Skjoldehamn Hood

In 1936 a body was found in marshland near Skjoldehamn (Shield Harbor) on the Norwegian island of Andoya.  The body was not part of an archeological dig but rather found and sent to the Tromso University Museum, the oldest scientific institution in Northern Norway, by a local farmer.  He found the body (accidentally cutting off a foot in the process) when cutting peat from the bog and sent it via mail to the museum for further analysis.

The body was wrapped in a wool blanket, secured with leather straps and woven ribbons, and laid on a layer of birch branches.  A reindeer hide was placed between the body and the branches and the body was covered with a layer of birch bark.  The body was fully dressed, wearing a hood, an over-tunic, an under-tunic, a woven belt, pants, two sets of ankle wraps, and shoes.

When originally discovered the body was thought to be from the 17th or 18th century.  That estimate was revised the next year with an estimate of late 1400s to early 1500s.  In the 1980s radiocarbon analysis was done and the date of the body was revised to 1000-1200.  Interestingly the blanket wrapping the body was carbon dated to approximately 200 years later.  In 1998 new samples were taken and in addition to newer radiocarbon technology researchers also performed DNA analysis.  The current estimated date of the burial is between 995-1029.

Determining the body’s ethnicity and gender has also been difficult.  At the time of death, the area was inhabited by both Norse and Sami populations.  The body is noted as being slender and without marked muscle attachments.  The DNA testing done in 1999 found no Y chromosomes, nor any Sami genetic markers, leading researchers to conclude that the body is that of a woman with a 20-30% chance that the individual is of Sami descent. 

extant hood (Lovlid)

Now that we have some history out of the way, let’s look specifically at the hood found on the body.

The material is a 2/2 wool twill with a stronger/thicker warp than weft.  It was most likely brown and the outside is a somewhat lighter color, likely from sun fading.  

The hood consists of four parts.  Two rectangular pieces sewn together over the top and back of the head, and two square pieces inserted in the center front and center back.  Textile analysis shows that the inset squares are of a different material than the main body of the hood.  The hood also has remnants of a pair of braided cords, one attached to each side of the head at about ear position.  

sketch of hood (Gjessing)

There are different theories of why and how these ties were used.  Some researchers conclude that they were tied behind the head to enhance peripheral vision, some that they were tied under the chin (either to themselves or perhaps through a hole in the hood material) to help keep the hood close to the face in the elements.  I will have to experiment to see what I prefer.

extant braid (Lovlid)

The seam on the top of the hood is angled, deeper in the front than the back, giving the hood a “cockscomb” effect.  The angle of the seam could have been to close the face opening slightly or just that the person making it didn’t sew the seam in a straight line.  The hood also has both decorative stitches in red and yellow wool thread as well as much larger and less tidy stitches that could be evidence of a hasty repair.

The top seam was made by turning the material inward and whip-stitching it closed with a grey-brown wool thread.  A running stitch was then used to create the cockscomb.  The square gores were attached with a whip-stitch in a dark brown wool.  There is a line of whipstitching couching two single-ply wool threads around the face opening to secure the inwardly turned edge.  This couching was done mostly with red thread but switches to a yellow for approximately 1/4 of the opening.  A blanket stitch in the grey-brown wool hems the unturned bottom edge.  A second golden thread decorates the back of the hood and is described as an “oblique basting stitch” by Lovlid.  All stitching seems to have been done from the outside.

Stitches used on the extant hood (Lovlid)

couching (top) and blanket (bottom)
braiding diagram
hidden running (left) and overcast/whip (right)
decorative seam at neck

My Recreation(s)

I chose to make two hoods, one in linen and one in wool, to accommodate my climate.

The linen hood is made of a lightweight, plain weave, red fabric sewn with grey linen thread.  I chose to use six squares instead of the two rectangles and two squares of the original due to assembling it from remnants from another project.

Each square is 13.5” on a side and are joined together with a running stitch.  I then folded the seam allowance in to eliminate the raw edges and secured them with a whipstitch.  The hem and face opening are also folded in and sewn with a whipstitch.  The “cockscomb” is created by using a running stitch as the extant garment was.  I chose to not attach the braided cord to this hood.

The wool hood is made of a heavy yellow 2/2 twill sewn with grey silk buttonhole thread and decorated with red wool yarn.  For this hood I used a 13.5” x 27” rectangle for the main portion with two 13.5” square gores.

By using a single rectangle for the main body of the hood there is no seam at the top of the head.  I did create the “cockscomb” with a running stitch in grey silk though as I like the look.  I secured all pieces together using a buttonhole stitch for stability then used a whipstitch to couch red wool yarn to all seams.  I finished the hood with a buttonhole stitch in red wool to both the hem and face opening. 

The wool hood does include the braided cords, made from two strands each of red and grey wool yarns.  While the extant cords are made of doubled yarns, I found that to produce a thicker cord than I wanted so modified it to be single yarns.  This tutorial was very helpful in wrapping my brain around the braiding technique:  http://www.medieval-baltic.us/whipcords.html

front view – linen
cockscomb detail
side view – linen
seam detail
front view – wool
side view (untied) – wool
side view (tied) – wool
cockscomb detail – wool
couching detail – wool

References

Carletti, Francesca. “The Skjoldehamn Hood Class Handout.” Carlys_sewing, Her Ladyship Francesca Carletti, July 2016, carlyfenton.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/theskjoldenhamnhood_revised.pdf

de Navarra, Esperanza. “Skjoldehamn Find Project: Man or Woman???” Maniacal Medievalist, 29 Aug. 2016, maniacalmedievalist.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/skjoldehamn-find-project-man-or-woman/

Hugel, Vera. “Paa En Stang Striden Efter Hannen Bære (Research on Caps and Ostrich Caps from the Medieval Nordic Countries).” University of Tromso, 2005. 

Lovlid, Dan Halvard. “Nye Tanker Om Skjoldehammnfunnet (New Thoughts on Skjoldehamn).” University of Bergen, 2009. 

Lovlid, Dan Halvard. “The Skjoldehamn Find in the Light of New Knowledge.” University of Bergen, 2010. 

Lucas, Rebecca. “A Tunic and Hood from Skjold Harbour.” Medieval Baltic, 10 Apr. 2009, www.medieval-baltic.us/skjold.html

Lucas, Rebecca. “Whipcord Braiding.” Medieval Baltic, 10 Apr. 2009, www.medieval-baltic.us/whipcords.html

Náttmál. “A Skjoldehamn Hood.” NÁTTMÁL, 21 Mar. 2021, nattmal.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/skjoldehamn-hood/ 

Raaness, A. M. “Hood from the Skjoldehamn Findings.” Project Free Time, 2013, www.pvv.org/~raaness/prosjekt_fritid/?page_id=3295

2 comments

  1. Thanks for such an interesting post. I would like to think that our ancestors were interested in fancy. Why wouldn’t they be?

    1. Oh, absolutely! There is plenty of evidence of the Norse doing things for purely decorative purposes.

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