Herjolfsnes 39

This is a woman's surcote with short sleeves. It is the best preserved dress of the find and was C14-dated to 1413-1449. The owner was a slight woman with a spinal curvature and a hump back. It was made from very firm 2/2 twill. The weft is so well-beaten that the warp is hardly visible.

It is quite close-fitting, and swings out abruptly at the hips. The neck is quite small compared to the other garments from Herjolfsnes, and has a short slit with two pairs of eyelets for lacing. It has no fitchets.

This is very nicely made, the seams are very finely done and it is also the only garment from Herjolfsnes where the sleeves were left in situ. Somewhat surprisingly, the sleeve gusset seems to have been inset from the second side seam and going up - that is, the back seam on the sleeve sits much lower than Norlund's tailor set the others, and certainly where I would have believed them to go.

Since the sleeve seams are original, you can also see that on this gown the sleeve was only set in after the shoulder seam had been sewn up and the sleeve had been sewn up - you can see how the seam allowances are folded into the armscye seam. Another surprise!

In the photo, the skirt seems to expand over the hips quite drastically. It's actually not the case, the width increases less than 2cm from the waist out over the hips on each seam.

Bibliography: Chapter IV, The Costumes in Buried Norsemen at Herjolfsnes, by Poul Nörlund. Bind LXVII - Meddelelser om Grønland. Kommissionen for ledelsen af de Geologiske og geografiske undersøgelser i Grønland, Copenhagen 1924.

Bockstensmannen och hans dräkt, Margareta Nockert m.fl. Hallands länsmuseer, Halmstad och Varberg, 1997.

Personal communication, Else Ostergaard, at a visit at Brede in September 2002.