Skjoldehamn Find Project: Where is Skjoldehamn

Almost a year ago, King James and Queen Joan of Gleann Abhann announced that Baron Gellir Gunnarson, one of my best friends, would be elevated to the Order of the Pelican, one of the highest honors in the SCA. Being me, I wanted to dress him.

That started my Skjoldehamn project, which is thankfully coming near an end. The end will be at Kingdom A&S in September. At which point, poor Gellir will get to take the dang thing home with him.

 

Not that I did not love playing dress-up, but this simple tunic has taken so many hours that I now hate this shade of blue, which was once my favorite!

Granted, I am a slow seamstress, but the main issue was making this tunic entirely authentic to the Skjoldehamn find, including the itty bitty stitches they used in the seams. Not realizing how tall my friend is (in my head all people are either shorter than me, taller than me or way taller than me), I had not realized how many linear yards of internal seams there would be.

Since I don’t even research half-assedly, I also translated enough research on the Skjoldehamn find to use as a masters degree dissertation! Be prepared to be overwhelmed with as many aspects of the Skjoldehamn find as you can imagine.

Why my fascination with the outfit from the Skjoldehamn find?

Much of the background information on the find itself and the clothing is not in English, but in Norwegian. Most of what I now know and now find fascinating, I didn’t know when I first started researching it. The Skjoldehamn outfit initially appealed to me because it is one of the most complete Viking-age outfits that we have ever found.

The clothing items include:

  • Overtunic
  • Undertunic
  • Pants
  • Hood
  • Leg wraps
  • Woven belt

And that’s just the cloth items!

The items individually are well enough preserved that there is a wealth of information to gain from them. Even with all of this, the clothing, until recently, the Skjoldehamn clothing was not well researched or documented. Why?

I do not know for certain why this find has been ignored, but by the end of this journey I will share my thoughts on the subject.

Let’s start with some background.

Background on the Skjoldehamn Find

Timing

The body was discovered the same month as the first Viking-age clothing was found in Sweden – June 1936. This is 2 years before Agnes Geijer writes her definitive work on Viking-age textiles focusing on the Birka find, Die Textilfunde aus den Gräbern. Clothing and textiles, at this time in archaeology, were not considered important. Everyone focused on the weapons and artifacts.

Place
Skjoldehamn is located on the northern tip of Norway on the coast of the Norwegian Sea. Thanks to Google Maps, we can get an idea of how far north this place is.

 

I’ve circle Skjoldehamn in red. Skjoldehamn is located on the island of Andøya in the cluster circled.

It is not a very pleasant place. Saying it is cold is an insult to cold places.

For example, today here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana the high was 84°F, felt like it was 93, and it rained almost all day. Hot and rainy is typical southern Louisiana weather in June. 84°F for June is actually fairly cool, but I suspect that most places in the US are closer to the mid 70’s.

The high in Skjoldehamn today was a whopping 45°F and felt like 39°F. It also rained there, but, while our low tonight will be 70°F, their low is 27°F and feeling like 5°F. 5°F!! In June!!

That area of Norway is bleak, even for Norway, and under snow a good portion of the year, yet it does have a long history. Traces of a medieval road connect Skjoldehamn it to southern areas in Norway. Even back in the Viking-age, people traveled to this remote location. In the 1930’s, Skjoldehamn was a fairly sparsely populated farming village. It was old, but not as old as many other villages.

The island of Andøya, where Skjoldehamn is located, does not have much lumber for burning. Most people burn bricks of peat for warmth. Peat is compacted partly decayed organic matter found in bogs or peatlands. Bogs are pretty common in northern Europe and burning peat is common too. Scotland is well known for its peat bricks, and it is the spring water filtering through the peat that gives Scotch its earthy flavor.

That’s where I’m going to leave you today. Next I’ll tell you a nice bedtime story of why the find got so f’d up.

Esperanza de Navarra

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Rus – What does it mean?

Sometime last year, I offered to help make garb for a friend and asked him what time period and style interested him. Being a typical early period fighter-type guy in the SCA, I knew he was leaning towards the Viking-age, but when he said Rus I had to pause. “What do you mean by Rus?” I asked.

How little did I know that this one simple question pushed me into my rabbit hole, and I have little hope of ever returning. The general idea of a Russian Viking is not hard to find, but as a serious costumer I wanted to know what makes the costumes of the Russian Vikings different from all of the other Viking-age outfits. My rabbit hole question is trying to define the garb of the elusive “Rus.”

Before I could do that, there were many other questions I needed to answer. Did the Rus exist as a separate and distinctly different culture from the other Viking groups of the time? What made them different? How would they have defined themselves?  What distinguishes a Viking-Rus grave from a grave of a native Slavic or someone from the East?

And then the more penitent questions for me: What extant evidence do we have?  What is the current hypothesis that the Russian archaeologists propose concerning the costumes?

With as many people bandying about the term Rus and with as many books written on the subject, one would think it would be a cut and dry answer. Not so much! I’m still searching for these answers, but I want to share what I’ve learned so far and what I will learn.  My posts on this may be slow since I’m painstakingly translating Russian archaeology articles, but when one wants to know about something, it is best to go to those with the most access.

First of all, for my personal use, I am defining Viking-Rus as those settled in Russian areas who were of Scandinavian origin culturally.  What does that mean?  Whether or not they were born in Russia or in Norway, I’m focusing on the people who still had connections to the Scandinavian Viking culture.

How is this determined?

One word: graves.  An archaeologist determines what someone is culturally based on how the dead person was physically treated and what items were in their resting place.  What about a DNA test? you ask.  Those are really expensive and most archaeology departments are not that well funded.  Maybe some future culture will value the information more and swing for a slew of DNA tests, but until then we have body remains and grave finds.  And that topic deserved its own blog post.

I hope you enjoy this series. Leave comments and questions – I always appreciate them and we learn best from each-other.

Viking-Age Accessories Part 2: Men & Shopping

Accessories for Men

An introduction to common accessories found in Viking graves to help the reenactor put together a kit to look more like a Viking.

The drawings are my own – please do not scan or upload to the internet. Copies made for educational purposes, such as classes, can be as long as credit is given and my contact information is added. Feel free to email me for questions, corrections or comments.

MEn image words 2 wm

Hat tip:

Hat tip: There is no doubt that Vikings loved to bling things up, including the ends of their caps.  These hat tips were cone shaped metal ends that were often elaborately decorated.  They were found in both the western areas, such as Birka, as well as the eastern or Rus regions.

Pennanular Brooches:

Pennanular Brooches were used to pin cloaks near the shoulder, a style that makes it easier to reach a weapon or gear. Cloak pins were sturdy, often a large pennanular (horseshoe with a sharp nail) or annular (circle with a sharp nail) brooch. Other brooches are fine as long as they have a sturdy pin.

Thor’s Hammer:

Thor’s Hammer, or Mjølnir, was often shaped like an upside-down cross. They could have animal heads on the bottom or be plain hammer-shaped.

Arm Ring:

Arm Ring are thought of as signs of status and wealth, arm rings and a common Viking grave find.  These ranged in a variety from elaborate, animal headed small torqs to simple twisted and coiled wire spiraling around the arm.

Belt Accoutrements

Buckle:

Buckle:  Vikings had buckles, not rings, which held their belts together. These were often elaborate in design and very sturdy in construction, but rarely were larger than able to accommodate a 1 inch belt.

Belt Studs:

Belt Studs, also called belt plaques, were metal affixed to the belt with studded backs. Common in Viking-age graves, a single set did not always perfectly match but were similar and had a common element. The idea of a consistent and matching “set” is modern.

Belt Tips:

Belt Tips increase the Viking flavor of your outfit, even if you can not find belt studs. These metal tips often matched the buckle, not the studs, in design.

Belt Pouch hardware:

Belt Pouch hardware, including buckles and leather studs, are a common Viking grave-find. Some whole pouches, such as the Birka pouch, can be used as a pattern. These pouches had leather loops in the back that allowed them to slide easily onto the belt.

Seax:

Seax:  Rarely do we find an adult male Viking grave without a weapon. Even most female graves contain weapons. The seax is a common Viking knife, which often hung horizontally by using metal rings and leather straps rather than vertically, like a modern knife sheath.

Winingas Hooks:

Winingas Hooks answer the question of how a Viking man kept his leg wraps on. These small, metal, triangular shaped hook tags were sewn onto the leg-wraps using small holes near the flat edge. They are almost always found in matching pairs.

Where to Find Accessories?

Other than waiting for large events, such as Pennsic or Gulf Wars, the internet is the place to find Viking accessories.

There are a few good shop in the U.S.:

Crafty Celts http://www.craftycelts.com/
Raymond’s Quiet Press http://quietpress.com/
Also look to Europe.
Etsy (www.etsy.com) has great European vendors.

My favorites are (in no particular order):

Other European Shops:

If using Chrome to see these sites, you can right click to translate to English. And most of them take PayPal! ~~~ Enjoy! Esperanza

Viking-Age Accessories Part 1: Intro and Women

I was scheduled to teach 4 classes at Gulf Wars this year. Unfortunately, Gulf Wars turned into Gulfnado and I was only able to teach 1.  I’ll try to schedule them for future events, but until then, I’ll share here.

An introduction to common accessories found in Viking graves to help the reenactor put together a kit to look more like a Viking.

The drawings are my own – please do not scan or upload to the internet. Copies made for educational purposes, such as classes, can be as long as credit is given and my contact information is added. Feel free to email me for questions, corrections or comments.

A word on names:

Naming object is so important in human history that it is mentioned early in the Bible when God gifted Adam with the task of naming all of the animals. We give names weight when we debate on whether or not something fits into a category (think of Pluto, for example).

The names used here are common names for the items, but are not definitive. Even with alternate names, this is not an exhaustive list.

Names have power. For example, let’s look at the Viking apron dress, which is often called a hangerok. This name was given to it by Agnes Gejer, a German archeologist from the early days of Viking-age archeology. In German, it refers to dungerees or overalls, which is not a dress but a practical workman’s outfit. The Russian word for the same item translates to sundress, which gives the connotations of something fancy we wear on holiday. There is no Viking-age word for this item of clothing, but only words given in the last 100 years. Each name gives a different feeling to the piece. All, yet none, are correct.

i.e., don’t fixate on names.  I’ve written more about this in my blog post:

https://maniacalmedievalist.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/a-cotehardie-by-any-other-name-would-look-just-as-lovely-some-thoughts-on-research/

Woman Image words wm

Accessories for the Woman

Turtle Brooches

Turtle Brooches are the most distinctive of Viking-age jewelry. Also called oval brooches or paired brooches, because they are oval in shape and were almost always found in pairs, these were worn on the rise of each breast to fasten the strap of the apron dress to the front top of the dress, like the buckles on modern overalls. The turtle brooches rarely went through the cloth but were most often fastened through a top and bottom loop. The turtle brooches often had beads or chains connecting them together and other items, such as scissors or ear spoons, hanging from them.
Alternates: In Finland, round brooches were more common, and in Gotland, animal heads, such as bores or bears.

Trefoil Brooch

Trefoil Brooch: was one possible brooch found at the neck close the opening of a dress, like the top button. Others included small round brooches, snake brooches, or small penannular brooches. Larger trefoil brooches could be used as a cloak clasp. Worn with a leg pointing down and fork up, much like the letter the “Y”.

Mirror Brooch

Mirror Brooch, called such because of their symmetry, were used as clothes fasteners. They are most often found singly laying in a horizontal position, relative to the body. Can be used in pairs vertically in lieu of tortoise brooches. Also called equal armed brooches.

Beads

Beads: of glass, metal (sliver, gold or bronze), metal pendants or gemstone beads were often strung between the turtle brooches. Glass beads, made like modern lampwork beads, had complex patterns and shapes. Although amber is the most frequent gemstone bead used today, carnelian, quartz, garnet, amethyst and jet have been found in both necklaces and hanging between the brooches.
Other Danglies: Viking women also wore practical items hanging from brooches or hanging from their belts.  Amoung these items are ear spoons, tweezers, scissors, needle-cases, keys, combs, and tooth or fingernail picks.

Freya Pendant

Freya Pendant:  Many pendants have been found in graves of Viking-age women.  Pendants of Freya or Valkyries are fairly common.

Cloak Pin

Cloak Pin: Cloaks could be fastened on with a single pin in the front or on the shoulder, or with two cloak pins pinning the cloak open in the front. Cloak pins could be very simple, such as these large decorative nails, or rather complex, such as trefoils or penannular brooches.

Belt

Belt:  Although belt buckles were uncommon in graves of Viking women, cloth belts could have items hanging from them. We often find remnants of tablet woven belts, which were perhaps tied.

Head Scarf

Head Scarf: Viking women wore something on their heads or fixed their hair in elaborate braids. The head scarf, which can be tied in a large knot at the nape of the neck, is inspired by images of women from pendants.  A Jorvik styled cap or head-rail can also be used.

Tablet-Woven Headband

Tablet-Woven Headband:  Although the headband/temple-ring combo is thought to be more of an eastern or Rus Viking custom, tablet woven headbands are found in the western graves in Birka and Hedeby.

Temple Rings

Temple Rings are found near the temple of the head and were possibly worn, in the eastern Viking regions, attached to head scarves or headbands, a tradition which continued through the centuries in Russia. In the Western Viking-age world, they were possibly used as earrings worn around the ears rather than attached to the headband.

Viking Design for use in Embroidery

I’m still working on research on Rus sewing techniques and embroidery methods, especially those not gilt or bead.  From what I’ve learned, it is different from the contemporary techniques we’ve found in western Scandinavian lands. Not sure if I would call it more complex, but it certainly has a level of complexity I did not expect to find in 10th and 11th century textiles.

Until I can gather my notes into more writing, I’m still working on my Viking and Rus designs for use in embroidery.  You know how I love the combination of curves and geometric figures.  This one is inspired by a pattern Sue Margeson’s book on “The Vikings in Norfolk.”

viking in Norfolk

Rus Embroidery #2

I have insomnia. It’s been getting worse for years, and it’s more normal than a full night’s sleep.  Partly why I research so much is that it passes the long nights.  Once every few weeks I crash and that always happens at the most importune times, like when I get a chance to hang out with my besties at a birthday party.

It also leaves me pretty empty to post on my blog, even if I have another Rus embroidery pattern ready to go.

For a few months, I’ve been fascinated by the Russians. I’m in touch with several Russian Viking-reenactment groups, and they are so cool!  Two distinct difference, other than that they battle each other with real swords and no face plate, jump out at me.  First, they are serious about their authenticity in costuming.

I’m not an authenticity enforcer.  The only time I inspect someone else’s garb for authenticity is either when they ask directly or I’m judging garb at an Arts & Sciences event.  I hold myself to the rules of authenticity because I find it challenging, fascinating and a personal goal.  I do not go around casting aspersions on others.

Not that the Russian reenactors  are authenticity enforcers either, but they hold themselves to those same standards I aim for.

The second difference is that they share documentation.  Not that I am criticizing my fellow artisans of the Known Realm, but there is a tendency to hoard knowledge that I do not like.  It is not that one has the information that makes them special; it is putting that information in practice and, even more importantly, inspiring others to do the same that makes one truly extraordinary.  I strive to be that kind of an extraordinary artist.

Rus Embroidery #2

This design is based off of an embroidered cuff found in a Viking-age dig in the city of Sharhorod.  I put the pertinent data in the picture so that you can use it for documentation.  Please give me credit for the design if you do.  It makes me happy to know that someone used my work, and if anyone has questions, they can direct them my way.

The first design if for a neckline.  I love, love, lurv embroidered necklines.  Enlarge the picture until it fits your neck. It might be easier to do on a xeroz rather than a printer since it will take paper larger than the A4 size.hem sharhorod 2 wm

The second design looks more like the original and can be used for cuffs or hemlines.  It also gives you a contrast to the neckline design so that you can see how I changed the design to fit the curves.

hem sharhorod 1 wm

I’m already working on a Rus design that has both Celtic-like knotwork and fleur de lis, two of my favorite design elements!

Neckline Variations from Period Sources

The holidays always seem to find me ill. This year wasn’t so bad, but I was down with a cold for over a week. I always think I’ll get some online stuff done with I’m convalescing, but I never do. Mostly, I just sleep.

There are only two, maybe three, more installments of the Viking women’s garb, but I’ll get to that another day. This week will mostly be filled with prep for Winter Wonders, possibly one of our only definitely cold events. The boys have outgrown all of their old garb, and so sew, sew and sew some more I must do.

To hold you until I continue on Viking garb, I’ve been working on this little reference sheet for neckline varieties from period sources. I’m sticking to sources before the early 1200’s so that they are suitable for early period garb.

Spread it, pin it, posts on facebook, but above all enjoy it! Belated Happy Holidays!