Lønne Hede project – University of Copenhagen

Life and Identity in Scandinavia in the 1st and 2nd Century AD. - The Lønne Hede project

Lønne Hede

The Lønne Hede project is an interdisciplinary research project running from 2011-2014 with participation of researchers from: DNRF, Centre for Textile Research and the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, The National Museum of Denmark, Varde Museum and Conservation Centre Vejle. This project is based on collaborative effort cross institutions and involving disciplines such as prehistoric archaeology, textile research and natural science.
The Lønne Hede burial site in Western Jutland, is dated to the Early Roman Iron Age (AD 1-150) and was excavated by the National Museum in 1969 and again by Varde Museum in 1995. The grave excavated in 1969 contained a female buried in an oak-plank coffin, and due to wet conditions in the ground, large parts of the wool costume were preserved, made in various patterns and weaving techniques.

The interpretation of the costume include the presence of a skirt, a tunic and a scarf in blue and red colours with wide patterned borders. Also the female’s hair, elaborately arranged, was preserved and the image of the girl in blue, the so-called “Lønne Hede girl” has since 1969 provided a basis for several reconstructed Iron Age female costumes in museums and in publications.

The excavation in 1995 further revealed belonging to the same cemetery a number of cremation graves, and especially 11 inhumation graves which luckily also contained a large amount of fragmented but still well preserved textiles - including costumes made in sheep’s wool and skin. These graves belong to females as well as men and maybe also children. The textiles are primarily wool twills, of which many are dyed and patterned with stripes. Furthermore, there are intricate selvedges and finishing borders as well as sewn on borders which altogether adorned the individual garments.


The Lønne Hede cemetery distinguishes itself from other contemporary Iron Age graves on account of its many remains of textiles and human hair. It is extremely rare to recover well preserved textile finds from prehistoric burials, and more so in the quantities that constitute the finds from Lønne Hede. From these graves it is possible to distinguish components of the costume such as skirts, dresses or tunics, shawls and cloaks, and to see how jewellery was related to the costume.

Thus, the Lønne Hede graves constitute in a European context a unique find material which can provide new and interesting knowledge on how the people of the early Roman Iron Age were dressed and how they produced their textiles.

Further and in comparison with the textiles from the Danish Early Bronze Age oak coffins, the Early Iron Age bog finds and the Early Roman Iron Age grave find from Hammerum, Lønne Hede provide one of the largest and most important collection of textile finds in Northern Europe which also offer an important contribution to the understanding of the technological changes in textile production that appears to occur in the early centuries of the Common Era in Northern Europe.

Objective and method

The unusually well-preserved textiles and hairstyles from Lønne Hede offer a unique opportunity to obtain insight into costume and identity in Denmark in the Early Roman Iron Age (1st – 2nd Centuries AD).

This will be obtained within a wide North European network and via analyses of textiles and costumes with modern textile research techniques and methods in order to gain full insight into the textiles, their method of production, quality and origin including fibre analysis, dye analysis, stable isotope analysis, carbon14 analysis, analysis of weaving technique and technology as well as the visual appearance of the textiles and costumes.


Project manager: associate professor dr. phil. Ulla Lund Hansen, Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen is responsible for subsidiary projects, coordination, publication, future implications as well as studies of hairstyles.

The staff at CTR and at the National Museum of Denmark (associate professor phil.dr. Eva Andersson Strand and senior researcher PhD Ulla Mannering) support and contribute scientific to the project. Eva Andersson Strand: textile tools, textile technology, production and organisation. Ulla Mannering: analysis of prehistoric textiles with focus on Early Iron Age costume development.

Documentation of the excavations, preparation and presentation of the non-textile finds: museum curator Lene Frandsen, Varde Museum
Registration and analyses of the textiles:  Ida Demant
Analysis of tablet weaves: Lise Ræder Knudsen, Conservation Centre Vejle
Wood analysis: Niels Bonde and Claus Malmros, The National Museum of Denmark
Stable isotope analysis: Andrew Wilson, Bradford University, UK
Dye analysis: Ina Vanden Berghe, KIKIPPA, Brussels, Belgium and Annemette Bruzelius Scharff, School of Conservation, Copenhagen
Carbon14 dating: Jan Heinemeier, AMS Dateringscenter, Århus University
Fibre analysis: Irene Skals, The National Museum of Denmark


Become friends with the “Lønne girl” and follow the activities around the exhibition in Nymindegab and the work with the textile analysis.

https://www.facebook.com/Lønnepigen https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2144387208128&id=1199682013&ref=notif&notif_t=like#!/profile.php?id=100001992815001

CTR: Lene Frandsen, 100.000 DKK

Rådighedssummen KUAS: Ida Demant, 198.000 DKK, 50 analyses of dye 30.000 DKK
10 stable isotope analyses 30.000 DKK

Co-financing from CTR:
Final publication: Ulla Lund Hansen (ed.) Lønne Hede. Ancient Textiles Series, Oxbow Books.

Further reading /Bibliography on Lønne Hede
Bender Jørgensen, L. & Walton, P. 1987. Dyes and fleece types in textiles from Scandinavia and Germany. Journal of Danish Archaeology 5 1986, 177-188.
Bender Jørgensen, L. 1991. Textilteknologi i Oldtiden. Arkeo. Nytt fra Historisk Museum i Bergen, Nr. 2. Bergen, 19-25.
Demant, I. 1996. Konstruktionen af jernalderdragterne til Hjemsted Oldtidspark. Arkæologi i Slesvig 5/1996, 47-54.
Demant, I. 2000. Mikrostratigrafisk analyse af tekstilpræparaterne fra Lerdal grav 101. Arkæologi i Slesvig 28-29/2000.
Demant, I. 2007. The poor people from Lønne Hede – Presentation of first century-graves with preserved textiles. In: A. Rast-Eicher & R. Windler (eds.): NESAT IX. Archäologische Textilfunde – Archaeological Textiles. Braunwald, 18.-21. Mai 2005, Ennenda, 86-91.
Mannering, U. 2009: Dragten i tidlig jernalder. In: K. M. Boe, T. Capelle & C. Fischer (eds.): Tollundmandens verden. Kontinentale kontakter i tidlig jernalder. Wormianum & Silkeborg Kulturhistoriske Museum, 98-106.
Munksgaard, E. 1974: Oldtidsdragter. Nationalmuseet. København.
Munksgaard, E. & Østergård, E. 1988. Textiles and costume from Lønne Hede. An early Roman Iron Age Burial. In: L. Bender Jørgensen & K. Tidow (eds.): Archaeological Textiles in Northern Europe. Report from the 2nd NESAT Symposium. Arkæologiske Skrifter 2, 53-64.
Walton, P. 1990: Dyes and wools in textiles from Norway and Denmark. Journal of Danish Archaeology 7, 1988, 144-158.