While this is making the rounds on social media, I felt it worth resharing here for those who might not have seen it. Dr. Jane Malcom-Davies (whom some might know from Tudor Tailor) has a peer-reviewed article on scientific reconstruction of dress and textiles. I simply cannot love this enough.
I am deep in research for my Apothecary as well as future posts about Early (and Early Early) Period textiles, but I wanted to take a moment to share an opportunity to be a modern day Patron of the Arts.
Feed the Ravens (aka Maggie and Scot) is a an incredible vendor in the SCA. These folks are beyond knowledgeable not only about their arts of ceramics, leathercraft and wood working, but also about the general history and material culture of the Viking Age. They are constantly giving to our SCA and reenactment communities by sharing their knowledge. I am proud to count them as friends.
Last year, at the urging of others, they finally started a Patreon page (HERE). For those unfamiliar with the site, this allows artisans to gain the support of their fans in return for a window into their lives, as well as special offers, deals and sometimes even gifts. It allows for a more historic form of sponsorship of the arts, which can allow artisans a bit of space to be more creative knowing that some of their own needs can be met.
I think it is amazing and joined pretty much as soon as it launched. Patreon is set up nicely to allow for differing levels of commitment to the cause. For Feed the Ravens it ranges from $3 a month to $100 a month.
Some of these tiers offer special shopping pre-sales, and just recently, there was an opportunity to PRE-ORDER pottery! They also sent out gifts to subscribers at the end of the first year.
As an incentive right now, there is a contest for a FREE year of pottery. Everyone who joins with an annual subscription will be entered and have a chance of winning! The message they sent out is below in red text, and note that you have till NOON (Eastern Standard Time) on March 31 to join to be eligible. I do believe you need to be in the US or Canada to win so one might want to check on that if you are outside of the US. The Patreon link is here: www.patreon.com/ftrfeedtheravens/posts
GIVEAWAY! A one year pottery subscription!
All new Patrons who sign up for an Annual Membership on our patreon at ANY tier will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a ONE YEAR POTTERY SUBSCRIPTION FREE! A $1200+ value! One piece of our pottery per month sent to the winner for one year. We will choose a variety of different styles, sizes and functions for you from our studio. The higher the tier you sign up for, the more entries go into the drawing for you. Each dollar pledged is one entry! Tiers start at three dollars! To sign up for a full year, choose the tier you want to join, and select Annual Membership. Best of all, paying for the full year up front gets you a 10% discount!
Why are we running this promotion? Scot needs a new leather tool, and frankly, we just can't afford it right now. This tool will not only make his process go much faster, it will save untold wear and tear on his wrists. Check out this epic edging tool! (FYI, Scot currently and since about 16 years has been edging all of his belts by hand!)
Already a Patron? DON'T WORRY! We have another pottery subscription giveaway for you all as well! check your patron emails for details coming soon!
Link to our Patreon is on our main Feed the Ravens Facebook page. Deadline is noon EST on March 31 to enter, Drawing will be that evening!
And this isn't all they are offering! They are doing a limited run of their Mug of the Month boxes! I did this over the winter and got some incredible pieces from them. I highly recommend diving into this if you have the funds for it. It is wonderful fun to see what comes in the mail each month. Details from their Facebook page are below in red. I have added the link in green text in the copy from their page to make access easy.
SURPRISE BOX! Pottery Subscription! Who's in? 4 months, for one hundred per month, you will get one piece of pottery per month. This will include:
Scroll through the photos (HERE) in this post to see examples of what you might get!
The monthly payment includes priority shipping. We will invoice you through our website.
Available as a monthly invoice, OR... hear me out- Pay all at once and get a FREE whiskey sipper - a one of a kind made just for you.
The first 30 subscriptions will go out April 15-30, the next 20 subscribers will get their first boxes May 15-30. and 50 is about all we can handle at this time.
WHY are we doing this special thing now and why should you jump on this? We are trying desperately to get approved for a home loan, and for what we want/need for a live/work situation we need 20% down. Covid and my surgery tanked our savings. and all of our monthly bills have gone up. We have to get out of this rental situation. A cash infusion at this time would seriously help our chances of get what we need to get there. PM me if you want a subscription! (FB Page info to message Maggie to subscribe is HERE)
THIS IS FOR 4 PIECES TOTAL, ONE PER MONTH, INCLUDING SHIPPING. (These are time consuming pieces of art, not fast production ware, and shipping is about 15-20% of the price)
Below is a photo of some of the items I have that might be similar to items in the subscription boxes (every box will be UNIQUE though, that is part of the fun).
Whether or not one is a Laurel in the SCA, there needs to be a clear understanding that the research is never really done. Modern science provides a rapidly moving target in some fields, with newer, better, research being added daily to our understanding of the past. We have to be willing to flex with new methods of research and reframe our understanding with each new discovery.
Do you remember the time when we thought that the aprondress was a ubiquitous female Viking garment that was essentially a tabard type thing? Yes, I am talking about the "tea towel" version of the aprondress that is two rectangular panels with straps and brooches. This garment is far from functional and, honestly, makes little sense.
Now the reigning theories point towards closed garments (rather than flaps or wraps), with narrow looped straps for the most part.
We also now understand that the aprondress might not have been worn by all women, or in all locations, or at all periods of time in the Viking Age. The garment fell out of fashion earlier in some areas, such as Denmark. In other areas it might only have been for the wealthy (those who could afford brooches). And my personal opinion is that it was also not a work garment, but something for more special occasions (again, making it a status garment). (I talk a bit about these ideas in my article HERE.)
These are not the only ways in which research changes. You can look at my Egtved bibliography HERE and see that new ideas about her origins were published, but there was a rebuttal to that science shortly after.
When starting a new endeavor, it is critical that we look for current information as one could easily waste time with decades old ideas that have been pretty well debunked. That being said, it is also often well worth the time to read older works as well, because there might be other details in those pages that are not included in a more specific modern article.
Another very recent examples of this is one that a friend (Countess Gwendolen in the SCA) alerted me to the fact that the most recent issue of ATN (Issue 62, available HERE) is now available. Here Karina Grömer has an article that re-examines two formerly-though-to-be Bronze Age linen twills from Hallstatt. They have been carbon dated now to the 15th-17th century CE.
This knowledge drastically changes our view of Bronze Age Hallstatt textiles. These were the only linen examples we had (there is one disintegrated blob that possibly contains wool and a bast fibre, but this removes two of the three twills from the catalog of Bronze Age Hallstatt textiles (the third is wool). This means that tabby weave really is your best choice in fabric for the period. It also removes the only example of stem stitch from the period (which means sticking with hem/overcast and buttonhole are still your best options for sewing).
Sometimes we think we have the academic article that will help prove a point we want to make, provide the perfect foundation from which to expand our work, or just help fill in the gaps the way other things have not previously done so. We might get lucky and have this item show up on a service like Academia.edu in all of its intellectual glory, just waiting for us to hit ‘download’ but sometimes it is not that easy at all.
Academia.edu is a fantastic start, but not everything is posted there in full (or at all). You can also try services such as ResearchGate, Google Scholar, or JStor as well. If that fails, look for the author’s site (or their page of an institution site) online as sometimes they have links there for their articles. If the article is older, sometimes writing to them will also help, as they can sometimes freely send out a PDF for the piece. (Note that if you do not pay for Academia.edu you cannot fully search the site, but you can often get to the thing you need by using the researchers name, or the name of the paper, and "academia.edu" in a google search.)
You can also search the publisher’s website. Sometimes they offer things for free (occasionally even whole books), or at least for a reasonable fee for a chance to read it for 24 hours. If the article is part of an academic book rather than a journal, you might even find it accessible, at least in part, via Google Books. (Hint, if you cannot view all of the pages for something, grab a sentence from the last page you could view and search for it again in a different browser or on a different device. Sometimes that will let you see more of the document.)
Sometimes, just typing in the title of the article and “PDF” will take you to a page that has a download for the item. Be careful here though in making sure that this is a legitimate source as there are sometimes sites, often foreign, that are just looking to hijack your computer with malware or a virus.
If you have access to a university library, they can usually source needed items for you as well (and sometimes that can even happen through your local library, especially using ILL for books that are not journals).
Another option is to try to search for other items by the same author. Often, as part of their body of work on a subject, a researcher will write about the topic from several different directions, or include various parts of the information in short articles. You might even try looking for that person's dissertation or thesis online if it was on the same subject. It is possible that the knowledge you seek is located in more than one place, in more than just that one article that you think you need. It is also quite likely that you will learn something you didn’t even know you wanted to know by looking at the bigger picture.
Also, do not hesitate to network with others who share your interest. Often it is likely that someone else has already pulled that piece and they might be willing to send you a copy. Fellow researchers tend to love to geek out when others share their interests and there is so much more we can learn together!
Did you ever have a project that you were SO geeked up about that you were working and working on it and waiting until you were totally finished to share it? But then, life happens, and it still isn't done? Well this post is about one of those projects. I started this a year and a half ago, but it was taking so long I had to stop to do Pennsic prep and then got side tracked with life. The project recently resurfaced because I had questions about something tangental to it, and so I am going to go ahead and talk about it here.
Munsell's system for coding colors is a little like Pantone (something with which people are often more familiar, especially given the popular media stir created annually when they announce the Color of the Year). Munsell's was developed nearly a decade ago to create a guide to help classify soil samples by color. It takes into account hue (color), chroma (how intense it is) and value (how light or dark the color is). It is used in a variety of applications, but there are specific field guides that relate to archaeology, including the aforementioned guide for soils, and one for ceramics and one for glass beads. The last is the one that I find most interesting.
I learned about the guide when I was doing Viking Age bead research and stumbled across Matthew Delveaux's blog https://textandtrowel.wordpress.com/ He has a specific article about Viking Age glass colors (HERE) and wrote a piece housed on the Munsell site (HERE).
So this is all super cool, right? I personally love it, but there are some issues I have discovered:
Once I do complete this project, I will most definitely be sharing the results here. But while I am at it, I also want to recommend looking at Moa Råhlander's (Sigrid Beadmaker in the SCA) work, particularly her article Spår av tillverkningsmetoder i glas. She is a researcher AND beadmaker and kindly shares her comparison to standard Effetre colors for the historic samples!
I have had several conversations lately with individuals who are starting to build out time and place specific personas (or kit) in the SCA and I wanted to put a few tips into writing for those interested in pursuing that path. Some people are drawn to a rough time frame (i.e. 12th Century or "early Medieval Spain" or Viking Age), but even within those parameters, one is really looking at a broad scope of events and material culture and dialing into fine details can make a huge difference in how realistic a portrayal can be.
I was looking at building a kit for a wealthy woman from Kaupang, a Viking trade centre in Norway. The site was established around 800 CE and was abandoned in the mid-900s CE. I specifically was looking at 850ish for my time frame.
Fortunately for me, Kaupang has a wealth of preserved material culture, including a number of textiles. The famous grave of the "Oseberg Queen" is also not far away chronologically (834 CE) or geographically (it is within the same modern day county). The grave provides information on shoes and textiles, as well as other material culture, and the settlement and graves give me additional textiles and a wealth of jewelry and beads to work from. In reality, I did not have to stray too far to build out plans for moving forward.
Were I looking for additional details, trade routes come into heavy play, and I could easily tap into Denmark (assuming I stick to 9th century), but I would most definitely avoid something like finds specific 10th Century Birka unless I had no other option for evidence.
Iron Age Celtic is much more difficult. I am working primarily from finds from Durrnberg/Hallein. again, I have a wealth of material goods from the numerous graves near the site, and a wealth of textiles from the salt mines. Jewelry is dated in the archaeological reports, making it easy for me to build specific kits for various time frames. The difficulty in this comes in piecing together clothing items. When researchers write about Celtic clothing, the figurative sources are so few that they are often compiled within documents together, as if they form a cohesive look at a moment in time. The reality is that they often span 4-8 centuries of material (depending on the paper). Written history comes from other cultures (which sometimes might be written in a way to provoke a desired response in readers of that time), and again, is often compiled from documents spanning many centuries.
And entire extant garments? We just don't them for this time+place+culture. This begins a delicate game of research where you have to start building a puzzle with pieces that definitely do not belong together, but if you manage to chose the right ones, you can still form a plausible picture in the end.
An example is the Iron Age textiles from Vedretta di Ries in Italy. There are shaped leggings as well as shoe linings. These could be a basis for leg coverings, though they potentially date early for my La Tene A kit (socks date 795-466BCE; La Tene A is 450-380BCE). They are from Italy but not horribly far from Hallein. There are socks from Martres de Veyre in France, but these date late 2nd-early 3rd century CE, and are much, much further from Hallein. Additionally, they are completely separated from my chosen location by the Alps. If I were to have only these options to work from, the Italian find is much better fit for my puzzle. (Of course, I could also analyze both and draw comparisons between the two - and any other relevant leg coverings I could track down - and possibly even make a case for similarities and possible use across a more broad span of time, if I felt like trying to go down that particular path.) It not always easy to juggle the priority of time, place, and culture to make the best guesses we can.
I also enjoy all of this as a bit of experimental archaeology as well. If I have several possible items, I might make them and test them out. Do they work in reality? Are they functional? Do they serve a purpose or in some way pull other things together? It is fascinating what you can learn by wearing and doing.
In the end though, we sometimes we have to use what we have until something better is found. We go early or late, and skip across modern borders, to build out the best look that we can, while realizing all the while that it is the best we can do now, and the process is never truly done and we will always find more pieces to our puzzle.
One of the ways you can readily tell that someone is beyond the basics of reenactment research is by looking at their sources and how they are using them in their work. Blatant assumption that museums, Laurels, other reenactment groups, and even academics, are always “right” is a method of thought employed often by beginners. This is not necessarily bad (as we all start somewhere), but as we grow and start to put the pieces of the puzzle together, we often discover that information is dated, ill-thought out, or sometimes just wrong. Realistically, this is a natural part of the process, and “growing up” in this field and we all have been there at some point. The trick is to start to develop an eye that can readily sort out fact-based items, as well as works of fiction.
I actually started working on this about a year ago after some discussions online made me realize that people who I thought had a deeper understanding of the material were, in fact, relying on assumptions that just because they saw it in a museum or on a living history reenactor meant it was absolute fact, without taking time to look into it further. A recent discussion on an erratic museum display caused me to complete this post so that I can share my thoughts.
Before I share examples, I do want to note that there is no one single approach to this subject matter, but there can be good or bad approaches. I had a previous post titled “A Difference of Opinion” ( http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/blog-my-journey/difference-of-opinion ) that shows two excellent, yet wildly different, lines of thought on the Oseberg Queen’s costume. Both are very well researched, both are evidence based, and both are equally valid interpretations. The difference in items such as those and the 'less good' things I will mention below is the approach the artisans took and how they came to their conclusions.
As I mentioned, recent issues with a museum display are, in part, what triggered this post. This controversy is about the Viking exhibit at the National Museum of Denmark.
In an effort to drive more traffic to the museum, the authorities there have employed Jim Lyngvild, a television personality and fashion designer to craft a display that would appeal to the modern eye. I highly recommend doing some reading about this celebrity's on and off screen antics, and one perhaps can see how his participating in museum displays of ancient history can be problematic.
You can see the promo photo located on the museum website (https://en.natmus.dk/museums-and-palaces/the-national-museum-of-denmark/exhibitions/danish-prehistory/ and that sets the tone for the rest). There are other images making the social media circuit now that are even further out there than this one. The point of this post is not to critique each image, but rather to provide commentary that this is not a reliable source for making accurate interpretations. There was a review this year in Antiquity that better sums up the things that have gone wrong here (and how it could have been done to make both fact and fantasy exist better in the same space). I highly recommend downloading this free PDF and reading it before looking for additional images (some of which loudly proclaim they are "The Real Vikings"). https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/A40E54491325BC2E3951F975F6452708/S0003598X19000012a.pdf/meet_the_vikingsor_meet_halfway_the_new_viking_display_at_the_national_museum_of_denmark_in_copenhagen.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3XG-4dB72apePrO7A8Liep6pl5Ha8ue7HFAVkakuVTxuIQ7Orn6PyHGxU
If you source additional images you will readily note an over-use of ragged furs, mishmash of time and place, and some very, very Hollywood style embellishments (such as ‘sexy’ slits up the leg of a woman’s dress and items that are pure reenactorisms that are not really even hinted at in graves).
This particular museum is not the only venue with issues like this. Some museums, often due to budget constraints, are displaying older recreated items that are based on information that is decades out-of-date. Sometimes artisans are employed to do reconstructions without the benefit of detailed research or access to time/materials to make a good representation of an item.
Sometimes it can be exciting to see a progression in displays of costume or other items. I will use Mammen as an example because years ago there was a lovely, plausible, reconstruction of the garment (for King Cnut) that appeared in the book Mammen: Grav, kunst og samfund i vikingetid. This item was made with research available at that time, and is quite striking. Currently, there is new work being done by some of the top researchers in the field. They are taking a very detailed and highly scientific new look at these textiles and the costume from this grave. I cannot wait for this work to be completed, and you can follow the progress yourself here: https://natmus.dk/organisation/forskning-samling-og-bevaring/fashioning-the-viking-age/the-three-project-parts/ (The great irony here is that this is also in conjunction with the National Museum of Denmark.)
Typically, museums displays of items, such as brooches, are a good source of information. Just seeing the object can let you grasp the detail and size of the item. Sometimes things like beads, however, can be misleading. Many of the older archaeological sites cared less about certain goods (like beads or textiles), resulting in all beads being tossed in boxes to be restrung later in any fashion for display. This could result in all of the larger, ‘fancy’ beads being grouped together in one strand (and leaving out the plethora of tiny beads completely), which can lead the impression that that was the norm. And yes, sometimes items in a museum can be mislabeled (or it could be labeled with data that made sense at the time the display was erected, but that was countered later by new evidence). Even a well-crafted display needs context. If you see something that interests you in this type of professional setting, it is still advisable to look deeper and do your own research to help get the most accurate information available.
Just because it is in a book doesn’t make it true either. This can be for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is that the book is simply an older text that is presenting older (and now debunked) theories. The most common thing I see, in this field, with this is the diagrams from Flemming Bau (the infamous open-front aprondress) still being used when interpreting evidence. A look at Hilde Thunem’s site ( http://urd.priv.no/viking/ ) or Inga Hägg’s most recent book on Hedeby ( https://amzn.to/2HKDesE ), will detail for you why those theories are out-of-favor.
Other books are simply just not as well researched or presented. There is a now infamous drawing by Rushworth from his book (Handbook of Viking Women’s Dress) that shows the back of an aprondress with pleats covered by long vertical bands of tablet weaving. There is absolutely nothing at all in the evidence that even begins to suggest this type of costume, yet because it creates lines that are attractive to the modern eye, and because it is published in a book, it is seen as “real” by someone who has not looked deep enough at the evidence themselves.
Other books have lovely images and nice tutorials, but do not use proper citations, nor do they discuss the methodology that lead to the conclusions that are made between the covers. Without that discussion, I do not view a book as a credible resource academically. This is poor scholarship at best, and now I see other books that rely heavily on those same titles as a source, and it makes me question the credibility of the work as a whole. An example of this is the Viking Dress Code, which was just recently released in English. This book is full of lovely charts and maps and has a very nice summary of evidence, but the heavy reliance on a few less critical works (and also some of the strange conclusions that are made about certain items), make it something that I personally can find a use for and am happy to own, but it would never be something I would recommend to someone with no prior knowledge of the sources.
We all know there are many amazing researchers, archaeologists and authors in this growing field and I can make wonderful recommendations for many facets of what we are studying based on my own list of favorites. It is important though, to make sure that you are looking at the current information. Sometimes there is a dissertation that is published that is easily accessible (and free online), but the book that came out later (and that costs money) actually has more current information on the subject. Another example here is Hägg’s work, while I highly recommend reading any of her papers regarding Hedeby, I would not recommend moving forward with a reconstruction project without looking at that most recent book mentioned/linked above.
And then there is the case of plain old bad scholarship. She-who-shall-not-be-named is one of the best examples of this (and sadly, is also cited as a source in the Viking Dress Code book). This author seems to prefer scandalous headlines over solid academic methodology. She made a name for herself with the Boob Brooch Debacle ( https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-02/uu-vdn022508.php?fbclid=IwAR3eVe9HLWCjnzIcnhH6sMM123zo1qO6bYsv7a-X-0gEjW6hyse7YlcALsY ) and then pretty much drowned any credibility she had left with the claims that if you look at a piece of tablet weaving backwards (using a mirror) and then add extra lines to the pattern (in what reality is that even science????) that the motif spells Allah in Kufic script. ( https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/allah-viking-burial-fabrics-false-kufic-inscription-clothes-name-woven-myth-islam-uppsala-sweden-a8003881.html?fbclid=IwAR3oYiLtcyNYJDwqp5MU-i-IEjDgR7FeYKOMH7fdQXBXA1e0A_nh2tYxGSs ). This is all problematic because at the time these items made headlines, she was still affiliated with a University, was participating in study of archaeological textiles, and it was easy to assume that this was all real. (Note also, the promised papers for these items never made it to publication, and that is frequently the case with very wild theories like these.)
This is an area that can be really touchy, but I am going to dive in anyways.
The summary here is that we want to make an attempt at authenticity, we need to dig deep and try to figure out what is good, what is bad, and what has stood the test of time (in terms of knowledge). It is not an easy road, but it can be very rewarding. I am always happy to talk resources with people if they want to listen to me drone on about it!
I am going to finish this rant with a power passage from Lise Bender Jørgensen (one of the top Viking Age textile researchers) about the role of proper reconstruction and the public eye. The article it is from is in NESAT 5 and is titled “Ancient Costumes Reconstructed: A new field of research”:
One of the points I intend to make is that reconstructing an ancient costume is a research project, just like any other type of research. Further, that a costume is a form of publication that is ,,read" by a much larger audience than any traditional, written publication. l feel that it is very necessary that we face these fact fully, and start acting accordingly. If we don't, costume replicas shall remain an obscure, unscientific feature of museum exhibitions, contaminated by a bad smell of courting the public.
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!
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.
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 am mother to a billion cats and am on journey to recreate the past via costume, textiles, culture and food.
A Wandering Elf participates in the Amazon Associates program and a small commission is earned on qualifying purchases.
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