Scandinavian Costume – University of Copenhagen

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CTR > Textile Crafts and Cultures > Scandinavian Costume

Scandinavian Prehistoric Costume

This research programme investigates the Danish collections of textile and skin objects dated to the Stone, Bronze and Early Iron Ages (until 400 AD). This material is investigated from a technological, as well as a design and costume perspective. The research results and methods used in the earlier CTR research programme on Danish Textiles and Costumes from the Early Iron Age which worked specifically with the collections from Danish bogs and weapon deposits is applied and further developed. The majority of the studied objects belong to the collections of the National Museum of Denmark, but textiles and skin objects from various Danish local museums is also included.

Within this framework several different research projects have been launched.


Danish Bronze Age Textiles


Primary investigators are Ulla Mannering, Karin Margarita Frei, Irene Skals and Anne Lisbeth Schmidt. Collaborators from other museums and universities in as well as outside Denmark participate in various parts of the programme.

Some of the most well-preserved costumes in Europe have been recovered in the Danish oak coffin graves from Borum Eshøj in East Jutland, Egtved, Skrydstrup, Trindhøj, Guldhøj and Jels in Southern Jutland, and Muldbjerg in Western Jutland dated to the Early Bronze Age (1700-1100 BC). Less spectacular but just as informative are the complete collection of Danish Bronze Age textiles and costumes, and all together they comprises more than 200 finds from approximately 150 graves. Most of these objects belong to the National Museum of Denmark but materials from several Danish local museums are also included. Some of these finds have never been recorded before.

The project investigates the technology and visual appearance of the Danish Bronze Age textiles and skin costumes by applying a thoroughly and highly specialized research method developed by CTR. The aim of the investigation is to shed light on the early textile craft and agriculture in Scandinavia including the availability and circulation of raw materials in the Danish Bronze Age society.

Apart from the textile and skin analysis which includes a wide range of technological data, the more specialized scientific analysis focus on wool fiber, dye and strontium isotope analyses. Wool fiber analysis has proven to be one of the most significant parameters determining the overall textile development and an important indicator of prehistoric craftsmanship and agriculture. Fiber analysis is employed on a group of textiles, selected on basis of the state of preservation, textile technology, function, and representativity in regards to dating and geographical origin.

The majority of the Danish Bronze Age textiles have a homogeneous brown color partly which is partly due to the long stay in the oak coffins and partly due to the textiles being produced of naturally pigmented wool. Therefore the Danish Bronze Age textiles have not previously been analyzed for traces of dyes. On the other hand, dye analysis of the textiles dated to the Pre-Roman Iron Age (500-1 BC) has shown that the use of naturally pigmented wools did not exclude the use of plant dyes. Approximately 95 % of all textiles from the Pre-Roman Iron Age have traces of plant dyes. The fact that this technique was used in a varied and complex way indicate that the dyeing technology was not new in Scandinavia and possibly originate further back in time. A group of textiles will be selected for dye analysis based on the state of preservation, textile technology, function, and representativity in regards to dating and geographical origin.

Strontium isotopic tracing has proven a suitable method for the determination of provenance of prehistoric animal and plant fiber material. A pilot study of based on the Voldtofte textile and skins finds (see below) has shown that raw material and/or finished textile products of non-local provenance was circulating in the Late Bronze Age society. A group of textiles and skin objects will be selected for strontium isotope analysis based on the state of preservation, textile technology, function, and representativity in regards to dating and geographical origin. In particular the textile samples selected for fiber and dye analysis will be analyzed as the strontium isotope analysis method vary according to presence of dyes in the samples.

Important partners are the HERA funded EU project Creativity in the Bronze Age (CinBA) and the ERC advanced grant RISE by Kristian Kristiansen, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The results of the project will be published as articles in conference proceedings and journals in conjunction with collaborators. A monograph on Danish Bronze Age Costume by Ulla Mannering also forms part of the planned publications.

The project is supported by the Danish Cultural Heritage Agency.



Prehistoric shoes


Investigated by Ulla Mannering and Margit Petersen.

Recently five leather shoes, 3 single shoes and a pair, were located at Viborg Stiftsmuseum. The shoes have not been recorded previously and the shoes will be 14C-dated and analysed according to the same methodology as used on the other Danish finds of prehistoric shoes.

The project is supported by the AMS 14C-dateringspuljen.


The Voldtofte Find


The project is investigated by Ulla Mannering and Karin Margarita Frei with contributions by Flemming Kaul, Jens Glastrup and Bodil Holst.

The aim of this pilot project on the Late Bronze Age grave find from Lusehøj in Voldtofte is to highlight the range and capacity of early textile production and to demonstrate how raw materials and/or finished textile products of non-local provenance was circulating in the Late Bronze Age society.

Several articles presenting the various results from for instance the 14C-analysis, the fibre identifications and the strontium isotope analysis is planned.