A small piece of brown embroidered woolen fabric recently found in Norway, which may be considered by some at first glance as a neglected piece of fabric, but in fact it is a discovery that astonished archaeologists, as it dates back to the Viking era, nearly a thousand years ago.
The Viking Age is an important period in European history, especially Northern Europe and Scandinavian history, extending from the late eighth century to the eleventh century. Through war and trade, the Norwegian Vikings roamed Europe from the north to the southern Mediterranean.
About the astonishing discovery, archaeologist Ruth Erin Owen at the University Museum at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology says: “Finding embroidered tapestries from the Viking age is so unusual that you can’t believe it’s real.
She continues: “Those who work in the field of antiquities are happy if they find a piece of cloth that is a centimeter by a centimeter, but in this case we have approximately 11 centimeters of fabric remains, and the discovery of the embroidery process itself is quite unique.”
The discovery was so unique that Oyan couldn’t believe what she saw through the eye of a microscope. “Viking embroidered textiles are something we only know from a few stately tombs, such as Oseberg and Mammengraven in Denmark,” she says.
Scientists found the fabric in the grave of a woman in Hestenes in the southern Trondelag county, Norway, during excavations in 2020. The grave dates to approximately 850-950, in the middle of the Viking Age.
The deceased woman was placed in a wooden burial chamber in a tall mound above the grave, this type of grave being unusual in central Norway.
“The chamber tombs are mainly found in Birka and Scania (today’s Skåne) in Sweden, in the former Danish regions, southeastern parts of Norway, and Hedeby in today’s Germany,” says archaeologist Raymond Sauvage and director of the excavation project.
According to the director of the excavation project, the funerary finds that were found are out of the ordinary. The woman was buried with a three-lobed brooch, a very rare find in Norway, but common in old Danish areas, and she was also buried with several hundred tiny pearls, a type known only in a very few Norwegian cemeteries.
In some detail, Sauvage explains the nature of the find: “The pearls were centered on her right shoulder, but we do not know whether it was a pearl necklace or something else. That would be the case here.”
“However, textiles are the most extraordinary finds in the tomb.”