Medieval Clothing in Uvdal, Norway

Medieval Clothing in Uvdal, Norway

By Marianne Vedeler

NESAT IX. Archäologische Textilfunde – Archaeological Textiles. ArcheoTex 2007

Man holding clothes, near two women. – from British Library MS Royal 10 E IV f. 162v

Introduction: The Uvdal church was built at the end of the 12th century, probably on the remains of an older church. It is a small church, originally no more than 40 square meters in size. Transepts were built in 1723. The church is located in a rural part of eastern central Norway.

In 1978, the church floor was removed during restoration, and graves were found and excavated. One of the graves contained four persons who were buried together directly under the floor, in the hard moraine ground. The grave had not been covered with soil, and there were no traces of coffins. The grave was located in the oldest part of the church’s nave, built in the second half of the 12th century. Several large stones were placed on top of the bodies, presumably as foundation for the later medieval interior of the church. The bodies are now in the Museum of Cultural Heritage, University of Oslo. In this article, I will present the burial clothing of two of the deceased from Uvdal stave church.

The burial: Four persons were buried together in one grave, two children and two young adults. Studies of the skeletons show that the children died at the age of 3–4 and 6–7 years. The two young women were probably 15–17 years old at the time of death. It is still not clear whether any of them were related. The bodies were all dressed in everyday garments. Several layers of clothing show that they were buried in both an over- and an under tunic. In addition, they all wore red mittens.

A special feature of three of the bodies was that their skulls were wrapped in linen cloth. Not only the forehead and neck, but also mouth, nose and eyes were covered with linen. These linen wrappings must have been applied especially for burial purposes. The findings from Uvdal thus represent a mixture of special burial garments and ordinary clothes used for burial purposes.

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