Skjoldehamn

Pictures of the Skjoldehamn find

In 1936, Rikart Olsen found a extraordinary find during turf cutting on Skjoldehamn on Andøya in Northern Norway. Here a buried person wrapped in a blanket, and placed on a reindeer skin was found. The well-preserved costume the person was wearing, consisted of a hood, a kirtle, a woolen belt, a shirt, trousers, ankle bands, ankle wraps, socks and shoes. The find was described by archeologist Gutorm Gjessing in 1938 in article ”Skjoldehamndrakten. En senmiddelaldersk nordnorsk mannsdrakt”. You can read it (in Norwegian) on this site: https://www.duo.uio.no/bitstream/handle/10852/37536/1938-vol-2.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

In 2009, I (Dan Halvard Løvlid) published my master thesis “Nye tanker om Skjoldehamnfunnet” (New Thoughts on the Skjoldehamn Find). It can be downloaded here:

In my thesis I dated the find to the 11th century, and did a whole new examination of the costume. I also reconstructed the cut of the costume on Lofotr Viking Museum and challenged several of Gjessings conclusions about the find.

For those interested, I’ve added a couple of other files. The first one is a report written by Hana Lukesova were she identifies different materials in the Skjoldehamn find. I’ve refered to this in my thesis. The second file is a unpublished setup of the warp of the ankle bands for those who want to try to weave them. The third file is the setup of the starting border of the blanket according to Ellen Schjølberg.

In 2010, I published my article “Skjoldehamnfunnet i lys av ny kunnskap. En diskusjon om gravleggingen, funnets etniske tilknytning og personens kjønn og sosiale status” (The Skjoldehamn Find in Light of New Knowledge. A discussion of the burial, the ethnic affiliation of the outfit, and the person’s gender and social status). In this article I mainly discuss the similarities between the Skjoldehamn costume and Sami costumes. My conclusion is that the costume bears strong and detailed similarities to Sami costumes that cannot be a coincidence, especially the decorations. If the Skjoldehamn person was Norwegian then it would mean that the Samis have copied these decorations from Norwegian/Norse clothing and started using them in their costume traditions later. It would also mean that many of these unique costume elements (for example belt decorations) only survived in the Sami tradition, not in the Norwegian folk costume traditions. I find this very unlikely. I’m now convinced that the person was Sami, making the Skjoldehamn costume a very early excample of Sami clothing traditions.

Some have argued that the person was a mix between Norse and Sami. I think we should be very careful about such conclusions. Do we challenge the ethnisity of the Oseberg queen because she had imported artifacts in her grave? Should we consider the Swedish warriors that got Russian/eastern artifacts/clothing in their grave a mix between Swedes and Russians? I often heard people say that “people were not that focused on ethnisity in the olden days” when I worked with the costume. I think the contrary. I think that people were much more aware of their ethnisity before. Today we travel alot and cultures mix faster than ever. In our Western world national/local clothing is mainly used in special occasions, if it hasn’t already disappeared. It’s difficult to see a difference between a Brit and a Norwegian in the clothing these days. Thousand years ago it was totally different. The common Norwegian man travelled very little and those who left for other contries/areas wanted to show their ethnisity. People who travelled a lot would of course be influenced by other cultures, but I think they would still consider themselves Norwegians even though they used a frankian buckle ore chinese silk. On a more local scale you can see it through all the different Norwegian folk costumes. People thought it was important to show were they came from through their clothing. It seems to me from the sagas and later written sources that there was a clear cultural divition between Sami and Norse/Norwegian even though they lived close to eachother and often interacted.

But even if the find is Sami, it’s still very interesting for those interested in Norse costumes. It’s obvious that the cut of the kirtle, shirt and hood bears strong resemblance with other Nordic/European costumes from the period, and are not specifically Sami. It seems to me that there are two different directions in the cut of traditional Sami kirtles. In the northern part it seems like the cut of the textile kirtle has strong connections to the cut of the Sami reindeer skin kirtle, while in the southern part (and along the coast) it seems like the cut of the textile kirtles has strong connections to the cut of Norse shirts and kirtles. My article in Norwegian can be downloaded here:

and the English translation here:

After my thesis Asgeir Svestad has done new research about the Skjoldehamn find, published in the article “Svøpt i myra – Synspunkter på Skjoldehamnfunnets etniske og kulturelle tilknytning” (Wrapped in the bog. Perspectives on the Skjoldehamn find and its ethnic and cultural affiliation) that can be downloaded here (it has an English summary in the end): https://journals.uio.no/viking/article/view/5476/4835
The article reveals that the metal rings on the ankle bands and the bead on the shirt are made of pewter, not silver as Gjessing assumed. Pewter decorations are an important part of traditional Sami clothing and they can at least be traced back to the Viking Age both archaeological and historical.

During my study of the find I took a lot of pictures, and I want to share them with those who are interested on this page. Some of them was published in the thesis, most of them not. To understand the pictures better I recommend to read my thesis. I’ve published the pictures in the original resolution, so no details would be lost. I recommend pressing “F11” on your keyboard for the best experience. You are free to use max 10 pictures (not commercially) as long as you write “©Dan Halvard Løvlid” next to it and add a hyperlink to this page. If you want to use more pictures ore use them commercially, please contact me.