The Oseberg longship. Viking Ship Museum, Oslo. Image credit Wikimedia Commons
Silk textiles from the Persian region found in the Oseberg ship
Parts of special bird motifs associated with Persian mythology, clover-leaf axes, a Zoroastrian symbol taken from the Zodiac are visible. Image credit KHM-UiO
Continuing with our theme on ancient textiles, Past Horizons reports Friday, 1 November 2013 that –
The silk trade was far more comprehensive than we have hitherto assumed and recent research may change our perceptions of the history of the Norwegian Vikings.
After four years of in-depth investigation of the silk trade of the Viking Age, Marianne Vedeler, Associate Professor at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo has found that the Norwegian Vikings maintained trade connections with Persia and the Byzantine Empire through a network of traders from a variety of places and cultures who brought the silk to the Nordic countries.
One hundred small silk fragments
In the Oseberg ship, which was excavated nearly a hundred years ago, more than one hundred small silk fragments were found. This is the oldest find of Viking Age silk in Norway. At the time when the Oseberg silk was discovered, nobody conceived that it could have been imported from Persia. It was generally believed that most of it had been looted from churches and monasteries in England and Ireland.
Since the Oseberg excavation, silk from the Viking Age has been found in several locations in the Nordic countries. The last finding was made two years ago at Ness in Hamarøy municipality, Nordland county. Other Norwegian findings of silk from the Viking Age include Gokstad in Vestfold county, Sandanger in the Sunnmøre district and Nedre Haugen in Østfold county.
Persian textiles also travelled east along the Silk Road; this reproduction is from one housed in the 8th century Shōsōin (正倉院) Imperial Repository in Nara, Japan
Private collection Great Britain