young girl Uvdal Church Numedal

Medieval Tunics from Uvdal in Norway

In 1978 a grave was found beneath the floor of the medieval stave church in Uvdal revealing some extremely well-preserved remnants of every-day wear from the 13th century

Medieval Clothing in Uvdal, Norway
By Marianne Vedeler
In: NESAT IX: Archaeologische Textilfunde – Archaeological Textiles. ArcheoTex 2007, pp 1- 7


The Uvdal Chuch was built at the end of the 12th century, probably on the remains of an older church. The stave church is located in the rural Eastern Central Norway and is now part of a medieval experience centre, located in the Valley of Nume (“Numedal i Middelalderen” is the location for a both famous and serious where a very famous medieval festival takes place each year

In 1978 the floor was removed during restoration, revealing four bodies, buried together. There were no traces of coffins. Nor had the bodies been covered with earth. The graves were located in the oldest part of the church from the second half of the 12th century. The burials have tentatively been dated to the second half of the 14th century.

The deceased had been clothed carefully in everyday garments. Several layers of clothing show that they were buried in both an over- and an undertunic. In additions they all wore red mittens, which were coarsely sewn to the medieval tunics. Vedeler believes, this was part of a specific burial practice as were the carefully pleated linen coverings of the heads.

The article presents the textiles preserved in connection with two of the deceased – a 6-year old girl and  a 17-year old young woman.

The girl

Tunic from Uvdal have been tentatively reconstructed
Tunic from Uvdal have been tentatively reconstructed

The girl had been dressed in a woolen tunic dyed in two colours – while the body was black the sleeves were red. These sleeves were not extremely tight; however, they had been fitted into the bodice and thus presented an example of a fashionable narrow mi-parti tunic from the beginning of the 14th century. In the front the tunic had been pleated, using the method: wrinkled pleating (well-known from Norwegian folk costumes from the 19th century). Under the tunic the child was dressed in a garment made of course tabby, probably flax. The neck-opening was oval shaped and bordered with a narrow hem. Possible there was a string inside, used to draw the neck-opening together. Apart from this a small brooch was found, fastened to the over tunic, and the remains of a belt plus 18 beads of amber.

The Young Girl

The oldest girl in the grave died at the age of 15 – 17 years. She had been buried in an undergarment of flax, a tunic of wool and a large hood. By lifting the hood it was possible to get a view of the neck-opening of the tunic. It had a deep V-shaped front, lined with a 5 cm wide ribbon at both sides of the opening. The lining continued down the front, but how far down is not known. At the left side of the opening, the tunic had been pleated. The cut of the sleeves is complicated to analyse; however, the author offers a possible reconstruction. The sleeves were relatively wide at the arm-opening, but cut tight by the wrists. Underneath this garment she wore an undergarment of linen. This garment had a wide neck-opening as was the case with the girl’s. On top of all this, she wore a hood with a long shoulder cape, sewn to the tunic with course stiches. Today the hood has a dark bluish-green colour. It might have had a liripipe[1], but due to the state of the find, this cannot be confirmed. The fabric was light and soft and the fabric was probably brushed in order to make the fibers matted. In the grave there were also remnants of her hoses.

Marianne Vedeler concludes in the article that the textiles have given valuable information about not only burial customs, but also every-day wear in the 14th century.


A possible reconstruction of the older girl’s dress


 [1] A liripipe – the long-tail of a hood – was found on all the hoods excavated in Greenland at Herjolfsnaes. See: Else Østergaard: Woven into the earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland. Århus, Århus University Press 2004)


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