Kaftan

The collar and cuffs are reconstructions of finds from Välsgarde graves 15 and 12 respectively (Uppland, Sweden, 10th century). This excavation remains unpublished [1], the collar and cuffs are catalogued in Graham-Campbell (1980) and shown in the reconstruction of Arbman (Tryckare 1966). They are of red silk tabby embroidered with silver thread, and are displayed at the Museum of Norse Antiquities, Uppsala Sweden (pers. obs. 1994).
Graham-Campbell (1980) considered the collar to be a cloak trimming, though no supporting evidence is provided for this conclusion - perhaps as no buttons were recovered from grave 15. However, kaftans without buttons were proposed in some Birka graves (Hägg 1986), and Central Asian kaftans had loop and buttons made entirely of fabric (Ierusalimskaja 1996).
Twelve cast bronze buttons were found in grave 12. Identical or similar buttons have been found in numerous male graves, notably in Birka, Sweden (Arbman 1940-3; Avdusin and Puskina 1988; Geijer 1938; Hägg 1986; Jansson 1988). They are usually found in a row (4-24 buttons) down the centre of the chest to the waist. Apparently, apart from the cuffs, no metal braids or appliques like those found on the Birka kaftans were present in the Välsgarde 12 grave, therefore the buttons have been mounted on a strip of silk, as known from the 10th century chamber grave Dn-4 at Gnezdovo, Ukraine (Avdusin and Puskina 1988).

Reconstruction: The basic material of the kaftan was usually wool of various weaves, including twills (Hägg 1986). Viking Age woolen fabrics were usually worsted, ie. the fabric was not fulled (a process similar to felting) and the nap was not raised, giving a smooth appearance with a visible weave. The fabric used in the reconstruction was a hand-woven worsted 2x2 twill, dyed with natural vegetable dyes (Lewis tweed). The female version of the kaftan was probably lined, with linen or silk, though no such information is available for the male garment (Hägg 1983). Therefore, a lining of low grade silk tabby was included.
Insufficent remains for reconstructing the cutting pattern, which was therefore based on surviving tunics (Burnham 1977; Fentz 1987; 1987a; Gervers 1983; Hald 1980). Though gores are often considered a later feature (Nockert 1987; Nørlund 1936), garment remains from the harbour and settlement of Haithabu (=Hedeby) show that they were in use by the Viking Age (Hägg 1984; 1991). Intact garments of the 8-9th centuries from Alan burials at Moshchevaya Balka in the Caucasus suggest an alternate construction existed in this period (Ierusalimskaja 1996) - the collar was mounted as a 'standing collar' similar to these.
Imitation silver thread was the only available option for the embroideries, however the result is visually similar (Museum of Norse Antiquities, Uppsala: pers. obs. 1994). The buttons were based on those of the Valsgärde 12 find (op cit.: pers. obs. 1994).

[1] A paper on the cuffs has since been published: Lindblom, C. (1999/2000). I döden klädd: Analys av textil- och läderfragment från båtgrav 12, Valsgärde, Gamla Uppsala sn, Uppland. Arkeologiska Forskningslaboratoriet, Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur, Sweden.

(c) Peter Beatson 1995-2019. Not to be copied without permission.


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Conjectural pattern [2]

[2] Compare to the design of this 17th cent. seaman's woolen kaftan held in the State Historical Museum, Moscow.
Ref. Stepanova, I. (2017). Kostym drevnerusskogo cheloveka: Rekonstuktsiya po dann'im arkheologii, pis'menn'ich i izobrazitel'nich istochnikov. KDU, Moscow.
Kaftan from Moshchevaja Balka
(after Ierusalimskaja 1996)
Silk Cuff, 10th century
Technical: 2 cuffs 9 x 4.2 cm. 'Samitium' (weft-faced compound twill) silk U/U (ie. unspun), 60 x ? threads/cm. Embroidery in Borre style, thread silver foil spun around silk core. Edge trim plaited silver wire.
Location: Valsgärde grave 12, Uppsala, Sweden.
Small Find Number: 918 and 973.
Held: Gustavianum, Uppsala University, Uppsala Sweden.
Reference: Bender Jørgensen 1992
Image Source: World of the Vikings CD-ROM.
Silk Collar, 10th century
Technical: Collar 51 x 6 cm, 'Samitium' (weft-faced compund twill) silk U/U (ie. unspun), 44 x ? threads/cm. Embroidery thread silver foil S-spun around silk core.
Location: Valsgärde grave 15, Uppsala, Sweden.
Small Find Number: 5915.
Held: Gustavianum, Uppsala University, Uppsala Sweden.
Reference: Bender Jørgensen 1992
Image Source: World of the Vikings CD-ROM.