Viking Clothing and Crafts - 900-1050AD

Viking Clothing

We can learn alot about the organisation of the Viking way of life from discoveries made in Dublin in recent years, for example what they wore and how they occupied their time. Vikings were apparently responsible for the introduction of trousers to Ireland all those centuries ago!

According to Wallace, a typical Viking woman wore a long chemise made of linen or wool, under a dress. The dress was suspended by shoulder straps, possibly with domed oval brooches attached. Other jewellery possibly worn were necklaces, and brooches used to fasten a cloak or shawl. Many glass and amber beads have been found which were used to decorate necklaces, rings and brooches and earrings. Silver was very common and prized by the Vikings, and their jewellers made armlets, and brooches in the form of thistles and kites. Some were made in bronze also.

The Irish ringed-pin was adopted also by the Vikings and examples of these have been found in digs around the world such as L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. They also wore pins made from decorated polished bone in the hair and clothes. An amber-worker’s atelier was also found here and as well as evidence of jet stone.

The Viking men wore a shirt and trousers with a brightly coloured tunic worn over this. Again woollen or fur cloaks were worn over these. Silk scarves and caps have also been found in Dublin.Dyeing textiles was common also and the mordant they used to hold the colour in place was a mixture of urine and birch leaves! 

Viking shoes were flat and laced with thongs made of leather or hide. Belts were common also, and both men and women would have carried knives, combs and purse attached to the belts.

Viking Crafts

Vikings were of course accomplished seamen, and expert ship-builders. From the remains discovered in Dublin, and the fact that they managed to remain here and establish settlements all over Ireland, we know they were also skilled at many other  things besides. Dublin is also the site of the first mint in Ireland set up in Viking times and reflecting the innovation and advances they brought to trade in Ireland.

The Vikings used copper to make barrels, kegs and churns. Wood turners could also produce containers such as bowls, cups, dishes, ladles and spoons. Wooden items were also decorated and stylised heads would have been common on crooks of sticks and ship fittings.

Antler bone and cow horn was used to make combs, thought to be an activity in Dublin separate to other craftsmen who worked with bone, or walrus ivory, to make needles and gaming pieces as well as ice skates! Whistles were made from bird bones.

Blacksmiths were of course vital to all other crafts as they made and repaired tools and were often located at a distance from the wooden houses. More importantly the blacksmith made weapons, as well as chains and lockable collars, for the slave-trade, and harnesses for their horses. As well as working in with iron then, they used bronze, silver, gold and copper.

A great quantity of items related to the production of textiles was also found in Dublin, as well as the samples themselves. Leather objects, such as shoes, scabbards and satchels, have been found in great numbers but few implements.