Researchers from the National Museum in Copenhagen have reconstructed the clothing found in two of the most famous Viking Age graves in Denmark. Here are the results.
This web exhibitions will last from January 11, 2021 to March 31, 2021.
The man’s clothing from Bjerringhøj
Sometime in the 900s a man of high status was laid to rest in a burial mound in the village of Mammen, Jutland, in Denmark.
He had been given costly grave gifts and lay on a large bedcloth filled with down, his head rested on a pillow of blue wool. The remains of the clothes he wore survive as many small fragments of wool, silk and fur. 10 golden apliques were sewn onto his tunic. No traces of shoes were found. The grave also contained two axes, a wooden bucket, a bronze vessel and a large wax candle.
The textile remains from Bjerringhøj are possibly the best preserved from any Viking grave in Scandinavia. But we do not know exactly where the individual fragments come from, or how they were used. The reconstruction is therefore an interpretation. It consists of a tunic of undyed wool, embroidered with figures of acanthus leaves, four-legged animals, birds and masks. The cloak is of beaver skin, decorated with tablet-woven bands of wool. The leather shoes are copies of shoes found in the Viking town of Hedeby in Northern Germany.
Men’s clothing in the Viking Age
Men’s wore several layers of clothing. The first was a shirt of linen or wool, and over this, a woolen tunic that reached down to the middle of the thigh or to the knees. Both types had long sleeves. Men wore trousers of different cuts and lengths, and long or short woven stockings “hosen”. Foot cloths were also used. As outer garments, men wore cloaks or long sleeved coats of cloth or fur.
The woman’s clothing from Hvilehøj
A very special grave was found in a burial mound near the town of Randers in Jutland, Denmark. It was the grave of a noblewoman who was buried in wooden wagon-box, along with many costly grave gifts. She lay on a woolen bedcover filled with down. Remains of her cloths survived as small pieces wool and fur, and shoes of goatskin were found by her feet. She wore a bead necklace with a pendant made of a Frankish coin from the middle of the 900s. She also owned two knives, a pair scissors and a spindle whorl.
Only small fragments of the garments from the Hvilehøj burial survive. The reconstruction is therefore an interpretation based on scientific analyses.
Women’s clothing in the Viking Age
Women wore several different types of long dresses in the Viking Age. They often used an undergarment, or chemise, of linen or wool, with long sleeves. Over this was worn a dress of wool. Best known is the “suspended dress”, an outer dress with straps fastened below the shoulders with large oval brooches, like those displayed in Case 5 in the Vikingr exhibition. The Hvilehøj dress is of a different type and does not have straps. For outer garments, Viking women wore a long-sleeved jacket or a cape fasten at the front. These could be of cloth or skin, from either sheep or goats, or more exclusive versions made of the furs of wild animals.
The project Fashioning the Viking Age
The project Fashioning the Viking Age is headed by Ulla Mannering, Eva Andersson Strand, Ida Demant and Charlotte Rimstad. The projest is financed by the VELUX Foundation and is based at The National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen in close collaboration with the Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen and Land of Legends in Lejre. A number of experienced craftspeople have contributed to the making of the reconstructions.