One of the century’s most spectacular archaeological finds occurred in 1921, a year before Howard Carter stumbled upon Tutankhamun’s tomb, when Poul Norlund recovered dozens of garments from a graveyard in the Norse settlement of Herjolfsnaes, Greenland. Preserved intact for centuries by the permafrost, these mediaeval garments display remarkable similarities to western European costumes of the time. Previously, such costumes were known only from contemporary illustrations, and the Greenland finds provided the world with a close look at how ordinary Europeans dressed in the Middle Ages. Fortunately for Norlund’s team, wood has always been extremely scarce in Greenland, and instead of caskets, many of the bodies were found swaddled in multiple layers of cast off clothing. When he wrote about the excavation later, Norlund also described how occasional thaws had permitted crowberry and dwarf willow to establish themselves in the top layers of soil. Their roots grew through coffins, clothing and corpses alike, binding them together in a vast network of thin fibers – as if, he wrote, the finds had been literally sewn in the earth. Eighty years of technical advances and subsequent excavations have greatly added to our understanding of the Herjolfsnaes discoveries. Woven into the Earth recounts the dramatic story of Norlund’s excavation in the context of other Norse textile finds in Greenland. It then describes what the finds tell us about the materials and methods used in making the clothes. The weaving and sewing techniques detailed here are surprisingly sophisticated, and one can only admire the talent of the women who employed them, especially considering the harsh conditions they worked under. While Woven into the Earth will be invaluable to students of medieval archaeology, Norse society and textile history, both lay readers and scholars are sure to find the book’s dig narratives and glimpses of life among the last Vikings fascinating.
I briefly mentioned the book Pharaonic Egyptian Clothing (one of the few available surveys on, predictably, pharaonic Egyptian clothing) in my historical fashion master post some months ago, but I also mentioned that it’s out of print and a royal pain in the butt to get your hands on.
Seeing how I’m never one to selfishly hoard good reference (and I’m tired of checking it out of the library over and over again like I’m Belle or something), I finally scanned the whole damn thing and uploaded it HERE for you to download and peruse!
(point of note: this book was published in 1993 so there’s always a slim chance that some of this information might be considered out of date over the past twenty-odd years, but there are so few resources dedicated to the topic that I’m more than willing to take that chance.)
Enjoy, let me know if the link stops working, and go draw some historically accurate Egyptian people! NOW. GO GOGOGOGO.
Description: Short introduction to the amazing finds of garments from the Norse settlement of Herjolfnes in Greenland by Else Østergård. Chapters on technique: production of the tread, dyeing, weaving techniques, cutting and sewing by Anna Nørgaard. Measurements and drawing of garments, hoods, and stockings with sewing instructions by Lilli Frandsen. A practical guide to making your own Norse Medieval garment!
Amazon Review (K. Duffy): While this book is missing a few things to stand alone, such as dates, It is the perfect companion to “Woven Into The Earth.” The garments are refereed to by their numbers, which makes cross refencing [sic] fairly easy. I can find a garment in this book, see the original, see the reporduction [sic], read the exact measurements of the original and it’s fabric content. I am then given a graphed pattern to follow which shows shaded which parts of the pattern are actual remnants of the original garment and which are the interpretations and filling in of missing fabric. It makes it easy to see exactly what I am looking at. I can then look the garment number up in “Woven Into The Earth” and find more informaiton [sic], such as when and where the garment was unearthed, and in some cases even the specific location on a map of Greenland where it was found. All in all this book is a real gem and it is detailed enough for true historic reproductions as well as easy enough to follow for the weekender reenactor [sic]. A great book!