My Visby shopping haul

This is the haul from Medieval week in Visby! I got some really lovely pieces, some planned and some spontaneous!

The fabrics are, from left to right, lovely hemp for veils from Historical Textiles, plant dyed wool for a Iron Age coat from the Madder dyer and a gorgeous red wool from Medeltidsmode that I’m planning to turn into a 14th century Herjolfsnes coat.

The small cup on top of the birch dyed wool is a gift, made by Alexander at Krohns krukmakeri, is of a Siegburg model and is dated to the 14th/15th century. The mug in the same light clay is another piece from Krohns, also a Siegburg model and I got it to use at the Battle of Wisby camp.

The brown mug is a 16th century model and I preordered it for pickup in Visby, made by Atelier Able.

The glassware are of 14th and 15th century Italian models and I got them from the lovely visiting Italian reenactors in the Battle of Wisby camp on the market day there. They’re handmade in Italy and they have a lovely feeling to them, and the straight ones almost look modern in their simplicity.

The dies and the comb is from Bikkel en Been at Kaptitelhusgården and they got used during the week! The painted boxes are made by Johan Käll and I just had to get the playing monk for my new dice. 

I got the two lovely rings from Burr at Nordens Historiska fynd, and they’re based on 14th century finds, one from Lindesberg, Sweden and the other from Colmar, France. 

The beads was another preorder and they’re made by Sylvia at Viking Beads. They’re part of my Birka project and I’ll present them more closely in a later post.

I got a bunch of sewing needles from the Merchant wife at the Battle of Wisby market, but they’re not all for me.

The pin at the front is this years pin from Medieval week.

Looking at your shopping like this can help you see patterns of what you’re interested in and what your main focus is at the time being. For me, that’s 14th century and Iron Age. Tha latter has been my main focus for a while, and will continue to be so. That period inspires me the most and that’s where I dive the deepest when it comes to doing research.
14th century is a new and fun period for me that I’m playing around with. I want to do it well, but it’s still a pretty shallow dive.

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Food in the early modern period: 16th century

In the beginning of the 16th century, the printing press was working hard and making the world smaller in the means of information. Cookbooks began to appear in print and ideas spread more easily from kitchen to kitchen. Not only through printed recipes and cookbooks, but also via poems and medical essays with diet focus. Information also spread with the increasing amount of travellers who tried new types of food and ways to eat them. With royal entourages, clergy, ambassadors, merchants and adventurers travelled their household and cooks. They got to travel from country to country and gather practical information and expertise in foreign cuisines. The rich even brought back cooks with them.
The book industry and the business travelling helped spredding expensive goods to the culinary curious, like truffles, capers, candy and citrus fruits. Italy was the culinary leader of the century and their cuisine was a big step away from the heavier food cooked and eaten during the Middle Ages. The dishes were lighter and not only did their cookbooks contain complete menus and recipes for the dishes, but you could also find instructions for the perfect music to be played at precise points during a feast.

A wedding feast in 1529 between a future Italian duke and a French princess had 18 courses and went on for 7 hours. It had a lot of local ingredients like eggs, cheeses, small fish, calamari, crayfish, rice, beans, oranges, macaroni, asparagus, salads, artichokes. This was held during a fast day, so no meat was served. But fried fish was sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar and orange juice. The feast ended with a sweet section containing candied oranges, lemons, cucumbers and almonds. The tables were set with damask cloth and the finest Murano glasses. 25 sugar sculptures, gilt and coloured also adorned the hall.

We have information about the court of king Christian II of Denmark, and what they ate. The food instructions are saved and they tell us that everyone at court ate 2 times a day, regardless of station. But the king was served 8-10 tasty dishes each meal. Nobles at the court got 6 dishes. Some combinations could be cabbage with pork, beef with sauce, salted beef with mustard, fried lamb, whole boiled chicken and lastly some kind of game. Servants for 4 dishes and common people 3.
In some way, someone has calculated that they all had about 4000 calories per day, they were just served in different ways.

Bishop Brask in Linköping, Sweden, kept a thorough record of his meals and feasts. His records gives us a better understanding of the kinds of vegetables and fruits that were used in northern Europe at the time. A lot of the time, they’re left out of descriptions. The desserts were mostly made with apples, pears, berries of different kinds, nuts, honey, almonds and raisins. To the meats they had eggs, peas, turnip, carrots and millet. Other than that, vegetables weren’t very common. And they were always cooked. Mushrooms were frowned upon all they way into the 19th century.
The servants at Bishop Brask’s estate got 4,5 liters of beer per day. 2,25 liters of bread, pork, sausages and head cheese to a combined amount of 0,5 kilos. They also got fish products, just short of 0,5 kilos. Flour, peas and grains; just under a deciliter. Butter, 23 grams and salt in the same amount. Lastly, 16 grams of cheese. On top of that, all the cabbage and turnips they could get.

Accordning to Mark Dawson who’s written a book about food and drink in a 16th century household, mealtimes was a well established tradition at the time and t was a sign of civilized behaviour. The working people were said to eat four or five times per day and the gentry and nobility two; dinner and supper. Printed texts about meals and diets didn’t recommend its readers to have breakfast. Breakfast was for the hard working people, those on travels, the sick, the old and children. Those should eat small meals and often. Two meals should be enough for everyone else.
Breakfast was a light meal, maybe some beer and bread, maybe so butter as well. But there’s also an example of an morning omelett or pancake made with eggs, butter, sugar and currants.
Dinner was usually eaten around noon and supper at or just before nightfall. The meals seems to have taken about an hour each in a middling household. A meal at a gentry household would’ve been longer. Mostly due to the larger number of people being served. Those meals could go on for two or more hours.

/Honorable Lady Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

(The information is from following sources:
-Anne Willan (2012) The cookbook library : four centuries of the cooks, writers, and recipes that made the modern cookbook
-Pia Gadd (2001), Mat i myt och historia
-Mark Dawson (2009) Plenti and grase: food and drink in a 16th century household)

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SCA feastgear: 16th century Italian

I spend a lot of time and energy on the items that I eat and drink with at events. What we call feastgear is, for me, accessories the same way shoes, hats and bags are! My goal is to have a full set of feastgear with all my garb sets. For me a set includes a glass, a mug, a bowl, a plate, a spoon, a knife and a pitcher.
But building up multiple sets like these takes time and also some money, so sometimes we have to compromise and maybe use things from the “wrong” period or area. But don’t forget that a lot of period areas traded with each other.

I do love this kit! It might not be done, or have the right replicas, but it’s so colourful and lovely! The Italian pottery with all the colours and patterns is a feast for the eye and there’s a variation in the Italian pottery that only late period Dutch pottery can compete with.

The bowl in the upper corner and the matching cup is decorated with a technique called sgraffito. The way it works is by applying two successive layers of contrasting slip or glaze to an unfired ceramic body, and then in either case scratching so as to reveal parts of the underlying layer. That way to decorate pottery was used in the 15th and 16th century on the Italian peninsula. The style can be used for most of the Italian renaissance. The motif is supposed to be some kind of rodent, like a hare or a bunny.

The glassware is strictly Italian. Gathering this kit started with the glass, since the Italians and especiallty the Venetians are famous for their glass, so finding those weren’t too difficult. The high glass with a stem is a 16th century Venetian beaker found in London and the lower glass is a crackled beaker model from Murano and the 15th-16th century.

You can read all about the cutlery in the previous post about 16th century feastgear! But least, the fork is very much correct for this set, at last.

What I’d like to add to this kit is of course some kind of pitcher and maybe some one-coloured bigger bowl. Finding Italian vendors hasn’t been very easy, it seems like they mostly focus on Italian reenactors and mostly sell face to face, since I can’t find many websites and those that I do find is only in Italian. This is, of course, a great reason to go on a vacation to Italy and find some historical markets there.
And of course I’d like to add a more area- and time-appropriate knife. And a Italian spoon… From what I’ve seen so far, the pitcher will be the easiest thing and the spoon the most difficult. But I do like a good challenge!

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

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SCA feastgear: 16th century German

In my SCA game I spend a lot of time and energy on the items that I eat and drink with. What we call feastgear is, for me, accessories the same way shoes, hats and bags are! My goal is to have a full set of feastgear with all my garb sets. For me a set includes a glass, a mug, a bowl, a plate, a spoon, a knife and a pitcher.
But building up multiple sets like these takes time and also some money, so sometimes we have to compromise and maybe use things from the “wrong” period or area. But don’t forget that a lot of period areas traded with each other.

If we start from the top, there’s a few pieces of glassware. The pitcher and the wine glass is a matching set, and there’s also more pieces in that set that I’d like to get, but they’ll have to wait a bit. They’re both optic blown, after models from Bohemia, Germany from the 16th century. The “bubbly” surface looks amazing at a candle lit feast and the pitcher is a good size for a bottle of wine. Preferably a white German wine! The low glass without a stem is also from a German 16th century model and I’ve marked it with a few beads, so I won’t loose it.

The pewter tankard isn’t specifically 16th century, but the shapes in the later period are more curvy. It would be better if it had a lid. This a piece that I’ll probably sell at some point.

You might recognize the rectangular pewter trencher from previous feastgear posts. In the 14th century, it was a piece for the elite. In the 15th century, it was more common and could be used by the merchant class and by now, in the 16th century it could be used by people without a lot of wealth. But in this century, I also get to use the lovely round pewter plate that’s a model from the mid 16th century.

The pewter spoon with the baluster top is one of my favourite spoons. It’s a bit smaller than the usual model of the period. Baluster derives from the Greek word for the pomegranate which was an important royal symbol.
The brass fork, which I’ve shown you earlier, is now during the 16th century more common, and with the model being from the north of the Italian area, I’m using it for my German kit, because it feels pretty plausible that it could’ve been sold between the two adjacent areas.

The knife is the same as the previous centuries, not because it’s correct, but because I didn’t have a proper knife at the time of the photoshoot, and the pictures felt empty without one. Since then, I have purchased a knife with lovely brass handle. The model was used in the 16th century and usually found in trading areas around the North Sea.

The issue I’ve had with this kit is finding suitable pottery for the period and area. There aren’t a lot of vendors doing replicas of items found in the German area, and especially not from the 16th century. There’s some 15th century that I’ve been using for that reason. There are more period sources for pottery from the Netherland region, but in that case there’s a lack of potters/vendors, or they mostly makes cups. But I won’t give up! I’ll keep searching for pottery that’ll make my kit better.

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

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Shopping for feastgear: the links

My friend Duncan, who also is a fan of feastgear, and I has tried to compile a list of some vendors who either makes and sells or just sells feastgear of different kinds. Some have the works, some do knifes and some do pottery. I’ve also chosen to focus on European vendors.

A lot of shopping also takes place at different markets

If you have a recommendation for another vendor or market, please let me know and I can add them to the list!

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Food in the Middle Ages: 15th century

The Decameron, Flanders, 1432

In the 15th century people lived by the saying “you are what you eat”, what you ate determined how you felt. The ancient idea about the four fluids in the body was still going strong. Blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile had to be in balance for your health to be good. To do this, you had to think about your diet. Just as the fluids were four, so were the types of people. The ones who were dominated by blood (sanguine) had a good temper and were optimistic. Those with too much phlegm (phlegmatic) were inclined to sloth. Too much yellow bile made you ill tempered (choler) and those with too much black bile were gloomy and prone to depression (melancholy). But eating the right food, cooked the correct way, would manage all this and keep you well balanced. A person with too much yellow bile was considered hot and dry, had to balance this with food that was cold and moist, like cucumber or fish. Sloth was cold and moist, and treated with hot spices. The sanguine were considered hot and moist and had to stay away from red meats. Fruits were seen as cold and moist and was prescribed people with hot tempers or those living in hot weater!

From German cookbook, Kuchenmaistrey, 1485

Authors seem to see the 15th century as a changing point when it comes to food. It’s still very much typically medieval with oungent spices, tart with vinegar and verjuice and always cooked in at least two stages, like first roasted and then simmered in broth to create layers of flavour that could be quite complex. The spices were at the beginning still a sign of an affluent and sophisticated table, but later on, a new style of cooking appears. A more simple and lighter cooking emerges from Italy and spread it’s way over the continent in the next century. Simple ingredients available to a bigger group of people than the elite became more prominent. But cooking also started to have more national features, but in terms of ingredients and the way they were used. For instance, a cookbook from the German area had a big proportion of baked pastries that wasn’t found in other areas.

Unknown painter

Show pieces and dishes were quite common in the medieval high society and there’s a banquet in 1453, hosted by duke Philip of Burgundy in the town of Lille, there was a pate containing 28 musicians. In some countries, the government tried to ban show pieces like that. Another tradition in royal circles was to break drinking glasses during parties. At a Danish party at Kronobergs castle, they could smash up to a couple of thousand vessels during one single party.

An Italian banquet in 1473 took six hours and was hosted by Cardinal Riario. It contained 40 dishes such as roast peacocks, herons, stags and even a grown bear! Not everything was served because it tasted good. For instance, the served bread was gilded to show the wealth of the host. A feast was a great way to show your wealth and power. Even the way you seated people showed the difference in power.
Around the same time, the first printed cookbook reached the market in Italy. De honesta voluptate et valetudine (On honest indulgence and good health) written by Bartolomeo Platina in Rome. His target group, according to himself, were those who wanted good health and a clean life. It contains recipes on fruit, vegetables, freshwater fish, pies, porridges, ravioli, broths, soups, egg dishes, roasts and more! The upper-class dish blancmange, common to most of Europe during the Middle Age, gets a space in the book. Peeled almonds and breast of a capon (a fatty rooster), pounded to a pulp and then cooked in spices and sugar. The goal was to get the tone as light as possible, the whiteness was important. It could be poured over meat or flavoured with spices like saffron or cinnamon and the capon could be varied for various types of fowl.

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry Janvier, painted by the Limbourg Brothers, 15th century

The late middle ages had a huge enthusiams for sugar. Platina made the point that no dish wouldn’t be improved with sugar. Previously sugar was used like a universal seasoning like salt, but at this point in Italy, it was used purposely to make sweet dishes. And the rest of Europe soon followed. Even the early forms of pasta that got created around this time, maccheroni and vermicelli, didn’t escape the sweet. They could be cooked in broth, milk or almond wilk and served with cheese, spices and sugar.

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

(The information is from following sources:
Anne Willan (2012), The cookbook library
Pia Gadd (2001), Mat i myt och historia
John Dickie (2008), Delizia! The epic history of the Italians and their food)

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SCA feastgear: 15th century

In my SCA game I spend a lot of time and energy on the items that I eat and drink with. What we call feastgear is, for me, accessories the same way shoes, hats and bags are! My goal is to have a full set of feastgear with all my garb sets. For me a set includes a glass, a mug, a bowl, a plate, a spoon, a knife and a pitcher.
But building up multiple sets like these takes time and also some money, so sometimes we have to compromise and maybe use things from the “wrong” period or area. But don’t forget that a lot of period areas traded with each other.

This kit have some overlap with the 14th century kit I presented last time. You can read that post here if you want! The pewter trencher is the same but as I said in the other post, because of cheaper pewter prices, it has now changed from only being used be the wealthiest to also the middle class. The knife is also the same as for the previous century, since it’s such a basic model.

The bowl is turned by a skilled friend of mine and is after a late 15th century piece for Lübeck, Germany. The work is beautiful and the wood looks so much alive. Every now and then I take care of it with paraffin oil to hydrate it to make it last longer. The oil doesn’t taste or smell, so it’s great for items you’ll use with food and drinks.

The ceramic cup is another Siegburg piece with a timeframe of around 1350-1450 and the jug isn’t a exact replica, but the shape and the double handle places it at the end of the 15th century and into the 16th.
If you’ve read my latest blogpost about glassware, we now now that this model of the rummer glass doesn’t belong to the 15th century, but later periods, but I didn’t know that when I took these pictures about a year or so. So it’s absolutely the odd one out. But we live and learn!

Last of all we have the two brass cutlery pieces. The spoon is from a English 15th century model, and I love it because it’s so sleek and shiny. The shape of the bowl is also a bit different from most spoons that we see on the market.

The two pronged fork is a copy from an Italian original from the 15th century and the model can be used all the way up to the 17th century. The fork is a luxury item used by a very small elite in Europe at the start of the period. By 1600, the fork was almost ordinary among the merchant and upper classes in in the southern parts of the continent. So I’ll probably use this fork for 15th century Italian when I get that far, and perhaps 15th century sourtern German, if I feel brave enough.

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

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Food in the Middle Ages: the 14th century

Before the time of the printing press, there aren’t a lot of written sources about food. Some manuscripts has survived, but as usual, it mainly gives us information about the elite and their lives. But there is enough information for us to get a broad picture of the culinary culture of the time. A clear pattern is that the difference between what the different classes ate is bigger than between geographical areas. Especially when it came to the consumption of fish and meat. The peasantry had a very similar diet across western Europe, and it changed following the Black Death. The production of meat and dairy increased which led to at least a slightly more varied diet for people. After that change, nothing happened to the peasantry diet for centuries. Their diet consisted mostly of cereals and vegetables.

Peasants and serfs that worked for lords that provided them with food might have received meals consisting of pottage made out of peas or beans, bread out of rye or maslin, followed by a fish or meat dish depending on if it was a fast day or not, and possibly a piece of cheese. This was washed down with ale or cider. The fish and meat was the high point, and should not be seen as something normal in the life of the lower classes. Poultry, rabbits and hares were probably eaten only on special occasions such as Christmas, wedding and at harvest times. In general, meat was a luxury and the diet was not varied, nor plentiful. Sometimes they only had enough to maintain life, sometimes there was enough to brew ale and making bread. Baking oven is rarely found and some villages has communal ovens. English peasant households rarely had more than 1-2 cows, so dairy, “the white meat” was usually only a supplement. Bacon was regarded as typical peasant food and the most common vegetables was cabbages, onions, leeks and garlic. Those you could grow in a garden, and peas and beans was grown in fields.

The first time the word tavern is found in Swedish print is from a statute in 1335. It derives from the latin word taberna and referred to a small shop, most likely not more than a shed with a window towards the street. These were more common in the towns and served warm food such as stews or brawns, to be eaten at the window. A few decades later the taverns turned into what we now think of when hearing the word. Food and drinks in a seated area with an open fire. If the tavern was located by a road or crossroad, it could also offer accomodation for travelers. They served mead, ale, near-beer and/or sourish milk. To eat, the most common dished were bread, porridge or ceral stews.

One thing that many connect with food in the middle ages is the spices. Pepper was the most common spice, used by the wealthy and those of more modest means. The pepper came to Europe from southern India and the black pepper is the seed on the pepper tree. White pepper is from the same seed, but with the outer layer of it removed. The spice was said to help digestion and stimulate the appetite. Long pepper is a more pungent peppar and was used in many medieval recipes.
Saffron was the most exclusive spice of the middle ages and was indigenous to Persia but was grown accross the Continent in our period. In the recipes of the upper-class, saffron was everywhere. A third of the recipes contained saffron on an average, both for the taste and the colour.
Other popular spices were ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

A festive meal that we can read about is the banquet in the Swedish town of Nyköping in 1317. Queen Märta and king Birger Magnusson are the hosts and the feast becomes history due to the abrupt ending with imprisonment of the kings brothers. Maybe the event wouldn’t been written about otherwise, and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know what they had on their tables. Which was lavish! Whole birds, rosted and then put back into their plumage, pate and pies made out of chicken, fish, sheep, veal. Seasoned with mustard, honey, pepper and saffron. Game of different kinds, stuffed geese, pigeon, salmon, flounder and the Swedish dish eggcheese. Meat and fish was boiled or roasted and then dipped in sauces that usually contained a lot of vinegar. Medieval sauces probably had a very sharp and acidic taste to them. To all this, they had wine and mead to drink.

Which meal of the day that was most important and when it was had has differed during the ages and also depending on social class. The pattern is that the important meal has gradually moved from before noon to early evening. In medieval England the main meal was called dinner, but occured before noon. The word dinner derives from the French word déjeuner, which means to end a fast. The meal breakfast was reserved for children, invalids and workmen. The meal supper, which is related to the word soup, was just a simple meal before bedtime. Modest households follwed the light and the seasons and cooked and ate when they could see to do so.

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

(The information is from following sources:
Stephen Mennell (1985), All manners of food
Jönsson&Tellström (2018), Från krog till krog
Melitta Weiss Adamson (2004), Food in medieval times
Pia Gadd (2001), Mat i myt och historia
Anne Willan (2012), The cookbook library)

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SCA feastgear: 14th century

In my SCA game I spend a lot of time and energy on the items that I eat and drink with. What we call feastgear is, for me, accessories the same way shoes, hats and bags are! My goal is to have a full set of feastgear with all my garb sets. For me a set includes a glass, a mug, a bowl, a plate, a spoon, a knife and a pitcher.
But building up multiple sets like these takes time and also some money, so sometimes we have to compromise and maybe use things from the “wrong” period or area. But don’t forget that a lot of period areas traded with each other.

The time has come for me to present my 14th century kit, which is really a quite a silly thing, since I don’t even have 14th century garb! But over time I’ve collected a piece here and there that I liked in particular, or offers I just couldn’t refuse. So now when I actually got around and started making a dress for said century, I almost had a full set, without even trying.

Since I took these pictures, I’ve also added some things to the kit, such as a spoon and a small glass, called a maigelein. The glass is simple and like a small bowl and the model was used during the 12th to the 16th century. So a good piece to own if you want to do multiple periods, but not have a new glass for each one.

So, if we go through the kit in this picture piece by piece. And starting with the bowl which is a classic Siegburg piece from the German area. This model was found in Kalmar, Sweden, but Siegburg was one of the main distributors of pottery in the middle ages in northern Europe. The timeframe for this style is roughly 1350-1450.

The glass is a more generic medieval glass where the model was used during multiple centuries. But it’s a good size for water and beer so I use it a lot. The cup to the right of the glass is a copy after a Swedish medieval find, but I got it at least 10 years ago and can’t really remember a lot about it… And the cup to the left is a gift from a friend. The model is English 14th century.

The rectangular pewter trencher is one of my favourite pieces. Trenchers were a common piece during the middle ages, although the majority had wooden ones. Only the wealthier classes had pewter ones during the 14th century, but as we move closer to the end of our period, pewter became more common and used in in more humble surroundings. So to actually use this for my 14th century kit, I’d like to make a quite spiffy outfit to match classwise. But for 15th century, I could use it for a middle class person, and for a 16th century setting, I could use it for any class.

The knife with the scabbard is of a 14th-15th century model with a bone handle, and suitable for middle or lower class.

If I want to mix it up a bit, I also have this lovely green bowl in a flower shape with a handle. The original is dated to late 14th or early 15th century and was found in London, but was most likely made in Surrey.

/Herrin Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

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Bj 644: the Birka double grave

I’ve never expected to say a sentence like “oh, I’ve found another piece from my grave!”. But here I am, celebrating goals by getting things “from my grave”. Some people look really confused when I say things like that, and some people understand immediately. But it might just be that I’ve been bombarding them about this for way too long, so to ease their burden, I’ll now bombard you guys instead!

It began the first year of the plague. I had my eyes set on a new pair of Viking Age tortoise brooches, the kind of brooches you use in pairs to hold up an apron dress with, since I felt my old pairs didn’t do it for me anymore. These new ones were bigger, shinier and from a model found at Birka. They didn’t come cheap, but I started saving whatever I could.

Hjalmar Stolpes sketch of Bj 644, 1878

While waiting for them, as usual, I kept looking for pretty feastgear, and noticed that a glass that I’ve been wanting to get for a while, had a number in it’s description that I recognized. 644. I felt that weird tingle you get when connecting things, and rushed back to the description of my brooches. And yes! They both came from the same grave on Birka. I started to feel that this was a connection I wanted to keep building on.

But maybe I should give some background to all of this. Birka is the Latin name for the island Björkö (hence the Bj). A settlement starting growing there in the mid 700’s and during two hundred years Birka was a thriving city and Sweden’s most important place for trade throughout northern Europe. The city had a perfect location because it was centrally located, but also well protected in the Baltic Sea. Merchants and tradesmen came to Birka with goods from all over Europe and other parts of the world. The material information we have about Birka is mainly through archaeological excavations. Over 3,000 grave sites are located in Birka, including both cremations and burials in coffins or chamber graves.

Bj 644 is a chamber grave, north of the hillfort, it’s 2,6 × 1,9 meter and on a 1,8 meter depth. The dating is estimated to the years 920-975 and the grave has one man and one woman. The grave has a lot of objects, both ones that are normally connected to men, such as weapons, and objects normally connected to women, such as the brooches and textile tools.

Content of Bj 644, original drawing from Arbman, 1943

Bj 644 is one of the graves that shows the connections and trade Birka had with other areas and people. Finds from Birka shows connections with the Carolingian Empire, the Frisians, Dorestad, the west Slavic coast and the areas that today are Finland, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Bj 644 is one of 13 explored graves that has costume details from Finland. The grave is said to be one the graves with the greatest wealth of artefacts. It’s even been called lavishly furnished in an article which gives the people in it a elite status and that using objects from other cultures helped to assert and increase status and social position. The set of scales in this grave also indicates that these persons belonged to groups involved in the trade and exchange of goods.1 The objects of the male is quite comsmopolitan/international with influences of Magyar, Baltic and Slavic cultures, whilst the female coded objects are distinctively norse. This is a common pattern, even in Scandinavian graves abroad. There are also some theories about the man not being local to the region, but it seems like research is still being done in that area.

When it comes to the clothing, there’s pretty much no fabric in this grave, so I’ll be using a more general information about pieces and weaving techniques from Birka to recreate what she could’ve been wearing. But I’ll circle back to that in a another post!

The more I read about the grave and for every replica I found that was possible to get, I sank deeper into the project. I want to get as close as I can get to that woman by having and using the same things as she could’ve been using. Sometimes it’s hard to say if a piece belonged/was used to the man or the woman, so some guessing will be used.

Right now I have 4 replicas of items from the grave, and 4 that I can quite easily get my hands on. After that it’ll become a bit more difficult; require some research, special ordering and some more financial planning. But I see this as a long term project, so I don’t have to get it all done right away.

/Gele Pechplumin
(Magdalena Morén)

1 Gustin, Ingrid (2016). Elites, networks and the Finnish connection in Birka


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