The Sea Stallion at High Water © Isarap

Viking Age Textile Production

The story goes that a Viking learned to keep a stoic face if his ship was lost. However, if the ship sank together with the sails, he cried. New book tells the story of the production system and the economy of textiles in Viking Age Society.

Tracing Textile Production from the Viking Age to the Middle Ages: Tools, Textiles, Texts and Contexts
By Ingvild Øye
Oxbow Books 2022


This book concerns textile production at the fringes of north-western Europe – areas in western Norway and the North Atlantic in the expanding, dynamic and transformative period from the early Viking Age into the Middle Ages. Textiles constitute one of the basic needs in human life – to protect and keep the body warm but also to show social status and affiliations. Textiles had a wide spectrum of use areas and qualities, fine and coarse in various contexts, and in the Viking Age not least related to the production of sails – all essential for the development and character of the period. So, what were the tools and textiles like, who made them, who used them and who exposed them?

By tracing textile production from the remains of tools and textiles in varied landscapes and settings – Viking Age graves and in situ workplaces from the whole period – and combining this with textual information, many layers of information are exposed about technology and qualities as well as gender, gender roles, social relations, power and networks. By combining tools, textiles and texts in various settings, this book aims to contextualize dispersed archaeological finds of tools and textiles to uncover patterns across larger areas and in a long-term perspective of half a millennium.

Table of Contents




1. State of research

2. Perspectives and methods

3. Farming systems and textile production

4. Tracing the work processes

5. The tools in the grave – gender, social status, and agency

6. Tools and textiles

7. Nodes and networks in textile production?

8. Viking Age production sites

9 From rural to urban production – changing conditions for textile production in the Middle Ages?




About the Author:

Ingvild Øye is Professor Emerita, Medieval archaeology
Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion


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