Communicating the past through craftsmanship and art: the case of the Viking ship

Sara Ellis Nilsson, Linnæus University (formerly Malmö University)


What is a Viking without a ship?

With that perhaps provocative question, I would like to introduce the topic of this paper: communicating the past through carpentry and art in cultural heritage institutions. Although the main purpose(s) or goals of these organizations vary, museums in particular can be seen as receptacles of past lives. For instance, they contain historical artefacts, and often documents, keys and doorways to the past. In addition, they create and preserve narratives of the past, presenting and interpreting them for their visitors. Among these cultural heritage institutions are those most concerned with maritime cultures and their ships, as well as specific time periods such as the Viking Age, Indeed, in narratives about the Viking age, the ship is often incorporated as an important element. Again, What is a Viking without a ship?

This paper discusses the role of the ship in communicating and interpreting the past, in this case the Viking age, by comparing one museum and one “experience centre”: the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde and the Ribe Viking Centre. The paper is based on my study of a number of museums and centres throughout Scandinavia. These two case studies have been chosen as they are both found in the same country, Denmark, and represent these two approaches to engaging visitors in learning about the Viking Age. Together, they combine several of the themes of the conference at which this paper was originally presented: re-creation and academic methods. Before presenting and discussing the two museums, it is necessary to discuss the multiple roles of the museum, the role of experimental archaeology, and the reason that ships can be seen as cultural objects from which historical narratives can be spun.

Oseberg ship - IMG 9129.jpg
Image 1 – the Oseberg Ship, Oslo. This ship is seen as a “prototype” for many Viking-age ships. It is easily recognizable and often used in historical narratives when presenting the Viking Age (Photo: Wikicommons. By Daderot – Own work, Public Domain)

The Multiple Roles of the Museum

As mentioned, this paper discusses two different types of “museum” or what the public perceives of as museums: the “traditional” museum and the experience centre. What role do these types of cultural heritage institutions play in interpreting and communicating the past?

First, a traditional museum is usually a public institution with a directive, expressing its specific focus and purpose. Traditional museums, however, have many roles in common that might not be specifically articulated in their individual mission statements. In general, museums are instrumental in the interpretation and communication of historical narratives. They provide an authoritative voice, conserve objects/knowledge, and (possibly) provide some form of entertainment to their visitors.

Second, the relative newcomers to the scene are the experience centres. Their role is also found in communication and interpretation, but there is a heavy emphasis on entertainment. They can be described as the “Disney Land” of history.[1] Until recently, many of these centres were viewed with mistrust but are now becoming accepted as mainstream. In some cases, their goals were primarily focused on entertainment and the communication of specific aspects of history, not the entire picture. In experience centres, the consumption of history by visitors is the most important part of the concept. Enabling a visitor to experience history using (nearly) all of their senses is of primary concern. Here, it is important that you are allowed, even encouraged, to put yourself in the shoes of someone in the past. Although they may not think that they have this role, the public and especially their visitors see them as having authority.

In both instances, especially where the experience centres have access to actual finds, there are some common aspects to consider. One of these – important to the current study – is the use of objects as gateways to historical narratives. Using material objects to make history come alive for the interested public includes archaeological finds/objects and their reconstructions. How is this done and on what basis? One of the ways is through re-creations and reconstructions, which allow the public to touch and experience history using all of their senses.

Re-creations and reconstructions are important elements in experiencing history and in what has come to be called the consumption of history (De Groot 2016). They make history come alive and infuse it with a feeling of relevance to the interested public. Added to this is the fact that one of the most important foundations in reconstructing historical objects is found in experimental archaeology. Of course, experimental archaeology can be applied to practically any find. Indeed, a numerous categories of artefacts are the focus of reconstruction work. In my study, I have chosen ships as an artefact category worthy of further study due to their long-term significance in Viking-Age narratives.

Image 2 – Reconstruction in progress in the boatyard: the Gislinge Boat 2016. (Photo: Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde)

The Case for Experimental Archaeology

An integral part in reconstruction work – at least on the scientific or scholarly level – is experimental archaeology. The development of this discipline has been vital to understanding how reconstructions should be done. At this point, it is important to highlight a difference in terminology. Reconstructions are attempts to re-create an actual, sometimes incomplete find; at times, these are inspired by finds but are not attempts to re-create an actual find (here called re-creations). Neither of these is a restoration of an actual find. Experimental archaeology can be concerned with all of these and should always follow certain procedures – if it is to be done correctly. If not, those who subscribe to the following process could deem the reconstruction suspect and not to be trusted in the interpretation of the use or history of a historical item, including its use in the historical period in question.

This process of experimental archaeology, according to Bodil Petersson’s interpretation of Ole Crumlin-Pedersen’s method (Petersson 2003) contains the following principles or steps:

  1. There needs to be an archaeological basis for the reconstruction or copy of a find.
  2. A research strategy needs to be in place. What is the potential for this find? What can a reconstruction or copy tell us about the object in question, its place in the historical narrative, its use in the past, etc.
  3. Original material has to be used. In addition to the material of the actual object, this point includes the tools used to reconstruct the object.
  4. Knowledgeable and competent craftspeople and end-users are needed in order to properly reconstruct the object and then use it!
  5. Results must be published and documented so that they can be tested or attempted again.

As seen, the above principles are based on the scientific method. They also, perhaps inadvertently, require an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approach (cf. Petersson 2003). In addition to archaeologists, craft specialists and users of the item are also required in order to come to valid conclusions. Often these are one and the same, however. In the case of this study, experienced boat-builders and sailors are necessary for the successful completion of a project.

As mentioned, the reliance on scientific principles – concrete, replicable steps – and use of material culture creates the assumption that this experimental method is objective and inherently source-critical. However, the goal of pure objectivity is unattainable. The subjective aspects of interpretation and the emotional aspects of reconstruction cannot be avoided. It is impossible to be positivist and deny emotions when humans and interpretation are at the centre of the reconstruction work. Thus, as Petersson also states, it is vital to be aware of the humanistic view inherent in this type of work (2003).

A sense of principles and guidelines are very important in reconstruction, and it seems that most agree that especially points 1, 2, 4, and (to some extent) 5 should be upheld in all forms of reconstruction. However, there is not always consensus about point 3. This principle can create difficulties in terms of the availability of the appropriate material, the cost, and the (in-)experience of the craftsperson. Original material is useful if required to test a certain hypothesis, but it is not always practical. This sense of practicality and willingness to be flexible seems mainly evident at the experience centres. It could be speculated that this approach is also valuable.

As has become clear from my ongoing study, those engaged in reconstruction work all expressed a sense of enjoyment that they experienced in the process of building and creating. Thus, the humanistic element is clearly manifest in reconstruction work. The general consensus was: It might be hard work – but it is lots of fun!

The Ship as a Cultural Object

Throughout history, including during the Viking Age, ships have played an important societal role. Waterways and the ships or boats that travelled them have enabled social communication by providing a foundation of communication and trade networks. In the Viking Age, they were associated with an increase in mobility – imagined or otherwise. The latter ensured access to, sometimes vital, provisions and even luxury goods. In addition to their very important practical functions in the Iron Age, ships were a symbol of power, both secular and religious. The importance of the ship as a symbol could vary however based on local and familial traditions. For instance, in some areas, ship burial was more common, while in others votive offerings of ships in graves was the preferred practice (e.g. Larsson 2007; Westerdahl 2007). Thus, as artefacts ships are imbued with the potential to evoke images of the past and, for this reason, are ideal to use in the concretization of historical narratives.

Ships are a relatively common feature in art from the period, including on the picture stones. These representations show forms of decoration on the ships, such as animal heads. Indeed, many of the ship finds have some form of decoration on them, although most are not as elaborately decorated as the Oseberg (img. 1). In other words, it seems that some sort of decoration was integrated into and important in the construction of most ships. Occasionally that ornamentation is graffiti, which might be identified as an important element in the academic analyses of ship finds. However, as will be discussed, this ornamentation – whether original or later graffiti – is not always thought of as an integral aspect in the reconstruction of the ship. More focus is given to the structure and practical function of the ship – ensuring that the final result is a fully functioning vessel. The question of re-creating ornamentation is often left to last. Why is art separated from the ship-building process? Why does it remain an afterthought? In the next sections, I will discuss the two case studies and explore these questions.

Two Viking Cultural Heritage Institutions and their Ships


Image 3 – The Exhibition Hall and the Skuldelev Wrecks (Photo: Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde)

Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde

The museum which best fits the traditional museum category is the Viking Ship Museum (VSM) in Roskilde. However, it is not only a traditional museum with a permanent exhibition. It is in fact a unique combination of a traditional museum and a “living museum” (Roskilde 2017); the latter is something like an experience centre. In the main hall, built especially for this purpose, the permanent exhibition of the five Skuldelev wrecks is situated. These wrecks were excavated from their resting place as a barrier in Roskilde Fjord, conserved and reassembled in the museum. Iron ribs were used for the missing sections to show the way the boat might have looked. The museum was designed and built so that the visitor feels that they are on the water.

The main purpose of the museum is the interpretation of the Viking Age. An important part of the museum’s purpose and mission is found in its pedagogical activities. There is an especial focus on school-children and pedagogy together with Skoletjenesten. For instance, the permanent exhibition has a section with a “boat” in which children can explore (or play in). Children can also dress-up in Viking clothes and pretend that they are about to embark on a voyage.

Part of the museum’s reconstruction work can be seen in the hall. The weaver sits in one corner and the partially woven sail is always on display. Connections to the scientific method in the form of marine archaeology exhibitions are also found in the main building; however, these are not a part of the main ship hall.

The living museum aspect is found in the small boat harbour and adjoining workshops. Similar to an experience centre, occupations associated with the Viking Age have been placed here. In this case, all of those professions needed in order to make true reconstructions (except for the sail) are found here: a rope maker, a smith, boat builders, and carpenters. These craftspeople are all expected to be true to Viking age techniques by using reconstructed tools in their work – clearly adhering to reconstruction principles 3 and 4.

In the harbour, all of the ships are docked for most of the year, except for the winter when they are taken up on land. A visitor will find reconstructions of the Skuldelev ships in the harbour, but there are also other reconstructions. The boatyard’s mission statement includes reconstructions and care for all clinker-built and historical wooden boats from the Viking Age to more recent models. The Viking Age reconstructions include, for example: Havhingsten (the Sea Stallion) which is a reconstruction of Skuldelev 2, as well as Helge Ask (Skuldelev 5), and Kraka Fyr and Skoldjungen – two different interpretations of Skuldelev 6 (Roskilde 2017).

Image 4 – Havhingsten – The Sea Stallion from Glendalough (reconstruction of Skuldelev 6. Photo: Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde)

How then are these artefacts and their reconstructions used to communicate the past at the VSM?

In the main hall, the exhibit is static with signs and statistics related to the ships, which includes some information explaining the reconstructions found in the harbour and small models of these ships. The visitor is encouraged to read, to observe, or to ponder. There is also the option of going on a guided tour in which the artefacts are given a context. This is done by identifying where, when and how the artefact was made, but a narrative based on the lifetime of the ship AFTER its construction is also provided. Both types of biography are applied interchangeably.

In addition to the re-built ships (and the children’s ship corner), there are two other exhibitions which make use of the ship as an artefact in creating narratives about the past. One features an explanation of the attack on Roskilde and the creation of the barrier further up the fjord. In this case, the afterlife of the ships is in focus. They are used to weave a tale about political power, military tactics, and the rise of the city.

Another way in which the artefacts are used is related to their reconstruction. Reconstructions are built based on the above experimental archaeology principles. Exposing visitors to these and to the process of creating a new artefact (based on an actual, historical find) creates an encounter with a (re-created) past phenomenon and enables historical empathy – in this case for shipbuilding. As a result, visitors are encouraged to participate in and try their hand at all of the activities in the living history section – not unlike visiting an experience centre. Otherwise, this living-history area also provides a passive viewer experience, where visitors can watch the experts at work making rope, smithing, chopping boards, and so on.

As an example of some of the recent work at the museum – in terms of using craftsmanship to communicate history – I would like to mention the Gislinge Boat Project. This project was originally planned to take place from 2015-2016 but is now an open-source project on the museum’s website (Roskilde 2016). The boat find in question is from the 12th century (so not really the Viking age!). However, it can serve as a prime example of one of the ways in which the museum works to engage the public in its ongoing reconstruction activities. In this project, the interested public were invited to join the experts for workshops, for example, to cleave boards, produce nails and rope, and weave the sail. In other words, they contributed to the actual reconstruction of a clinker-built ship. The museum aimed to provide hands-on experience to bring visitors closer to the past. Diagrams and schematics were even made available open-source so that others could also build their own reconstructions. Imagine building your own medieval boat! If you would like to test it, the diagrams are still available. A virtual community has also been created around the project with film and photo updates.

What about the artwork or ornamentation on the ships? In the main hall, any discussion on the artwork is made in passing. A discussion of Viking age art is relegated to a series of posters, which present an overview of the Viking Age. There is, of course, an awareness at the museum that these need to be updated.[2] In addition to these posters, there is also, for example, a re-created metal weathervane (as seen on the Havhingsten) on display on the wall with a small text. Ornamentation on the ships is not highlighted however, even though Skuldelev 5 is partially decorated. The same is the case in the harbour: the ship’s function is the primary focus.

Image 5 – Helge Ask (reconstruction of Skuldelev 5. Photo: Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde)

Indeed, ornamentation is often not included in the initial planning of the reconstruction process. Building a sound boat is the primary focus, which is definitely understandable! Art is left to last, but that does not mean it is entirely forgotten by the craftspeople, including the ship-builders. They do ask the following questions: How should we paint the boat? Should we decorate the stems with an animal head (or a windvane)? Indeed, both Helge Ask (img. 5) and Havhingsten (img. 4) have prow decorations, the former with an animal head and tail (only when at sea, fitting with the sagas) and the latter with a golden windvane (Roskilde 2015). Skuldelev 5 has a tendril/vine or a snakehead carved into its side. This ornamentation was in fact reconstructed by painting a copy of the figure on Helge Ask (Roskilde 2015). Moreover, both of these longships have been brightly painted in red and yellow (and blue in the case of Havhingsten). However, this aspect of reconstruction is not represented among the different occupations or trades represented in the workshops. Art is an still an afterthought in the communication of the history surrounding these artefacts.

Image 6 – Working on the Gislinge Project (Photo: Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde)

Ribe Viking Centre (Experience Centre)

Turning now to the other cultural heritage institution: the experience centre. In this case, Ribe Viking Centre (RVC) is a private company that cooperates with local and regional museums, in particular the Museums of Southeast Jutland, Museet Ribes Vikingar, as well as the VSM in Roskilde. In addition, RVC also cooperates with the municipality in terms of their pedagogical work together with Skoletjenesten (roughly “school service”) for pupils in compulsory school, as well as their collaboration with the local “production school” Lustrupholm (Danish: produktionsskolan).[3] Among other things, these young people at the production school participate in construction and re-construction at the site, and work with the public during the summer months (Ribe 2013).[4]

The concept of RVC is founded on a vision of bringing the Viking Age to life. The time period is broad while the geographical scope is narrow: approximately the 700s to the 900s in the Viking age market town of Ribe and on a nearby manor farm on Jutland. Thus, in particular, the RVC aims to “bring to life” the Viking-Age town and surroundings of Ribe (RVC 2017b). The town itself is (and was) situated about 3 km to the north of the experience centre. Visitors to the RVC are given the chance to experience history first hand, to step back in time. When the centre is open to the public, the site is populated by re-enactors and guides (in period clothing). In addition to the regular, daily activities, there are always several, larger reconstruction projects on the go at the centre. Among these projects is boat-building which takes place in the centre’s rudimentary shipyard. There are also several boats floating in the man-made lake (which is meant to represent Ribe’s harbour), docked by the re-constructed harbour (an interpretation of the find from Hedeby, not Ribe!). As at the VSM in Roskilde, the boats are also taken up on land in the winter.

Contrary to the VSM in Roskilde, ships are a part of a much larger whole at the RVC: the re-creation of Ribe in the Viking Age. This re-creation is done by establishing stations or areas run by craft specialists (or religious specialists) who practice their craft and encourage visitors to engage in hands-on activities. The hands-on aspect is a similar technique to that used in Roskilde. In its daily routine, the centre thus also subscribes to experimental archaeology principle 4, but as will be seen, number 3 is not always applied. All of the principles are applied when cooperating on experimental archaeology projects together with, for example, the VSM in Roskilde – as was the case with Gísla (see below).  However, the centre’s main mandate is enabling their visitors to experience the Viking Age, not subscribing to scientific principles.

Image 7 – The ship-builder’s workplace with a view of the hall and the “lake” (Photo by author)

As mentioned, boats feature as one of the crafting-stations at the RVC. Again, the question could be asked: what is a viking without a ship? In re-creating a historical situation, and especially that of a market town, ships are seen as a necessary feature. As mentioned, he RVC contains a (rudimentary) shipyard with a carpenter, although this individual is usually not a boat-building specialist. The two boats by the reconstructed harbour provide a prime example of the flexibility within which this centre works. One of the boats (not pictured) is a reconstruction of a find from Gislinge (Lammefjord) called Gísla. As mentioned it was built together with the VSM in Roskilde, incorporating the five principles of reconstruction within experimental archaeology mentioned above.

Image 8 – ‘Kajs kærling’ docked by the reconstructed harbour with a view of the boat-builder’s workplace (Photo: TripAdvisor)

The other (img. 7) boat, named Kajs kærling, is more representative of how the centre usually works. Kajs kærling is clinker-built but it is not based on a specific find (in contrast to principle 1 above). However, the re-creation is inspired by Viking Age finds and fits into the intended historical context well. Its name contains an inside joke as the word kærling refers to a “hysterical woman”, and connects it to its builder, Kaj.[5] All of the boats constructed in the boat-yard at RVC are built within a limited time-frame, under pressure. Perhaps this inspired the choice of name? This boat has been decorated with grooves and human heads on some of the pins, in addition to having its name on the prow.

In order for the shipyard at RVC to be a hub of activity like the other areas of the centre, a ship needs to be always on the go. Often, as with their other larger (re-)construction projects, there is also a deadline to meet, i.e. when the boat needs to be completed. These constraints lead to a certain pragmatism on the part of the carpenters. Thus, for example, modern tools (hidden from the view of visitors) are used if necessary and planks are sawed not hewn[6]. It is more important to meet the deadline than to follow the principles of reconstruction. In addition to these challenges, the carpenters are required to explain the building process to the visitors, and much of their time during the day is focused on these interactions. Although visitors are welcome to participate in many of the other crafting activities on site, in this case, visitors are not allowed to work on the ship. They do interact with the carpenter by asking questions, as mentioned, or perhaps they are given a tool to hold.

At the RVC, communicating the Viking Age via craftsmanship is clearly import. Art is found in many places – including on the newly (re-)constructed “Ansgar’s Church” – but again, it is not explicitly discussed in relation to ships. The carpenter at RVC insisted that decoration was something that you could make if there was some free time after finishing a boat.[7] The ornamentation that is found on Kajs kaerling was carved during a moment of inspiration and when the carpenters had some spare time. There was no way of knowing if they would decorate the new boat under construction in the harbour, but perhaps if they got ahead of schedule there would be time for inspiration.[8]

At the RVC, as at the VSM in Roskilde, boats are found in their proper, watery context. However, here the lake is man-made and rather small! Despite this fact, if you were not looking to learn more about ships, you could miss them entirely, especially the ones docked in the harbour. It is highly likely that their role in the entire context of the centre would be unclear to the average visitor – before they ask, at least.

Using Objects and Reconstructions in the Communication of History

What, then, is a Viking without a ship? At the two cultural heritage centres presented in this paper, it is apparent that ships are important artefacts, used in the production of narratives about the Viking Age. They are given different prominence of place, of course, based on the institutional mission statement in question.

At the museum featured in this paper, VSM in Roskilde, ships are given a prominent position. This approach is of course due to the purpose of the museum – to display actual ship finds and educate the public about these particular ships. The next step, building a living history component to the museum, and using experimental archaeology and reconstruction in the education of the Viking period, could have been broadened to include more than just ships. However, the museum maintains their focus on the ship as the most important artefact in the interpretation of the Viking Age and its various (common?) occupations.

At the experience centre in this paper, RVC, the shipyard might be tucked away on the other side of the man-made lake from the re-constructed dock, but it is still an important feature. The role of the ship-builder is added to a list of craftspeople that work at the centre, playing a vital role in the interpretation of the Viking Age – one of the pieces of the puzzle. However, this puzzle piece could be missed in the plethora of options available for the visitor. This last point can be directly connected to the fact that the RVC, as with the VSM, encourages visitors to return. You should be able to experience new things on each and every visit.

At both sites, the art of, or carpentry involved in boat-building is separated from the creation of ornamentation. The focus is on creating a sea-worthy craft – something, of course, entirely understandable! The interesting thing here is the separation of the practical and the decorative functions in the presentation of shipbuilding to the public, as well as in the actual planning of the building of a ship. This separation leads to a somewhat disjointed narrative and process of reconstruction. Regarding the ships discussed in this paper, some of the original finds at the VSM in Roskilde do include ornamentation. In turn, two of the reconstructions at the VSM are painted in bright colours and feature prow ornamentation. A visitor can engage the museum interpreters/guides in a conversation about these features if they are curious. In addition, over in Ribe, one of the boats at the RVC is partially decorated. However, at both places, the main narrative is that this particular artefact, the boat or ship, is a practical tool. The focus is on its function in Viking-Age society, and as a working vessel.

The above paper is a work in progress. It discusses just two of the many museums and experience centres throughout Scandinavia that focus on the Viking Age; many of these are included in my ongoing study. In general, based on the observations gathered so far, it appears that a ship/boat is required in order to construct narratives about the Viking Age. Even questions of skilled craftsmanship can be linked to ships. The way in which these diverse cultural heritage centres work with artefacts, and in particular reconstructions, as a means of communicating history is worth exploring further.


Interviews (notes)
Interview with Anne C. Sørensen, Vikingeskibsmuseet, Roskilde, Danmark: 2016-11-17.
Interview with Bjarne Clement, Ribe VikingeCenter, Ribe, Danmark: 2017-08-13.

Selected Sources
Berkhofer, Robert F. 2013. Fashioning History: Current Practices and Principles. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bischoff, Vibeke, Englert, Anton, Nielsen, Søren och Ravn, Morten 2014. ”From Ship-Find to Sea-Going Reconstruction. Experimental Maritime Archeology at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde”, in Jodi Reeves Flores & Roeland Paardekooper (ed.), Experiments Past. Histories of Experimental Archaeology. Leiden: Sidestone Press, pp. 233-247.

Christensen, Arne Emil 1995. ”Ship Graffiti”, in Ole Crumlin-Pedersen & Birgitte Munch Thye (ed.). The Ship as Symbol in Prehistoric and Medieval Scandinavia. Papers from an International Research Seminar at the Danish National Museum, Copenhagen, May 5-7, 1994. PNM Publications from the National Museum, Studies in Archaeology and History, Vol. I. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark, pp. 181-185.

De Groot, Jerome 2016. Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture. London: Routledge.

Larsson, Gunilla 2007. Ship and Society: Maritime Ideology in Late Iron Age Sweden. Uppsala: Archaeology, Uppsala University.

Le Bon, Liz 1995. ”Graffiti: Symbol and Context”, in Ole Crumlin-Pedersen och Birgitte Munch Thye (ed.). The Ship as Symbol in Prehistoric and Medieval Scandinavia. Papers from an International Research Seminar at the Danish National Museum, Copenhagen, May 5-7, 1994. PNM Publications from the National Museum, Studies in Archaeology and History, Vol. I. Copenhagen: National Museum of Denmark, pp. 172-180.

Legnér, Mattias 2016. “Kulturarvsbruk i väpnade konflikter”, Historisk tidskrift 2016:4, pp. 658-672.

Petersson, Bodil 2003. Föreställningar om det förflutna. Arkeologi och rekonstruktion. Lund: Nordic Academic Press.

Ribe Viking Centre (RVC) 2017. Vikingebådene, Accessed: 12 July 2017.

Ribe Viking Centre (RVC) 2017b. Historien bag. Levendegørelse av vikingetidens Ribe. Accessed: 15 September 2018.

Ribe Viking Centre (RVC) 2013. Lustrupholm. Accessed: 12 February 2019.   

Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde (Roskilde) 2017. Experimental archaeology. Accessed: 12 July 2017.

Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde (Roskilde) 2015. Bådeværftets byggeliste. Accessed: 12 February 2019.

Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde (Roskilde) 2016. Gislinge Boat Open Source Project. Accessed: 10 September 2018.

Vinner, Max 2001. Vikingeskibsmuseets både. Roskilde: Vikingeskibsmuseet.

Westerdahl, Christer 2007. “Boats Apart. Building and Equipping an Iron-Age and Early-Medieval Ship in Northern Europe”, The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. Published: 23 October 2007. DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-9270.2007.00170.x Accessed: 28 November 2017.


[1] For example, Colonial Williamsburg (a living-history museum in the USA) has often been described as such in reviews. See, for instance:  

[2] Interview with Sørensen 2016-11-17.

[3] Those youths attending a Danish “production school” have, for one reason or another, previously been unable to complete their secondary education. They are all under the age of 25.

[4] Interview with Clement 2017-08-13.

[5] The practice of choosing names when christening boats deserves its own, separate discussion!

[6] In order to be a proper reconstruction, they should be hewn, as is done at the VSM in Roskilde.

[7] The carpenter contributed in part to the Interview with Clement, 2017-08-13.

[8] The boat is now finished but does not appear to have been decorated yet – at least as far as I could see from a quick observations on my last visit to RVC in December 2018.

Part 2: What Colour a God’s Eyes?

An exploration of eye imagery on weapons, and ornaments mainly from the 6th and 7th centuries in Northern Europe.
Part 2 of 2.

Paul Mortimer, Wulfheodenas

The Eye(s) in the Sword

I have long suspected that some sword scabbard decoration, namely bosses/buttons[1] were meant to symbolise eyes (Mortimer 2011. 112) and I think that there is some evidence to support the suggestion. It seems that during the fifth century some warriors began to add bosses or buttons to their scabbards and there are quite a few that have been found in the weapon deposits found in the bogs in Denmark. Some similar items have been found in England too, apparently one such is a specimen decorated with Style I that used to belong to the collection of M. Braham and Lord McAlpine, (figure 43) now sold to a private buyer.

Figure 43. Boss/pyramid formerly belonging to the Braham and McAlpine Collection. Photograph courtesy of TimeLine Originals.

Unfortunately, the details of the Style I designs are not clear from these images which are the only ones available to us. However, another purportedly from England that once belonged to the Belgian collector and dealer Dirk Kennis, has remarkably clear details which is all the more remarkable because it is less than 2 cm in diameter. On one side is a rather grim face, whilst the opposite has a smiling one (figures 44 and 45).

Figure 44. Boss/pyramid formerly belonging to Dirk Kennis. This face is grim. Photographs courtesy of Dirk Kennis.
Figure 45. The face on this side looks rather pleased with himself.

The other sides each contain an eye symbol, which is very much like the eye on a sword scabbard throat belonging to a sword from Chessel Down on the Isle of Wight.[2] This eye too, has two men’s faces on either side of it (figures 46, 47 and 48).

Figure 46. One of the two eyes.
Figure 47. The other eye, there are subtle differences but this may be due to the very small size of the image.
Figure 48. Decorated scabbard throat from the sword found at Chessel Down, the Isle of Wight. Photograph courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.

Another find from Sandby Borg, Olund, Sweden is, I believe, significant (figure 49) as it is not the only one of this design, there are three,[3] and one of the others demonstrates how they were mounted on a sword. The boss from grave 5, Taurapilis, Lithuania, (figure 50) was found in situ on a cylinder of white chalcedony mounted on a well preserved sword.

Figure 49. Sword-Boss or pyramid from Sandby Borg, Sweden. Photograph courtesy of Daniel Lindskog. (Victor, H., Emilsson, A. & Frisk, M. 2013. Sandby borg – undersökningar 2013. Sandby sn, Mörbylånga kommun, Öland. Sandby borgs skrifter 3. Kalmar läns museum. Find number: 1270)
Figure 50. Sword decoration from grave 5 at Taurapilis, Lithuania. (Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 2017)

Menghin in his 1983 book on one hundred and fifty-one significant swords almost all from northern Europe, lists the Taurapilis boss (Menghin, 1983. 205) and nine other examples with a single ‘eye’ from 5th to 7th century graves on sword from various parts of Europe.[4] In recent years in England, the PAS has recorded ten garnet and gold cloisonné examples of possible bosses from the late 6th and 7th centuries, found by detectorists. The indications are that such decorations were comparatively rare and the swords or their carriers were special in some way. The cloisonné examples especially resemble eyes, as when they are found on swords, they tend to be mounted on a pale cylinder or bulb of varying materials. The gold and garnet boss mounted on a chalcedony cylinder on the sword from grave 20 Chaouilley, France, again, does resemble an ‘eye’ with its pale coloured surround (Figure 51) (Menghin, 1983. 225).

Figure 51. Sword-boss found on a sword from grave 20, Chaouilley, France. Photograph, courtesy of Matt Bunker.

If that is so, perhaps it is one of the eyes of Woden/Odin? Two cloisonné bosses were found within the treasures of the Staffordshire Hoard discovered by a detectorist in 2009, but only one pale stone bulb was located, of course the other stone may just have been overlooked or lost and there is no certainty they were both fixed to the same sword (figure 52).

Figure 52. Boss and stone mount from the Staffordshire Hoard. Photograph, courtesy of Matt Bunker.

An earlier example of a boss can be seen on the sword from Basel-Kleinhüningen, Grave 63, Switzerland (Menghin, 1983. 212). Figure 53 illustrates a reproduced example of that find (figure 53).

Figure 53. Reproduction of the sword from grave 63 at Basel-Kleinhüningen, Switzerland, belonging to Peter Fischer. Photograph, courtesy of Peter Fischer.

In this case the bulb is amber and the conical button gold. Two other pieces will suffice for illustrative purposes, one from Niederstotzingen grave 9, (figure 54) the boss is mounted on meerschaum, and the sword from Krefeld-Gellep, grave 1782 (here a reproduction), (figure 55) this time the bead is mounted on chalcedony.

Figure 54. The sword from grave 9 at Niederstotzingen, Germany. Photograph courtesy of Matt Bunker.
Figure 55. Reproduction sword from grave 1782 Krefeld-Gellep, Germany, commissioned and owned by Arian Ziliox. Author’s photograph.

A very few swords are equipped with two ‘eyes’ and I am aware of only three in the archaeological record so far. The St Dizier sword (France) is remarkable in several different ways, but what concerns us here are the bosses (figures 56 and 57).

Figure 56. The complete ring-sword from St Dizier, France. Photo courtesy of Musée de Saint-Dizier / Photo Claude Philippot.
Figure 57. The gold spiral on the stone cylinder mounted on one of the two swords from St Dizier, France. Photo courtesy of Musée de Saint-Dizier / Photo Claude Philippot.

It obviously has two, but only one is surmounted by a gold spiral; this boss is made from a pale-coloured stone. The other boss is organic and ‘blind’. The second sword with two bosses is also from northern France, and is in the Musée de Berck-sur-Mer, although what they were mounted on is unclear (figure 58).

Figure 58. Musée de Berck-sur-Mer. Courtesy of Musée Opale Sud Berck-sur-Mer.

This pair of cloisonné bosses appear at first glance to be similar, but one is larger than the other and also has a different shape in profile. The profusely decorated scabbard of the Sutton Hoo, Mound 1 sword too, has two bosses, one of which is smaller than the other (figure 59).

Figure 59. The author’s reproduction of the sword from Mound 1 at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England. Author’s photograph.

They were mounted on a white organic cylinder or bulb, although the exact material was never determined, in my reproduction I have used deer antler.

The craftsmen/women of the period were perfectly capable of making items that were identical if they wanted to, but in each case with the double bosses, they take care not do that.  What is the message that is being given? I am sure that given my thoughts on bosses being symbolic eyes the reader will already have guessed that I am going to suggest that they are again a reference to the eyes of Woden/Odin – one being normal, the other now different and altered, or blind. If that is the case, then I would suggest that anyone who carried either a single ‘eye’ or an even rarer pair, would have been advertising that they had a special relationship with the god.


So what colour are a god’s eyes and does it matter? If my suggestions are accepted, and of course it is by no means certain, then quite often they are portrayed as red or red and gold and sometimes just gold – or maybe bronze…? Perhaps the colour of eyes is not so critical, but looking at the fine details of an object and attempting to prise out the stories hidden within the layers of meaning incorporated within their design certainly is.

Referring back to Neil Price’s warning from 2006, I must point out that other interpretations of the objects discussed here are, of course more than likely, but starting a discussion or taking one further forward is really important.


[1] These items can be known by a variety of names but for the rest of this paper we will use ‘boss’.

[2] Thanks to Stephen Pollington for recognising the link.

[3] The third is from Finnestorp, Sweden.

[4] Besides Taurapilis, Chaouilly grave 20, Krefeld-Gellep grave 1782, Niederstotzingen grave 9 and Basel-Kleinhüningen Grave 63, Menghin includes Krefeld-Gellep grave 1812 (205), Morken-Harff grave 2, Bülach grave 7, Hüttenheim grave 2 and Ziertheim.


Andrén, Anders; Jennber, Kristina, and Raudvere, Catharina (eds). Old Norse religion in long term perspectives. Nordic Academic Press, Stockholm 2006.

Arent, Margaret. The heroic pattern: Old Germanic helmets, Beowulf and Grettis saga, in Old Norse literature and mythology: a symposium, Polomé, Edgar C (ed) Austin 1969.

Brundle, Lisa Mary. Image and Performance, Agency and Ideology: Human Figurative Representation in Anglo-Saxon Funerary Art, AD 400  to 750. Two volumes. PhD thesis, Durham University 2014.

Bruce-Mitford, Rupert. The Sutton HooShip-Burial, volume 2, Arms, Armour and Regalia. British Museum Publications Limited. London 1978.

Christensen, Tom. Et hjelmfragment fra Gevninge, in ROMU Årsskrift fra Roskidle Museum 1999. Roskilde.

Evison, Vera. Dover Buckland Anglo-Saxon Cemetery. Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. 1987 London.

Gunnell, Terry. The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia. Boydell and Brewer.Woodbridge 1995.

Hårdh, Birgitta. Preliminära notiser kring detektorfynden från Uppåkra. In, Larsson och Hårdh (ed) 1998.

Helgesson, Bertil. Tributes to be Spoken of. Sacrifice and Warriors at Uppåkra. In, Larsson (ed) 2004.

Helmbrecht, Michaela. Innere Strukturen von Siedlungen und Gräberfeldern als Spiegel gesellschaftlicher Wirklichkeit? a paper presented at the 57. Internatiobalen Sachsensymposions vom 26. Bis 30. August 2006 in Münster.

Hines, John. A New Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Great Square-headed Brooches. (Reports of the Research Committee of the Society ofAntiquaries of London) Boydell and Brewer.Woodbridge 1997.

Larsson, Lars och Hårdh, Birgitta (ed).  Centrala Platser o Centrala Fragorb —  Samhällsstrukturen under Järnåldern. Almqvist and Wiksell International. Stockholm 1998.

Larsson, Lars. Continuity for Centuries. A Ceremonial Building and its Context at Uppåkra, Southern Sweden. Almqvist and Wiksell International 2004.

Larsson, Lars; 2007. The Iron Age ritual building at Uppåkra, southern Sweden. In Antiquity volume 81, no. 311 2007.

Menghin, Wilfried. Das Schwert im Frühen Mittelalter. Konrad Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart 1983.

Mortimer, Paul. Woden’s Warriors; Warfare, Beliefs, Arms and Armour in Northern Europe during the 6th and 7th Centuries. Anglo-Saxon Books. Ely 2011.

Mortimer, Paul and Pollington, Stephen. Remaking the Sutton Hoo Stone; the Ansell-Roper Replica and its Context. Anglo-Saxon Books. Ely 2013.

Price, Neil. What’s in a Name? In Andrén, Jennber, and Raudvere, 2006.

Price, Neil and Mortimer, Paul. An Eye for Odin, Divine Role-Playing in the Age of Sutton Hoo. European Journal of Archaeology 17 (3) 2014, 517–538.

Salin, Bernhard. Die Altgermanische Thierornamentik. Fourier Verlag GMBH. Wiesbaden1935 (1981).

Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Boydell and Brewer. London 1993.

Portable Antiquities Scheme

Irene Barbina, Lisa Brundle, Matt Bunker, John Hines, Lindsay Kerr, Wayne Letting, Daniel Lindskog, Neil Price, Per Widerström, Gabriele Zorzi.


Part 1: What Colour a God’s Eyes?

An exploration of eye imagery on weapons, and ornaments mainly from the 6th and 7th centuries in Northern Europe. Part 1 of 2.

(It’s not all about Odin![1])

Paul Mortimer, Wulfheodenas

The title of this paper comes from a conversation I had with Neil Price whilst discussing our paper, “An Eye for Odin? Divine Role-Playing in the Age of Sutton Hoo”, we briefly discussed the idea of further investigation into the eyes of deities and thought it may be interesting to see whether their colour(s) could be discerned, which is partly the purpose of this paper.

The god with an altered eye

In An Eye for Odin, we suggest that there is good evidence that the story of Odin sacrificing an eye for wisdom may have been known at least by the late sixth century in several different regions in northern Europe. The paper assembled a number of pieces of evidence,[2] one such is that each of the eyebrows on the Sutton Hoo helmet is different to the other; the right has gold foils behind the garnets that line the lower edge of the eyebrow to reflect the light back at the viewer, while the right does not have this feature, it just has plain jewels with no backing (Bruce-Mitford, 1978, 169). We suggest that the original left brow was removed in a ritual drama enacting the elements of the story. We feel too the Roman cavalry face mask from Helvii, Gotland may have gone through a similar process (Price and Mortimer 2014. 525). The mask had been found by a detectorist but only reported by his wife to the authorities after he had died. When the find area was excavated, a possible cult site was found, as was the missing right eye from the mask which had apparently been separated and stored nearby in antiquity. Roman cavalry face masks were not usually equipped with eyes, these had been added, probably after this face-plate had been brought to Scandinavia (figure 1). There are other instances of an altered eye at Sutton Hoo, one is contained within the Stone.[3] The Stone has eight faces, four at each end and one of those at the bottom, a bearded male (labelled B1 by Bruce-Mitford, 1978. 316) has had an eye, the left, carefully chiselled away (Mortimer and Pollington 2013). (figure 2)

Figure 1. The Roman cavalry face-mask from Hellvi, Gotland, Sweden. Photograph courtesy of Johan Norderang, Gotland Museum.
Figure 2. B1 from the Sutton Hoo Stone, England. While the right eye is convex like all the eyes on the other seven faces on the Stone, the left eye has been carefully chiselled away. Photograph courtesy of Hannah Simons and the Trustees of the British Museum.

The helmet from Valsgärde grave 7, has a beast’s head with garnet eyes, one is bright the other dark, the same phenomena occurs on the upper beast’s head on the front of the Sutton Hoo helmet too (Bruce-Mitford, 1978. 160). With both of these examples it is the left eye that is dark. (figure 3)

Figure 3. The eyes of the beast head’s terminal on the front of the helmet from grave 7 at Valsgärde, Sweden. Photograph courtesy of Matt Bunker. Taken at the Gustavianum.

An eyebrow ocular separated from the rest of the helmet has been found near Roskilde (Gevninge), Denmark (Larsson, 2007. 20 and Christensen, 1999) and another eyebrow was found close to the area where once stood the cult house at Uppåkra (Helgesson, 2004. 231). (figures 4 and 5) We think that it is likely that the eyebrows were removed from helmets during a ceremony commemorating the story of Odin’s eye. Perhaps the eyebrow was then replaced and the helmet continued to be worn? The find at Uppåkra of a ‘horned man’ with an eye struck out (Hårdh, 1998 118) seems to reinforce the importance of the story in this part of Sweden. (figure 6) The latter find is one of several such figures now known to have had an altered eye, some dating from the Viking period.

Figure 4. The helmet ocular from Gevninge, near Roskilde, Denmark. Courtesy Tom Christensen. Photo: Courtesy Matt Bunker. Taken at Roskilde Museum.
Figure 5. The helmet eyebrow from Uppåkra, southern Sweden. Photograph courtesy of Matt Bunker and Lund Museum.
Figure 6. A horned man from the ‘cult’ complex at Uppåkra. Note the altered eye. Photograph courtesy of Matt Bunker and Lund Museum.

Similar figures without eyes removed are found in England, Scandinavia and the Continent. One such is the pin found in a female grave, Buckland Dover grave 161, that clearly indicate that the ‘horns’ were part of a head dress and not a helmet (Evison, 1987. 84, 251, 334 and 397). (figure 7) and two recent detector finds from Denmark also show that the horns were strapped to the head of a man.[4] (figure 8) Many of the surviving figures have had parts of their terminals broken off, but when present they usually, have been found to end in bird’s heads or a bird’s beaks. Odin, of course, in the later stories was reported to have two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, which flew around the World and reported the news back to him (Simek, 1993. 164 referring to Gylfaginning 37). Whilst some of these figures would appear to represent images of men performing a dance or ritual that must have been important over a wide area, some may have been portrayals of a deity, probably Woden, himself (Arent, 1969. 137 to 138 and Gunnell, 1995. 66 to 71).

Figure 7. Another horned man, this time from grave 161, Buckland Dover, England. This figure does not have an altered eye, but clearly show that the ‘horns’ are part of a headdress. In this drawing the left-hand horn, which is broken in the original, has been restored. This figure does not have an altered eye, but clearly show that the ‘horns’ are part of a headdress. Drawn by Wayne Letting.
Figure 8. One of the two recent Danish detector finds of a horned man which shows the headdress was strapped on.

In England and Wales, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), effectively part of the British Museum, is an organisation where responsible detectorists can report their finds, and often representatives of the PAS are on hand at detectorist rallies to identify and record the finds. Since its establishment there have been many spectacular discoveries, particularly relating to items that are rarely, if ever, recovered from burials. Some types of horned men are a good example and so far have only been found by detectorists, as far as I am aware.[5] A portrayal, this time of a weaponised, horned man can be seen in BERK-4F2E17 from the county of Berkshire; it closely resembles the warrior/dancers depicted on helmet plates on the Sutton Hoo helmet, the helms from Valsgärde, graves 7 and 8 and one of the plates from Torslund.  (figure 9) Another find from Hampshire, HAMP-B292C, would appear to be a die for making pressed plates (pressbleche) although somewhat different in form to those found on the helmets (figure 10). 

Figure 9. Terminal from West Ilsley, Berkshire. BERK-4F2E17 Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 10. Possible patrix from Crawley, Hampshire, HAMP-B292C2 Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 11. Horned man with garnet eyes from Ryedale, Yorkshire, YORYM-024D31. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.

Some horned men images just consist of a male’s head with accompanying horns and birds’ head terminals, YORYM-024D31, an example from Yorkshire has garnet eyes, (figure 11) but SF-54B974 and SF-171680, both from Suffolk, depict a man’s face with the two birds’ heads configured differently, the birds’ beaks are level with the man’s ears but appear to be pointing away from them (figure 12). However, NARC-A9B3E7 (figure 13) has the beaks situated directly at the ears of the man; are we seeing Woden being told what the birds have witnessed in their journeys around the worlds? A very similar motif can be seen in this piece of fine work from Cividale, Italy. (figure 14) FAHG-8EAAA3, shows the upper body and arms as well as a head, the birds’ heads and integral pellets within the horn design, in some ways reflects similar imagery to that on the horned men (dancers) on the Sutton Hoo helmet, but unlike them, his spears are pointing upwards, how this piece was used is not known (figure 15).

Figure 12. Two items found in Suffolk, SF-54B974 from Sutton, and SF-171680 loacted in Palgrave. Photographs, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 13. NARC-A9B3E7 was found near Titchmarsh, Northamptonshire. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 14. The detail of this fibula shows a man’s head between two birds’ heads. It is from Cividale, Italy. Courtesy of Museo Archeologico Nazionale Cividale.
Figure 15. FAHG-8EAAA3 Mount from East Cambridgeshire. Drawing by Lindsay Kerr.

A type of horned man composed of just a head but with carefully crafted horns, we have christened WAINEs (Woden Avatars In Numerous Environments) to distinguish them from other forms of horned men.  Several of these are so similar in design, that it would appear the makers were using a known pattern, and as far as I know all of the known examples are detector finds. There are currently ten of these recorded and most can be found within the PAS database.[6] They tend to be made from gilded copper-alloy, some may have been a form of personal jewellery, but most have broken lugs or unusual forms of attachment on the reverse, that indicate that they were fixed to something. I am not aware of any WAINEs from anywhere other than England. Figures 16 to 21 show six examples (figures 16 to 21). These have all been made very carefully and, together with other figures, would appear to be good evidence for a fairly widespread Woden cult in England during the 6th and 7th centuries if the interpretation is correct. However, it is true that most of the horned male figures have two good eyes which have not been altered in any way but it must be remembered that Woden/Odin originally had two eyes before he gave one up to drink from the Well, and the other attributes of these miniatures, two birds, etc. would seem to indicate a reference to the god.

Figure 16. HAMP2432 Soberton, Winchester,Hampshire. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 17. LEIC-40DB05 nr Melton, Leicestershire. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 18. NMS-F90626 Saxlingham Nethergate, Norfolk. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 19. YORYM-FAE4AF Yorkshire. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 20. Blakeney, Norfolk. Photograph courtesy of TimeLine Auctions.
Figure 21. BERK-DB4E15 Kings Worthy, Winchester, Hampshire. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.

Very similar in design and level of craftsmanship to the WAINEs are two other relatively recent finds which may well make the link to Woden and his two ravens even more compelling. The first is from the PAS archive, SF-92CD45, but the second was sold privately sometime before the discovery of the former.[7] (figures 22 and 23) In each design, there are two birds (ravens?) that form the outline of a man’s head reflecting the general face-shape of most WAINEs. Within the overall composition are a  number of holes that are the man’s eyes and mouth; the wings, tail and other ‘feathers’  represent a beard and a long moustache. Whoever made this design was creating a deliberate visual pun, based on the WAINE design and I feel, making overt references to Woden. It is obviously not a normal man dressed up, but I think an image of the god, and again they were gold-plated raising the status of the image.

Figure 22. SF-92CD45 was found in Ousden, Suffolk. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 23. Object Auctioned by TimeLine Originals. Photograph, courtesy of TimeLine Auctions.
Figure 24. Baginton and Offchurch. Photograph of Baginton by John Hines, while that of Offchurch was taken by E. T. Leeds. Reproduced courtesy of the Society of Antiquaries of London.


Horned men, or at least horned beings, also appear within the detail of many great square-headed brooches, and possibly other fibula. Sometimes the species identity of the face or head may be ambiguous and the horn terminals are not always of birds’ heads but of other, sometime not distinctly defined animals. The example from Baginton (left), (figure 24) clearly shows a rather manic man’s face with two beast’s heads on either side which are not birds but possibly horses, whilst the brooch from Offchurch has a smiling but perhaps, more sinister face, again between heads of an animal that is not precisely determined (Hines, 1997. Plate 20). In both cases, horns, if that is what they are, project away from the head.

Figure 25. The great square-headed brooch (fibula) from Beckford. Photograph courtesy of Matt Bunker.
Figure 26. Lakenheath. Photograph by John Hines, reproduced courtesy of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

The square-headed brooch from Beckford (Hines, 1997. Plate 21) (figure 25) repeats a similar design to that from Offchurch, while the specimen from Lakenheath has a moustachioed man’s face with protrusions (horns?) from the top of the head rising, following the shape of the brooch and terminating in fierce animal heads (Hines, 1997. plate 32). (figure 26) Similar devices appear from other areas than England for example from Fonnås, Norway, (figure 27) and on the brooch from Szolnok Szanda, Hungary (Hines, 1997. plate 102), (figure 28) which shows that ideas were travelling and recognised over a wide geographical area. The central creature’s heads depicted in the latter two examples, again, are rather ambiguous and could be representing an animal or a human. Exactly what each of the men/creatures is illustrating is not possible to say, but they would appear to be reflecting a number of related concepts very likely connected to the world of the supernatural, and in some ways they do have similarities to the horned men.

Figure 27. Fonnås, Norway. Photograph courtesy of Matt Bunker.
Figure 28. Szolnok Szanda. Photograph by Günther Haseloff, reproduced courtesy of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Returning to the Sutton Hoo helmet, there are possibly other portrayals of Woden contained within the design and the most striking is the face on the mask which is an image of transformation: a man’s face that becomes a bird (eagle?) if visualised slightly differently.[8] Together with the ‘serpent’ represented on the crest of the helm they could be a link to the story of Odin obtaining the mead of poetry; he becomes a snake in order to get to the chamber were the mead is kept and becomes an eagle to escape from Suttungr (figures 29 and 30).

Figure 29. Face of the reproduction SuttonHoo helmet. Photograph courtesy of Lindsay Kerr.
Figure 30. The iron with inlaid silver wire crest (OE walu) from the reproduction Sutton Hoo helmet. Photograph courtesy of Lindsay Kerr.

When Odin reaches Asgard, he spits out the mead into a cauldron, so that other gods can become poets too (Simek, 1993. 208 refering to both Skálskaparmál and Hávamál). It is possible that at least a part of this episode is shown, again, on objects, including brooches, from the 6th and 7th centuries. Another find from the PAS, SF-DBD4E8, has a ‘tongue’ protruding from its mouth as well as two birds’ heads on either side of his head. Is the tongue symbolic of Odin/Woden speaking poetry, or of Odin spewing the mead into the bowl? (figure 31)

Figure 31. SF-DBD4E8 from near Thetford, Suffolk. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.

A similar concept is repeated on the male faces that feature on the top section of many square-headed and other brooches (fibula) even more elaborately. The suggestion came from Brundle, although she attributes it to Waugh (1995. 373) (Brundle, 2014. Volume 1, 143 and volume 2 figures 6.1 and 6.3) Most, if not all of the heads have moustaches as well as elaborate ‘tongues’ (figure 32).

Figure 32. BH-588FD1 brooch from Sandy, Bedfordshire. Drawing used courtesy of the PAS.

Two square headed brooches from Holdenby and Kempston will serve as final examples here (Hines, 1997. Plate 79). (figure 33) There is, of course, much more going on in the designs included in most of these brooches that we do not have the space to consider in this paper.

Figure 33. Holdenby and Kempston. Photographs by John Hines, reproduced courtesy of the Society of Antiquaries of London.


In his 2006 paper, Neil Price warns us not to be too ready to attribute godly status to figurines found from the Vendel and Viking periods and to be aware of other possibilities (Price, 2006. 179), so bearing his warnings in mind for the moment we will proceed by looking at some recent detector finds dated to the 5th to 6th centuries from England and see whether they have any possible divine attributes.

Possibly the most well-known currently in England is the silver example from Carlton Colville.[9] ‘The figure wears golden pants and he has a golden face too. He is quite obviously a man and well-endowed and this is emphasised with selective gilding. He is also a phallus himself (figures 34 to 36).

Figure 34. Carlton Colville. Photograph courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 35. SF-01ACA7, figurine from Friston, Suffolk. There are remnants of gilding in the hollows of the head but most has worn off. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 36. NMS D6704B. This figurine had at least a gilded belt. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.

The figure has at least two ‘brothers’ with pretty much identical features but with varying arm postures and both of these gentlemen also had some gilding. They would seem to be connected with ideas of masculinity and fertility but while the Carlton Colville would seem to be a pendant, there is little indication of how the other two were carried, worn or attached. All of the known specimens of this type have been found in East Anglia, so a fairly limited area and it is possible that they just represent a localised cult and perhaps a deity.

There are equivalent female figurines too, several of which are holding their arms in very similar (protective?) position.[10]  (figure 37 to 40) There also figurines like the one from Caistor, Lincolnshire (NLM-A243C8) that are of indeterminate gender (figure  41). They are not unlike some similar figures from Scandinavia, for instance those from Lunda, Södermanland, Sweden and elsewhere in Scandinavia.

Figure 37. Figurine from Kent. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 38. Female figure from Eyke, Suffolk. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.
Figure 39. Halesworth, Suffolk – front. This image, like that from Carlton Colville, has been heavily gilded. Photograph courtesy of TimeLine Auctions.
Figure 40. Halesworth – rear. Photograph courtesy of TimeLine Auctions.
Figure 41. NLM-A243C8. Caistor, Lincolnshire. A figure of indeterminate gender. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.

Perhaps the most spectacular figurine found in recent years is this one from Norfolk (NMS-40A7A7) (figure 42). It resembles the horse warriors illustrated on the helmet plates on the Sutton Hoo, Valsgärde 8, Valsgärde 7, Vendel 1 and the Pliezhausen disc. It is armed with a shield and sword, but has a number of small holes which may have held other pieces of equipment, including a spear. Whether or not these portrayals are of deities, a hero or just a depiction of an ideal warrior, as some have speculated, they are impressive, detailed designs carefully executed and surely must have related to something special.[11] It must be added that the inclusion of a small figure seemingly guiding the rider’s spear on some of these helmet images, does seem to link them to the supernatural (see figure 30 as an example).

Figure 42. NMS-40A7A7. The horsed warrior. Bradwell, Norfolk. Photograph, courtesy of the PAS.



[1] …but most of it is! I have used ‘Odin’ when referring to finds from Scandinavia, but ‘Woden’ when discussing 6th and 7th century finds from England and occasionally both together.

[2] There is a list of sixteen possible examples of altered eyes and a tentative chronology in Price and Mortimer, 2014. 531. Only a few have been used in this paper. More altered eyes have been found since 2014.

[3] It has been referred to as the Sutton Hoo Whetstone, or the Sutton Hoo Sceptre.

[4] See Helmbrecht, 2006, for a useful, if dated, discussion of horned men and related imagery.

[5] It is always possible that the finds come from disturbed graves.

[6] The distribution of WAINEs is fairly widespread and they have been found in the counties of Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Hampshire.

[7] In England, a detector find only has to be reported by law, if it contains 10% or more of silver or gold. Neither of these two items does, however, one was reported to the PAS.

[8] A similar idea is contained within the Sutton Hoo shield, where the fierce bird has a man’s face picked out in garnets and glass on its hip.

[9] He is recorded in the PAS archive as are nearly all of the figurines found in figures 35 to 44.However, at the time of writing, something has happened to the available on-line archive and some of the figurines appear to have lost their individual identifications and have been subsumed into the entry for SF-01ACA7. Some have, temporarily I hope, disappeared from the archive; this includes all the female figures and the individual entry for the Carlton Colville.

[10] Most of the figurines listed here are extensively discussed in Brundle, 2014.

[11] Arent, (1969. 139 and 142) feels that the riders are not depicting Odin – She says that, “…[t]he insignia on the helmet depicts a warrior, any warrior (hero or king) who overcomes the enemy, envisaged as primordial archenemy,…”whose act is accompanied by good omens, the birds of prey.”


Andrén, Anders; Jennber, Kristina, and Raudvere, Catharina (eds). Old Norse religion in long term perspectives. Nordic Academic Press, Stockholm 2006.

Arent, Margaret. The heroic pattern: Old Germanic helmets, Beowulf and Grettis saga, in Old Norse literature and mythology: a symposium, Polomé, Edgar C (ed) Austin 1969.

Brundle, Lisa Mary. Image and Performance, Agency and Ideology: Human Figurative Representation in Anglo-Saxon Funerary Art, AD 400  to 750. Two volumes. PhD thesis, Durham University 2014.

Bruce-Mitford, Rupert. The Sutton HooShip-Burial, volume 2, Arms, Armour and Regalia. British Museum Publications Limited. London 1978.

Christensen, Tom. Et hjelmfragment fra Gevninge, in ROMU Årsskrift fra Roskidle Museum 1999. Roskilde.

Evison, Vera. Dover Buckland Anglo-Saxon Cemetery. Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. 1987 London.

Gunnell, Terry. The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia. Boydell and Brewer.Woodbridge 1995.

Hårdh, Birgitta. Preliminära notiser kring detektorfynden från Uppåkra. In, Larsson och Hårdh (ed) 1998.

Helgesson, Bertil. Tributes to be Spoken of. Sacrifice and Warriors at Uppåkra. In, Larsson (ed) 2004.

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Hines, John. A New Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Great Square-headed Brooches. (Reports of the Research Committee of the Society ofAntiquaries of London) Boydell and Brewer.Woodbridge 1997.

Larsson, Lars och Hårdh, Birgitta (ed).  Centrala Platser o Centrala Fragorb —  Samhällsstrukturen under Järnåldern. Almqvist and Wiksell International. Stockholm 1998.

Larsson, Lars. Continuity for Centuries. A Ceremonial Building and its Context at Uppåkra, Southern Sweden. Almqvist and Wiksell International 2004.

Larsson, Lars; 2007. The Iron Age ritual building at Uppåkra, southern Sweden. In Antiquity volume 81, no. 311 2007.

Menghin, Wilfried. Das Schwert im Frühen Mittelalter. Konrad Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart 1983.

Mortimer, Paul. Woden’s Warriors; Warfare, Beliefs, Arms and Armour in Northern Europe during the 6th and 7th Centuries. Anglo-Saxon Books. Ely 2011.

Mortimer, Paul and Pollington, Stephen. Remaking the Sutton Hoo Stone; the Ansell-Roper Replica and its Context. Anglo-Saxon Books. Ely 2013.

Price, Neil. What’s in a Name? In Andrén, Jennber, and Raudvere, 2006.

Price, Neil and Mortimer, Paul. An Eye for Odin, Divine Role-Playing in the Age of Sutton Hoo. European Journal of Archaeology 17 (3) 2014, 517–538.

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Portable Antiquities Scheme

Irene Barbina, Lisa Brundle, Matt Bunker, John Hines, Lindsay Kerr, Wayne Letting, Daniel Lindskog, Neil Price, Per Widerström, Gabriele Zorzi.

Textile Reconstruction: a Methodological Approach

Irene Barbina, Associazione La Fara

The following metholodology is based on my personal experience with textile reconstruction with the living-history group “la Fara”, my experience of teaching at the Siena University Summer School, and la Fara’s cooperation with Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Cividale del Friuli, whose support was fundamental for some of the described reconstruction steps. This method can be applied in other contexts, but it is not, obviously, the only possible one. Moreover, new data, new studies, and new necessities strongly influence its development.


The described methodological approach answers the specific, living-history related need to produce garments fulfilling certain conditions. We aim to create a plausible reconstruction, consistent with the data in our possession, and able to visually convey didactically useful information. We often underestimate the value of information given at a glance by the combination of clothing, posture and accessories, and the ability of the beholder (even if they are not “educated”) to memorize the information gathered in that single glance. It is then every re-constructor’s responsibility to avoid inventive solutions and shortcuts, to be influenced by his or her personal taste and to be aware of the distance wrongly given or received information can cover in a relatively short time.

While considering the procedure’s complexity, we must take into account the lack of  intact finds and sources and the resulting necessity to date these items, connecting information in our reach in order to build a plausible image. While doing this, it becomes vital to comply with a series of  “good practices”: beneficial behaviours for an appropriate approach to scientific reconstruction, while avoiding shallow or simplistic solutions.

In my opinion, a key approach is to stick to what can be considered as a plausible choice, endorsing solutions able to satisfy common and everyday needs instead of reconstructing a specific, exceptional find. Unless your goal is to reproduce a specific item for a specific context, the aim of didactical reconstruction is, in fact, to represent an “average”, to give a perception of what was common in a given moment in time and geographical location. For the same reason, it is important to avoid depriving a find of its exceptional nature by producing a large number of copies of said item, “flooding the market” with objects whose uniqueness will therefore be lost. In addition, source handling becomes of the utmost importance. It is proper to be careful, establishing a possible chronological and geographical “range”, keeping it as consistent as possible with the reference background.

Once a satisfying amount of information is gathered, it is important to “tune in” with the right mental approach towards materials and production, focusing on the suitability of practical and technical choices and on the need of treating the materials as precious goods, avoiding waste and being respectful in order to learn as much as possible from the practical reconstruction process. Moreover, we need our approach to be incisive and above all consistent in terms of time, geographical and cultural context, social class and so on. For example, no one, not even nowadays, would wear formal garments while doing heavy chores. We also need to keep in mind the always existing connection between fashion, economy, and historical and social contexts.

An historical garment must be thought of and treated the same way we treat our everyday clothes, and must respond to the same need of comfort, movement range, durability, and so on. While testing a reconstructed kit, we must be able to perform every activity an individual from the represented status would have performed without the garment tearing apart or being a nuisance.

As re-constructors we are forced to ask specific questions about clothing in our reconstructed time, and it is our duty to find answers to those questions without setting aside an element we find uncomfortable to wear. Every reconstruction hypothesis needs then to be tested “in the field”, to identify conceptual and structural faults that will be corrected in the following versions in order to keep getting closer to the originals.

A CASE STUDY – Grave 40, Railway Burial Site, Cividale del Friuli

The one experience that, more than others, allowed me to test the approach described above is the reconstruction of the tunic from grave 40, Railway Burial Site. The starting points of this research are represented by the study of the finds, written sources, and iconography, and the comparison with extant findings consistent in time and space with the one I was going to reproduce (img. 1).

Image 1 – Drawing of the tunic from grave 40, Railway Burial Site, by Damiano Avoledo

The Finds – textile analysis

The burial has been dated to around the mid-seventh century. It contained a remarkable 23 inlay decorated belt elements surrounding the male human’s hips. The materials the belt is made of, the number of its pieces, and their position around the body allow us to gather a series of information about the possible proportions of the garments and its materials and to hypothesize the presence of multiple textile layers around the body. A closer examination of the belt-hanging piece 14-b (img. 2) can give us the following data.

Image 2 – Belt hanging piece with visible stratification of mineralized organic material. Drawing by Damiano Avoledo

The piece shows multiple stratification of organic material (fabric), mineralized on the interior side of the plate, the one facing the body. The position of the textile suggest its being related to a garment worn under the belt, allowing us to rule out a mantle or a shroud.

Further observation made us notice a diamond shaped pattern on the mineralized surface, pointing us towards a class of textiles widely used in the early middle ages: diamond twill (img. 3).

Image 3 – Diamond Twill

Diamond Twill is a variation of “twill”, a weaving pattern featuring relieved diagonal lines in a wide range of variations that can change based on time, area and social status. It is still one of the preferred ways to weave wool.
Other versions of twill weave are known in the Germanic area during the early middle ages. Among them I could mention: herringbone twill, rautenkoeper, rib twill (group of variations showing weave-like patterns), rose twill, spitzkaro (“goose eye”), rippenkoeper and more variations of the aforementioned diamond twill.[1]

Although at the moment an in-depth analysis of the mineralized material is not available, the presence of twill weave and the thread thickness allows us to hypothesize it might have been wool.

The position taken by warp and weft threads in the weave, in fact, brings some threads (always the same ones) up, allowing them to be frictioned and fulled and therefore enhancing the overall insulating power of the garment, making it ideal to be worn over another layer of clothing.

Further visual analysis of the find shows another layer of mineralized material on the bottom right of the plate, yellower in color than the twill (pictured in blue) on which a much finer tabby weave pattern is quite visible. The difference in weave and thickness suggests it belongs to another clothing layer, worn underneath the twill and possibly in contact with the body. The refined weave, the thread diameter and the tightness of the fabric suggests that it might have been a linen tunic, used as an undergarment.

Other factors support the idea of this second garment having been made out of linen. The first is the relatively scarce resistance to friction that makes linen fray easily when rubbed for a long time. When using tabby weave instead of twill the friction is better distributed on the surface, allowing the garment to last longer.[2] Another factor that has to be considered is the insulating abilities of the linen–wool combination, whose employment is widely documented throughout history and allows the wearer to maintain a relative comfort regardless of the weather due to the water absorbing capacity of linen and the insulating ability of wool.

This combination has been tested for years by la Fara and we can personally assure the reader that the overlaying of the two garments is comfortable even during the summer, provided that both garments are worn first thing in the morning so the body can adapt.

The feeling is, of course, different from the one you can get wearing a cotton t-shirt but not much less comfortable, all things considered. I also feel the need to emphasize that, even if in modern times wool is usually associated with cold weather and wintertime, the material itself can be worked into very thin and fine fabrics, such as the ones used for male formal clothing, that can be worn even during the summer.

Written Sources

Historia Langobardrum by Paulus Diaconus offers a pretty specific description of Lombard costume: Vestimenta vero eis erant laxa, maxime linea, qualia Anglosaxones habere solent, ornata insitis latoribus vario colore contextis. What we gather from this description is that the garments were wide, often made out of linen and similar in style to the ones Anglo-Saxons used to wear. They were also ornate, with wide colorful bands, possibly woven into the tunic or in various colors.

There are other elements of the Lombard costume that are mentioned in the book, such as their habit to wear white leg wraps (this apparently being a specific tribal custom), to wear their hair parted down the middle and to shave the back of their heads. As tempting as it is to take this source literally, we must not forget that Paulus lived during the eighth century and did not personally witness the events he wrote about.

Iconographical Sources

It is important to identify the basic criteria for choosing the most appropriate sources. We need sources close to the time, culture and geographical area we are willing to picture, keeping in mind the importance of cultural exchange and influence in the early middle ages.

What I consider to be the closest visual source is the Isola Rizza plate, found near Verona. Its style, technique and choice of portrayed characters suggests it was made in the eastern areas of the Roman Empire. Visual analysis of the details  suggests a date around the end of the Greek–Gothic war (mid-sixth century) and it can be safe to suppose that the two figures depicted on the plate are a Byzantine and what is safely defined as an “eastern German” (probably not a Lombard).

The Germanic warrior wears a tunic which is depicted in excellent detail and very close to the description Paulus would give two centuries later: it has long tight sleeves; it is wide and reaches almost down to the knee. It also has decorative woven bands with the distinctive “lozenge and dot” pattern which seems to have been widely disseminated throughout Europe (and the middle east) at the time.

The woven bands’ position is peculiar and not meaningless, as we proved during the practical phase of the reconstruction. At this stage, though, it is enough to note the position of the bands on the shoulders and especially around the upper arm which will prove to be related to the structural integrity of the tunic as well as its aesthetics.

Another interesting source can be identified in the Rodchis’ seal ring from the Lombard burial site of Trezzo sull’Adda, dated to the seventh century and showing the figure of a bearded man with his hair parted in the middle, the hand lifted in a blessing gesture and a tunic whose decorations match very closely the ones pictured on the Isola Rizza plate (img. 4).

Image 4 – Detail of the Germanic warrior on the Isola Rizza plate

Other sources, as the Stilicho Stone (fifth century), the Tours Bible (sixth century, img. 5) and the later Stuttgarter Psalter (ninth century), picture tunics that are remarkably similar in structure and sometimes decoration to the one depicted in the Isola Rizza plate and so do mosaics from Tunisia  and Israel, giving us a glimpse of the wide geographical distribution of that specific decoration style.

Image 5 – Detail of clothing from the Tours Bible (6th century)

Comparable Findings

When searching for more substantial finds, we still need to follow the aforementioned criteria of time, geography, technical development and culture relation although the scarcity of findings in continental Europe, due to the composition of the soil, forces us to search in a wider time span in order to be able to identify common patterns and solutions.

The most famous example of intact tunic find is, probably, the Thorsberg tunic (img.6), dated to around the second century CE. It has a very simple pattern: a straight bust with a narrow neck opening and long, tight sleeves.

Image 6 – Thorsberg Tunic (2nd century)

Another famous one is the Bernuthsfeld tunic (img. 7), whose exceptional features deserve a more in depth analysis than the one I am going to give for the strict purpose of this article.

Image 7 – Bernuthfeld Tunic (7th century)

The tunic is made joining together 43 pieces of different fabrics but its shape is not different from the ones we already discussed about: it is wide and long, with long and relatively tight sleeves. Its features, along with the fact that it was worn without trousers, makes it somehow link-able to the ones pictured in the rural scenes of Tours Bible.

While trying to define the outline of an high status, seventh-century century Lombard tunic, we must not overlook the influence of Byzantine fashion on Germanic culture and, especially on those members of Lombard elite that might have had taken part in the Greek- Gothic war as Byzantine foederati. A brief look at extant Mediterranean tunics show that they tend to be extremely wide with short and tight sleeves beginning around the elbow and reaching down to the wrist.

This shows an interesting shifting of the shoulder seam which moves away from the joint and down along the arm, allowing the sleeve to be tight without compromising movement range an structural integrity of the tunic itself.
It also gives a possible explanation of the position of the woven bands on the Isola Rizza plate, making them both useful and decorative.

This reconstruction hypothesis has been put to test during the following steps of the experiment.

Actualization Steps

In order to begin the actual production of the tunic, we need to first define its features in detail. We are looking for a long and wide tunic, with a bust to sleeve ratio capable of showing some Byzantine influence, with applied decorative bands (img. 8).

Image 8 – Drawing of the reconstructed tunic by Damiano Avoledo

As mentioned while discussing the original find, the original fabric was (probably) a woolen diamond twill, its “diamonds” ranging from 1.2 cm to 1.5 cm in height. We managed to find a loom-state, undyed and unbleached fabric having almost the exact features of the original.

The tunic was entirely hand sewn with wool thread and a bronze needle compatible with contemporary finds. The sewing techniques and stitches were chosen among the ones documented since the Iron Age: backstitch, overcast stitch and blanket stitch, plus a filler thread. I avoided basting, which might have implied a loss of time and a waste of thread, but kept the fabric in place using a total of four bronze pins. Both pins and needle tended to lose their sharpness, making the use of a sandstone essential for good progress.
The underarm seam was moved down and placed roughly around the biceps.
The tunic body is sewn with backstitch, leaving a seam allowance around 1 cm wide, which was then secured to the fabric of the body with overcast stitch while adding a filler tread to protect it from fraying. This technique allowed me to reduce to a minimum the fabric waste, avoiding the otherwise needed folding of the seam allowance (img. 9).

Image 9 – Filler thread technique

As for the woven bands, I decided to use the same fabric of the tunic, and dye it with walnut husks. Dye choice was mostly related to our group’s resources, having foraged them in the group’s headquarters’ garden. It also allowed me to avoid mordanting the fabric which would have added one more rogue variable I was not comfortable with at the time of this experiment. The result was a deep, warm brown I was satisfied with.

The brown bands were applied to the tunic where I expected the friction or seam tension to be more intense: around the neck, hems, wrists, shoulder and underarm seam placing them flat and sewing them with blanket stitch to avoid fabric bulks. To add more strength to the band seams, I overlayed them with a thin strip, handwoven with linen thread which also worked as an additional decorative element.

The tunic proved to be a sturdy garment, capable of maintaining its structural integrity over a few years of performing everyday, living-history tasks and activities, while the dyed facings kept their brightness in spite of being repeatedly exposed to the sun. We are overall satisfied with the experiment’s results (img. 10).

Image 10 – Version 1 of the reconstructed tunic worn by a re-enactor

A Fancier Version

In 2017 we decided to rise the stakes and to make a richer version of the tunic, basing on newly achieved skills in dyeing and recently gathered information.

For the new tunic, our target was to portray a higher status while keeping the structural characteristics that have proven to be solid during the previous experiment. We based the garments on the same burial, deeming it rich enough for the new version, picking a compatible diamond twill wool from a different seller since the original one was not available anymore.

For the dye process we decided to go as far as my ability would take us and opted for a double dye with weld and woad in order to achieve a bright green.
The dye process took therefore four steps: mordanting (done with alum), preparation of the weld dye bath (slowly cooking the weld stalks in hot water and then filtering it in order to obtain a clear, bright yellow dye bath), weld dye and then woad dye.

For the facings we decided to search for an extant example of a period brocade showing the “lozange and dot” pattern so frequently represented in contemporary iconography. Thanks to the priceless help of Wulfheodenas’ member David Huggins (himself on a quest for a seventh century brocade pattern), we found an almost perfect candidate: the fabric of the St Madelbert Shrine in Liege (Belgium) (img. 11).

Image 11 – Fabric of the St Madelbert Shrine in Liege (Belgium)

The fabric, woven in red and yellow, shows an intricate motif of leaves and flowers and, what is most important to us, the monogram of emperor Heraclius (610 – 640 AD) which places the fabric in the same time-frame of the burial.

The result manages to convey, in my opinion, both the richness of early medieval Germanic textiles and the influence Byzantine fashion might have had on the upper classes in Lombard society. It represents to me a good starting point for further developments in my research in the field.
In the end, one of the most important characteristics of reconstruction and experimental archaeology is their being describable as a “direction”, along which we move without the illusion of an existing destination.

My wish and goal for the next part of this journey is to work closer with the National Archaeological Museum in Cividale del Friuli, with which we have an ongoing formal cooperation, to create a more comprehensive overview of  Friulian Lombard textile findings. Thus, we will gather more valuable information to support further experimentation and to make more data available to scholars and fellow living historians (img. 12).

Image 12 – A re-enactor wearing version 2 of the Lombard, reconstructed tunic

[1]Different sources can show different names, depending on the priority being given to the final look of the fabric instead of the used technique and shaft sequence

[2]This, of course, does not exclude the use of linen twill by people from a higher social status or in different climate conditions.