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New Medieval Books: Textiles of the Viking North Atlantic

Textiles of the Viking North Atlantic: Analysis, Interpretation, Re-creation

Edited by Alexandra Lester-Makin and Gale R. Owen-Crocker

The Boydell Press
ISBN: 978-1-83765-013-2

The eleven essays in this book examine what we know about clothing and textiles in the Viking Age. The first part is based on archaeological evidence, while the second makes use of practical experiments to recreate what the Norse in the North Atlantic might have worn.


The aim of this volume is to expand our thinking about and understanding of Viking Age textiles, not only their uses and meanings but also their social impact in their respective societies. It is the first book to bring together experts from such a wide variety of specialisms – archaeology, history, literary studies and the processes of learning and practising traditional making skills – to the study of textiles from the early North Atlantic. While experts trained in the painstaking process of textiles analysis are few, re-enactors and enthusiasts for textile craft work exist in considerable numbers.


Some of the experimental archaeological activities described in the present volume make use of the enthusiasm and varied life experiences of such non-professional contributors to historical research. This book demonstrates that collaboration between specialisms and methods can develop more nuanced understandings of textiles and the world(s) of which they were an integrated part. This is an innovative approach to researching textiles from this period and geographical area.

The volume aims to push beyond what has become the research norm to raise questions about methods of manufacture, use and meaning across broader cultural territories. Original scientific analysis is combined with experimental archaeology, historical reviews and new theoretical approaches to give us unprecedented access into the minds of the people who inhabited the Viking North Atlantic, through their textiles. Through their work the contributors have unlocked new ways for us to explore and understand the worlds of the Norse and the cultures they encountered, through their textiles.


Who is this book for?

Dress and textiles from the Viking Age are a fascinating topic for both historians and history fans. The essays from this book will each find their own group of readers, and those interested in Norse society, medieval textiles or experimental archaeology will find much to read here. The article “Sheep, Wool and Fleece Processing: where it all began,” by Carol Christiansen, which deals with sheep farming and the wool they produced, deserves to be widely read by those working on medieval agriculture.

The editors

Gale R. Owen-Crocker is Professor Emerita of the University of Manchester and is one of the leading historians on medieval textiles.

Alexandra Lester-Makin is a textile archaeologist specializing in early medieval embroidery.

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