In the famous Oseberg ship burial two women were buried in the year 834, and 110 pieces were found from 15 different fabrics of patterned silk. The majority of them can come from areas in Central Asia, and a minority can come from the Eastern Mediterranean. The silk pieces aren’t to large, usally maximum 2 cm wide narrow stripes, wich were used to lining edges and decorate clothes. Altogether the fragments give us approximately 8 m of decorative band.
The current pattern reconstruction was made in coproduction by Ase Erikson and Marianne Vedeler, the writer of the great book: Silk for the Vikings. They choose several fragments what were belongod to the same pattern and puzzled them together. This work gave them the frame of the pattern, what they could supplement to get a more or less overall picture.
The result of course is not a 100% entire reconstruction of the original, but it let us see the majority of the formal pattern. There is a bird motif, with an oval like halfmedalion frame, with heart symbols inside. At the bottom we can see a tree like ornament, and we can suspect that something is hanging from the bird’s beak.
Pattern reconstructions exhibited in the Viking Ship Museum, Oslo
About the parallels of the bird motif we can find the same traces to central Asia. On the picture below we comparing the reconstruction with a Sogdian pattern from the VIIIth century.
Interesting to note that a later pattern from the XI-XIIth century with Iranian origin still bears the main characteristics of this type. The silk we call Kufic Geese Silk, still bears the main caharacteristics of the type: The mirror birds, the medalion composition, the Treeof Life ornament in the middle.
But this isn’t the only pattern with a bird from Central Asia among the Oseberg silks. Another piece clearly show us a bird with a pearl-formed shape in it’s beak. This animal is known from the Sasanian decoration art. It’s called Shahrokh (Kingbird) in Old Perisan language. This bird gives heavenly blessing to the ruler.
Eriksen, Åse: Med silke til Valhall, En studie av mønster og vevemetoder. In: FAGFELLEVURDERT VIKING, Norsk Arkeologisk Arbok, Vol: LXXX. 2017.
Vedeler, Marianne: Silk for the Vikings. Oxford 2014.
Vedeler, Marianne: Silk finds from Oseberg. Production and distribution of high status markers across ethnic boundaries. In: An offprint from Everyday Products in the Middle Ages. Creafts, Consumption and the Individual in Northern Europe c. AC 800-1600. Ed: Hansen, G. Ashby, S. Baug, I. Oxford 2015.