along with a pick or rake, you will find dozens of uses for an inexpensive set of long steel tweezers. You can use them to pick bubbles or flakes of bead release from a bead, manipulate the hot glass, apply murrini, and other things.
One other tool that I absolutely cannot live without is an antique brass knife. Stahl knives are wonderful for working glass. Aside from my marving paddle this is the item I reach for the most. You can find them on ebay and sometimes on Lampwork destashing forums. I only paid $15 for mine and it is very much worth it. Many of them are quite decorative with horn or ceramic handles. I cannot recommend owning one enough. Hot glass does not like to stick to brass, so you can use this tool to press designs into your work, mash small areas flat, spread encasing glass... the list goes on.
The above items the start of my list of basics. My next post will discuss the glass itself!!!
(Please note that this article is not yet complete, but I thought it best to put some preliminary information out there as I keep finding myself referencing this type of material in conversations with others. If you have other items that you think belong in this collection, please let me know!)
Normally I spend months (or years) collecting data for an article, and then I triple check it, write it up, sit on it for a few more months, do the research again, triple check it and then post it to this blog. That was pretty much the process for my articles on edgings and plaids. I have one pet-project that I have been working on far longer than any of these, but I intended to weave samples of the items before posting so I held off sharing my research. With the addition of 3 Savannah kittens under 2 years old to my house, weaving has been put on hold so I am going to go ahead and share the preliminary collection of data from this research now (in a truly unfinished form).
There is this perpetual idea among reenactors that if clothing is not covered from hem to hem in embroidery, that it is some how bland, dull or will be "cookie cutter Viking" (meaning that everyone will look alike). The fact is that we have very little in the way of Viking Age embroidery (and some of it, such as the metal thread Valsgard items, are considered likely to be imported goods). My own opinion is that the items like wallhangings are far more durable, and will last generations, while an embroidered garment would not last nearly as long due to wear (and would then be limited to only the highest levels of society). Further, there were ways, in period, of decorating the cloth itself that do not take too much additional time on behalf of the weaver. We see ribbed textiles as well as those with warp or weft floats. These techniques can provide texture and interest in a garment in less time than embroidery or other more complex methods of adornment.
Some textiles are woven in more complex brocade or tapestry techniques to create patterns. These can be as simple as rows of soumak weaving to form bands or diagonal lines, or detailed brocade styles such as krabbasnår or tapestry techniques to form complex patterning. Below I will share some of the items I have found so far into my research on this type of textile from the Viking Age. Note that here I am only collecting data for wider textiles, and not bands woven in this technique.
The grave at Oseberg (834AD) is full of wonderful things, from exceedingly fine diamond twill to elaborate (and likely imported) embroideries, to incredible silks (and the woodwork alone is worth taking the time to look up this find). Among the many items from this grave were some items created using incredible brocading techniques.
There are many fragments of one (or possibly more) woven tapestries that depict a procession of some sort. This work had a wool warp and wool soumak and supplimentary weft and likely a linen weft which is now gone, it also had tablet woven borders. This work was narrow and might well have been woven on the Oseberg frame loom. (Images from Unimus.no)
Another bit of interesting tapestry from this grave is a more floral piece that is thought to have been part of a pillowcover, due to traces of down being attached to one surface.
Oseberg also yields remnants of Åklæ (coverlets or possibly wall hangings, described as 'fabrics with brocading of coarse woolen thread'). One of these items has geometric patterns woven in the krabbasnår technique. This type of weaving still exists today in Scandinavia where it is currently woven on a horizontal loom with underside of the weaving being the "correct" side of the cloth. The weaver uses a mirror to better see the bottom of the fabric to check for errors. In my sampling of this type of work on a warp-weighted loom, I discovered that I very easily could weave it where I could see the correct side as I worked. I used naalbinding needles with my supplementary weft hanging behind the loom (tapestry bobbins work as well). It is easy to manipulate the warp threads to reach through them and pull the needle or bobbin up through the correct space because the warp is more mobile than warp on a two beam loom (my manipulation of it does not cause the threads to sag the way it would on a modern horizontal loom).
Another item that is listed as possibly an Åklæ is the geometric design pictured below in an aquarelle from the find and a patter from Sophie Krafft's book describing the designs from the Oseberg burial.
While it is hard to know the full usage of these items, they are considered to be home goods (coverlets, wall-hangings, possibly cushion covers) be those who have examined them.
Krabbasnår and other decorative weavings such as Opphämta also show up at Birka. Five examples have a dense, ribbed background, as did the Oseberg Åklæ, with a coarse woven pattern floating over it. In addition to those items, there are also textiles from Birka that are described as being "tapestry-like" fabrics. In these textiles, the weft completely obscures the warp yarn. Soumak is also seen in Birka fabrics.
Below is a chart of the tapestry and brocade textiles listed in Birka III (Geijer) and Textilien und Tracht in Haithabu and Schleswig (Hägg). I hope to soon make a separate post detailing what information I can find on these items.
Several items at Birka fall into the category of soumak weaves, including Birka 597.
Another example from Birka that I believe to be soumak is from 943. This textile is a wool cloth with a hardspun, blue-green linen yarn that passes through the base fabric in lengths of equal size on both sides, forming diagonal lines.
The textiles from this grave are described as being of exceptional quality. Included among these is a very fine white wool tabby with fine wefts forming crosses and lozenges. (Hald, Bogs and Burials)
Hedeby yields items from four graves, 497, 5/1964, 188/1960 and 159/1960 that have textiles that fall into the categories previously mentioned.
Scar Boat Burial, Scotland
In the female grave at Scar there was both a self-patterned tabby and a brocaded textile that was possibly part of a pillow or cover.
Additional Norwegian Finds
While researching the Oseberg items, I found references to three additional Norwegian finds of brocade or tapestry techniques. These are from Haugen in Rolvsøy, Bo in Torvastad and Jåtten in Helland. Of these I have already sourced images from Bo in Torvastad (source, Unimus.no).
Överhogdal Tapestry: This item has been dated to the very end of the Viking Age. There is a great deal of information on this amazing work here: https://www.jamtli.com/en/exhibitions/overhogdalsbonaderna/
Valsgarde: In Northern European Textiles, there is mention of a pre-Viking Age textile with now vanished pattern threads (and the same grave also has a fabric with a warp or weft float-pattern). Unfortunately, at this time I know little else about this cloth, including the fibre content.
Saxon: Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England (Penelope Walton Rogers) has a section dedicated tapestry and soumak weaves. Soumak shows up at Sutton Hoo and Taplow, with both basic forms and in combination with blocks of tapestry weave, the latter of which are compared to Valsgarde 8, Birka and Oseberg.
I also occasionally come across items with little or no provenance for which I would love have the details. An example is this image (below), which is described as Slavic embroidery, but it looks very much to me like it could be woven work. I would absolutely love more information either way.
A couple of weeks ago I sifted through Danish Inhumation Graves of the Viking Age to get an idea of the average number of beads in grave assemblages in that area and made a post discussing my findings. This past week I have combed through the Birka material (both volumes of Birka I as well as the Birka Grave Catalog online).
I used the same criteria that I used for the second half of my previous review of the Danish material, that being oval brooches, as that is my real interest in this. I covered 147 graves with oval brooches, 5 of those had some issue with provenance, exceptional fire damage or other things resulting in inconclusive data, causing me to eliminate them from my final count. 3 graves had both cremation and inhumation burials, so they were included in the total, but not in the breakdown of graves by type.
Both of the sets of beads above were from Birka 508. What is critical in this grave is the context. I had a total of 306 beads but ONLY 77 of them were worn near the brooches, the remainder were found near the feet. Photo credit to Historiska museet. Eventually, I will recalculate the totals with that type of context in mind.
Birka 526 is another grave that has a very large number of beads, but not all of them were part of the assemblage with the oval brooches. In that grave 194 of the beads were located near the brooches.
Something that I found interesting that I plan to address soon, is the color difference between image in Birka I, drawings from the period, and actual photos. The first is very dull, while the other two are radiant with color. Below are examples from Birka 550.
Woke up this morning all excited to eat the German Coffee Bread that i made last night and discovered that while I eat I also get to consume Hilde Thunem's new article on Oval Brooches!
I am sharing the article with y'all because I cannot share the bread ;-)
As soon as I started researching beads, people started asking me “What did they use to string them in period?” I didn’t have an answer as I had not yet come across any evidence (though, admittedly, during the years of focusing on textiles, I would deeply read those portions and take notes, and skim through other sections of the books, making it easy to miss things).
Realistically, I think the answer should be “Whatever they had that worked,” but of course I always want further evidence to something less on the speculative side.
In the past I have tried linen string, waxed linen string, silk cord, and metal wire, as well as modern solutions (which will be mentioned more in depth below). I can honestly say that none of those more period options impressed me. All of them eventually gave out and had me scurrying to collect beads.
In her paper “How Beads come Together”, Moa Råhlander looked at burial assemblages from Townsend Farm Road in Kent (6th and 7th century), as well as Lovö in Sweden (8th and 9th century). Several beads from the latter site have traces of corroded iron wire inside of them. She states that it does not take much of a leap to come to the conclusion that it was the material used to string the beads.
Not long after having read this, David Huggins posted an image from a book about a Saxon Cemetery in Essex, England, that has well preserved bead threads that describes some as being plied pairs of threads that are plied together tightly as well as plaited techniques such as whipcord. In one of these finds the cord was wool but the rest were linen. As I was looking at the bead information last night in the book Buckland Anglo-Saxon Cemetery: Dover and I saw that it also references traces of linen cord that had been used to secure beads (this book also has lovely images of the beads that are printed TO SCALE!).
Additionally, Birka cremation grave 29 has traces of bronze wire in three of the beads and Grave 385 has it listed that melted beads were mounted on bronze wire.
ETA (3/26/19): I found images of a find from Kalmergården in Denmark that show beads with a twisted linen cord going through it (photos from the National Museum of Denmark). I am unsure of the dating beyond Iron Age, but if someone has the answer to the time for this, I would love to know it!
So now I think I have a decent answer, and it also leads to further thoughts on the matter. Wire can be fragile, especially once it gets bent or kinked. Linen cord can easily be worn through with use, though multiple plies, tight twisting, and plaiting can help maintain strength for longer. Beads can have sharp edges or even sharp bits inside the bead (especially if there was a bubble trapped against the mandrel) which will further wear at a cord. These facts add to my ideas that things like beads, especially with their high value in period, were really special occasion items. You were not working the garden in them, tending animals, or anything like that. They were reserved for better affairs. Yes, I can do all of my normal things at events while wearing my brooches an bling, including set up or tear down camp, but that does not mean that I think people did it that way in period.
Modernly, I usually use tiger tail type beading wire. I form an end into a loop and fix it with a crimp beads, string my beads and the add crimps and a loop to the other end. This has proven the most sturdy method so far (even though it is very modern). When I make my next strand of Viking beads, I am going to use tightly braided linen cord (possibly even some of my hand spun) and see how well that works. I think that if I avoid excessive labor while wearing the beads, it might be a good option. I am also planning to test out the use of braided sinew (artificial at first) as a possible option (especially given the diameter of the hole in many of the Viking Age beads).
Location: Peel Castle, St. Patrick Island, Isle of Man
Date: 10th Century
Type of Find: Burial
Date of Excavation: 1984
Context: All beads were found in neck area with the exception of the two largest amber ones, which were found at the waist
Beads: 73 beads, 8 of which were broken
Several weeks ago in another post, I noted I would soon talk at more length about the Pagan Lady of Peel and her fabulous necklace. Since then it has been announced that the necklace will go on display in York, and numerous people have sent me the news articles for that, so I guess now is really the time to do this one.
Excavations began in the Peel castle in 1982, with the Viking graves being discovered in 1984. There are additional graves from both before the Viking Age and during the middle ages also found in this area. The excavations produce a total of 7 pagan graves from the Viking Age, with 5 being adult and 2 for children. Only one of them was female, and it is considered to be one of the wealthiest female graves found in the British Isles. The lintel grave was professionally excavated and well documented so I consider it a reliable source (especially given the amount of attention this one has also received since then).
In addition to the necklace of 71 beads (glass, amber and jet), with 2 amber bead-amulets, the grave also contained three knives (one of which only a hilt remains and one is noted to likely have had some sort of specialized purpose), iron shears, an antler comb, remains of a leather pouch with metal fittings and two bronze needles, an ammonite fossil (thought by Saxons to be a fertility charm), a goose wing, herbs, a possible mortar and pestle, and feather filled pillow. Additionally there were fragments of three textiles, one of which is believed to have been a sprang hairnet. There was also an item initially believed to be an iron spit, but later researchers have compared it to similar items in female graves that are thought to be seiðr-staffs, indicating that the women interred might have been a seeress or sorceress of some sort. (Price; Gardeła)
The early reports on the grave believed that the lack of oval brooches indicated that the woman was Celtic or perhaps second generation of Norse and Celtic (with Norse immigrants marrying local women). Later research and isotope analysis has determined that the middle-aged Pagan Lady of Peel migrated to the island herself, possibly originating from a Norse settlement in the British Isles or even Scandinavia (Symonds, et al.).
Did she ever wear oval brooches? We do know that by this time they were going out of fashion in Denmark, and if she perhaps came from a settlement in the British Isles, there already could have been adoption of local dress. It is also possible that she wore them in life but was not sent into the next world with the jewelry for some reason. Comparisons have also been drawn to her grave and many other status graves of the Viking age.
This particular grave is referenced in many other works, include the Scar boat burial in Orkney Scotland. This grave dates to the late 9th or early 10th century, and contained an equal-arm brooch, a wooden handled sickle, textiles (included a brocaded wool cloth), a whalebone plaque, a comb, a weaving batten, shears, a box with metal fittings, whorls, and a sickle. The wealth of this grave, as well as lack of oval brooches is the reason that comparisons are made between the two, however, the book covering the work at Scar repeatedly notes that there was an “otter disturbance” (that’s a direct quote) at the site that could have resulted in displacement or loss of the brooches. I know that if I were an otter, I think I would very much love to have shiny brooches for myself. Another correlation that could possibly be made is the völva grave from Fyrkat which also has no oval brooches.
71 one beads comprised the necklace, with 8 of them being broken. Two additional amber beads (the largest in the find) were found near the waist. The materials for the beads include glass, amber and jet and have origins in Scandinavia, Anglo-Saxon and the Mediterranean or Middle East.
One bead is faiance, and is believe to be imported from the Mediterranean or the Middle East and may well have been an antique to the Pagan Lady. There are amber beads, likely from the Baltic, in the strand, a long blue bead is considered to be an Irish ‘String’ bead. Two of the glass beads incorporate millefiori, one of this is thought to be an Eastern import.
In her thesis, “Perler fra vikingtiden”, Hickey compares beads from Peel (and other sites) to those cataloged in the Guido’s The Glass Beads of Anglo-Saxon England. Based on that possible origins for various beads include Rhineland, Rhenish, Frisian/Frankish, and more locally, Netherlands, and Scandinavia as well as many of local manufacture.
The beads were possibly collected over a lifetime and may even include some brought from her homeland in addition to prized imports. I wish that I had a better analysis of each bead in this grave, and have one more book coming to me via ILL that might have more detail. If indeed it does, I plan to post the additional information here.
If you want to see a very large image of the necklace, please visit the link for the Isle of Man museum here: https://tinyurl.com/y4f2pzd4
Another site that is worth looking at is that of Glonney Designs. The artist briefly discusses the necklace and also has two images (that I wish were much larger) of the beads laying flat, rather than strung. It better allows you to get a sense of size and same for some of the beads. I am trying to source these items in a higher resolution version, glonneydesigns.wordpress.com/category/studio/the-pagan-ladys-necklace-project/
Gardeła, Leszek. “Viking Death Rituals on the Isles of Man”, Viking Myths and Rituals on the Isle of Man, University of Nottingham, 2014.
Goodrich, Russell. “Scandinavians and Settlement in the Eastern Irish Sea Region During the Viking Age”, PhD Dissertation, University of Missouri-Columbia, 2010.
Guido, Margaret. The Glass Beads of Anglo-Saxon England: c. AD 400-700, Boydell Press, 1999.
Hickey, Megan. “Perler fra vikingtiden: A study of the social and economic patters in the appearance of beads from Viking-Age sites in Britain”, Master of Arts Research, University of York, 2014.
Holgate, Barbara. “The Pagan Lady of Peel”, St. Patrick’s Isle Archaeological Trust, 1987.
Mainman, A.J. and N.S.H. Rogers. “Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Finds from Anglo-Scandinavian York”, The Archaeology of York, Volume 17: The Small Finds, 2000.
Miller, Ben. “Child grave goods from the Isle of Man castle and Viking beach market discoveries head to Cornwall”, Culture24, 1/27/2015.
Morris, Carole. “An Irish ‘String’ Bead in Viking York”, Bead Society of Great Britain Newsletter, 58.
Owen, Olwyn and Magnar, Dalland. “Scar: A Viking Boat Burial on Sanday, Orkney”, Tuckwell Press, 1999.
Price, Neil. The Viking Way: religion and war in late Iron Age Scandinavia. Aun 31. Uppsala, 2002.
Richards, Julian D. “Pagans and Christians at the frontier: Viking burial in the Danelaw”, The Cross Goes North: Processes of Conversion in Northern Europe, AD 300-1300, 2003.
Ruffoni, Kirsten. “Viking Age Queens: The Example of Oseberg”, Master’s Thesis, University of Oslo, 2011.
Symonds, Leigh, et. al. “Medieval Migrations: Isotope Analysis of Early Medieval Skeletons of the Isle of Man”, Medieval Archaeology, 58, 2014.
Vannin, Ellan. “’Pagan sorceress’ Viking necklace on display in York,” BBC, 2/20/2019.
I dance, race cars, play video games and am on a fantastic journey to recreate the past via costume, textiles, dance and food.
Blogroll of SCA & Costume Bloggers
Below is a collection of some of my favorite places online to look for SCA and historic costuming information.
More Amie Sparrow - 16th Century German Costuming
Gianetta Veronese - SCA and Costuming Blog
Grazia Morgano - 16th Century A&S
Mistress Sahra -Dress From Medieval Turku
Loose Threads: Cathy's Costume Blog
Mistress Mathilde Bourrette - By My Measure: 14th and 15th Century Costuming
More than Cod: Exploring Medieval Norway
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