Posts in Category: Textiles

Wearing ease for rectangular construction

Howdy campers!
I put together a quick and handy guide to figuring out how much wearing ease to put into the body when doing rectangular construction. I hope you find it useful!

Wearing ease for rectangular construction

Wearing ease for rectangular construction

EDITED: The Arnegunde Kaftan Project: Conjectural Merovingian clothing construction of the mid 6th century


The Arnegunde costume

The Arnegunde costume…

In 1959, archaeologists excavating under the Cathedral of Saint Denis in Paris, resting place of the Kings and Queens of France, found a sarcophagus containing the body of a woman. The woman bore a ring inscribed with the name “Arnegundis.” She is thought to be Arnegunde, wife to Clotaire I (511–561) and mother of King Chilperic († 584) (Perin et al. 2007, 182).

This project brings together current research to gain a better understanding of the context of her burial and the textiles that comprised her burial garments. This project focuses on the garment called the Robe or Kaftan  in current publications. The gold thread embroidery on the sleeves stands out as a unique textile apart from the Germanic tradition suggesting an extra-Merovingian origin. The author does not contend that the garments are exact replicas of the garments in which Arnegunde was buried, but every attempt was made to make sure that they would be familiar to Arnegunde and acceptable to one of her station.

Background of Merovingian Period

The period from the late 5th century to the late 8th century northern Gaul is known as the Merovingian, after the semi-mythical ruler, Merovech.  We know very little about their daily lives, having to rely on the few written texts that survive and emerging archaeological evidence. The Franks were a group of Germanic tribes — the Chatti, the Ripuarians, and the Salians — who shared similar laws and customs. In the 4th and 5th centuries AD, they began settling in the Roman region of Gaul (which included what is now Belgium, France, Luxembourg, and some of Germany and Italy). At first they lived in Belgium; eventually most of Gaul would belong to the Frankish empire. (Geary, 1988)

Very little is known about the early rulers of the Franks. A Salian king named Merovech (or Merovee) founded the royal Merovingian dynasty, whose kings were notable for their long hair. At that time the Franks were allies of Rome, and Merovech is said to have fought with the Romans against Attila the Hun.

The time period of this study was the mid-to-late sixth century and is based on a set of grave goods associated with Arnegunde, queen and wife to Clothar. The Merovingian period was one of warfare, on the field and in the palace. Clothar came to power through violence and married the royal widow, Guntheuca, taking the widow as he took the kingdom. At this time, women were a temporary accessory in the king’s bed, and only through the bearing of an heir found any hold on position and power. As Stafford (1983) says, “his wives were taken up and put aside as political shifts demanded rather than passions prevailed.” (p. 51-2)

Between the 530s and the 550s, Clothar had a succession of wives and concubines: Radegund, daughter of King Bertacharius; Ingunde was in favor in the 520s, and again mid-530s; by 537 she was replaced by her own sister Arnegunde; before 540 he had another mistress, Chunsina. Very little is known about the origins of the sisters Ingunde and Arnegunde, and the concubine Chunsina. (Stafford, 1983)

Arnegunde, as the mother of the future king, Chilperic, was afforded a burial place in the Basilica of Saint Denis, to the north of Paris.

Archeological Evidence

The Basilica of Saint-Denis was the burial location of many of the Merovingian dynasty starting in the east end of the Basilica, near the grave of Saint-Denis, around 475. (Fleury & France-Lanord, 1998) The Merovingian graves were excavated over a period of about 30 years, starting in the 1950s by Eduard Salin and Michel Fleury. The archeological finds were published in French and German publications over the years and only recently have articles been published in English.  (Rast-Eicher, 2010)

At Saint-Denis, a principal burial place for Frankish kings, a large stone sarcophagus was found under the choir.  The contents of this tomb consisted in great part of a mass of precious textiles, silks, and other organic materials.  The large limestone coffin was found to contain the remains of a woman’s body which had been embalmed before burial, so part of the lungs survived.  She was about five feet tall, of slight build, and blonde hair. (France-Lanord, 1979; Fleury & France-Lanord, 1998; Perin, 2007) A monogrammed gold finger-ring, ARNEGUNDIS REGINE, identified the female buried inside as Queen Arnegunde. (Rast-Eicher, 2010) She is believed to have died around 580. (Périn & Calligaro, 2005)  New studies have been completed both on the skeletal remains and the conserved textiles. Rast-Eicher (2010) explains that Arnegunde was older at the time of her death than originally thought and probably died from a dysentery outbreak. She had childhood poliomyelitis leaving her with a damaged right leg.

Burial customs of the middle to late sixth century provide a wealth of metal artifacts, but textiles are far more rare. For this reason, the extraordinary preservation of the Arnegunde artifacts provides a rare glimpse into the textiles, and provides clues to a conjectural clothing construction. By the seventh centuries, burial custom were changing and grave goods become much more rare. (Owen – Crocker, 1986; Effros, 2002) The stone sarcophagus provided a protected environment, which allowed the preservation of some of the textiles, both as fragments and as pseudomorphs (mineralized fibers) on the metallic objects. (Marzinzik, 2008)

The following sections will discuss selected garment fragments found in Arnegunde’s tomb. Additional textiles, possibly shrouds, were also found but will not be discussed in this article. Please see Rast-Eicher (2010) for a longer description of the most recent investigations into the textiles.
Following this section on the extant textiles, I will discuss the project Kaftan.

Arnegunde’s Burial Clothing


Working from the outermost garment, the kaftan, we will talk about some of the most recent theories of fiber, textile and construction. Sadly, the garment is incomplete so there is much left to conjecture. (Perin & Calligro; Rast-Eicher, 2010) The garment was a front closing kaftan or robe, probably floor length. Rast-Eicher (2010) calls this garment a “mantle”.  For the purposes of this research project we will use “kaftan.” The front opening was edged with tablet woven bands and the sleeves had a gold embroidered band. The hose and garters found with Arnegunde have led to a great deal of specualation about the length of the outer layers of clothing. Owen-Crocker (1986) comments that the decorative nature of the garter and shoe beuckles indicate the clothing would have had a lower length of just below the knee. We now know that the outer layers were nearly floor length. (Rast-Eicher, 2010)

The textile of this garment is described by Rast-Eicher as “the so-called ‘violet’ piece, a textile with one system made of animal fiber, the other system is of plant fiber, but mostly not preserved.” (2010, p. 209) She does not define the textile structure or colors of the fibers. However, past publications have described this garment as reddish or purple. (France-Lanord, 1979; Marzinzik, 2008)

The lower portion of the sleeve was different fabric than the body. Rast-Eicher describes it as “ samite 2/1 Z  … with a warp proportion of 2:1.” (2010, p. 210)  she goes on to further describe the embroidered gold band as being 7 cm. below the cuff seam. The textile underlying the gold embroidery has not survived, although a few red threads are visible.

Although Rast-Eicher (2010) describes the fiber content of the textiles as animal or plant, other researchers have described the fiber content as silk, linen or wool. (France-Lanord, 1979; Marzinzik, 2008) Just how these various layers of textiles actually were worn is still highly conjectural.

When it comes to colors used in the textiles, again much is not known. France-Lanord calls this textile “violet”. (1979) An under layer has been called “reddish”. (France-Lanord, 1979; Marzinzik, 2008) Both the silk textile and the purple to red dyes were imports to the Merovingian territories. These would have been imported along the Rhone or Rhine trade routes from the Byzantine empire. The presence of these luxury items as grave goods marks the high status of the individual buried in sarcophagus 49. (Marzinzik, 2008)

The front edge of the kaftan was decorated with a brocaded tablet woven band made of at least 100 tablets and is approximately 6.5 cm wide. Rast-Eicher describes the band as “ brocaded with a triple silk thread (z-spun) and displays a pattern of diagonals and lozenges (Fig. 33.3).” (2010, p. 210) A second band in a simple tabby/repp, 16 warp threads wide is sewn to the “violet” textile. The weft has not survived, except for one brocading weft stitch. The wider band was key in identifying the layers as it lay under the belt and was found along the skeletal remains down to the lower leg. (Rast-Eicher, 2010)

Walton Rogers (2007) suggests similarities between the Arnegunde kaftan and the Woman’s garment found at Sutton Hoo. Both had ornamented cuffs, although in Sutton Hoo the ornamentation was tablet woven bands. The style of a front opening kaftan had correlations in other garments of the period from cultures to the east and in artwork from the period.

Two round brooches were found on the body in a position suggesting their use as a closure along the center axis above the waist. The period of the later sixth century is one of fashion change for Merovingian women. The earlier Continental tradition of four brooches was giving way to the Byzantine-influenced style of a single brooch at the neckline holding a mantle over a brooch-less tunic. (Rogers, 2007; Perin, 2000)

The Project Kaftan Reconstructed

The kaftan is the outermost layer of the ensemble I created for this project. It also took the most time because of the various time-consuming pieces such as the gold embroidery and embroidery edging the front opening. It actually assembled pretty quickly once the components had been finished. It was mostly machine sewn where the seam would be hidden in order to save time with a lot of hand finishing on visible portions of the garment.

The fashion textile is a tabby with a dark red linen warp and a black silk weft. The lining is silk twill with a gold warp and a purple weft. The garment is bag lined, with a couple areas that were pieced together because I didn’t have quite enough fabric. The sleeves are lined in the turquoise taffeta that is also on the lower cuff of the sleeves.

The pattern was drafted using the rectangular construction method. I made a compromise on design between a flattering fit and a more period style represented by the Grande Robe of Bathilde. This front-closing garment is the most similar extant garment available.

Figure 1. Pattern and cutting diagram for the Grande Robe of Bathilde (Laporte & Boyer, 1991)

Figure 1. Pattern and cutting diagram for the Grande Robe of Bathilde (Laporte & Boyer, 1991)

There is some question about whether this garment could be attributed to Bathilde, due to its size being much larger than would fit Bathilde (personal communication, Wamers, 2013). And there is some discussion on whether it is actually from a couple centuries later, but until new information is published, we are using the current designation at Bathilde’s Grande Robe. If the academic community makes a definitive decision otherwise, I will be happy to make the change to this publication.

The project kaftan has wedges on each side starting at the sleeve and ending at the hem. Bathilde’s Robe has side gores that start at or below the waist, so there is some difference between the two garments in silhouette. I chose this style because it was more flattering on my Rubenesque figure.

Running along the front opening edge of the project kaftan, there is a band of silk embroidery on a silk/linen tabby woven fabric. The silk embroidery floss is recycled yarn from silk sweaters purchased at thrift stores.

The design of the embroidery is inspired by the card woven bands in the Chelles museum. In the original Arnegunde kaftan, this was card woven, but the technique is beyond my current skill level. So, taking a cue from Bathilde who used embroidery on a garment as a representation of her royal jewels, I replaced the card weaving with embroidery.


Around the neckline, is a second embroidered band that I had to create to make up for the fact that I didn’t have enough of the first embroidered band to go all the way around the neckline. I used diagonals which are common in Migration period card weaving  as a main design element. The outside edge of the embroidered band is bound with the same turquoise taffeta that lines the sleeves.

Figure 2. Design for embroidery edging the front opening. Based on the card weaving in the Chelles Museum.

Figure 2. Design for embroidery edging the front opening. Based on the card weaving in the Chelles Museum.

Embroidery on Arnegunde kaftan sleeve

The gold embroidery stands out as separate in look and technique from what is currently known about western Migration era textile traditions. It is possible that the embroidery was imported as a complete piece, either as trade or as a gift, from Imperial Byzantium. (Crowfoot and Chadwick Hawkes, 1967, p. 55). The gold embroidery on the cuffs was made of a fine spiral wrapped thread. The gold foil was wrapped around a core of silk, .25 mm thick and .8 mm wide.  There were about 13 to 14 turns to an inch. The diameter of the threads of gold reached about 0.45 mm with a length of up to 150 mm. The gold was couched down using a very thin silk thread in very small stitches that were more or less close to one another, depending on the type of pattern. (France-Lanord, 1962)

Figure 3. The extant gold embroidery. (France-Lanord, 1998)

Figure 3. The extant gold embroidery. (France-Lanord, 1998)

The rosettes show three variants:

Heart flower with round petals and eight trapezoidal-shapes;

Heart flower with round and six pointed oval leaves, which are separated by spherical triangles inscribed spiral from one another;

Circle whose inner edge is decorated with small triangles, which are designed with a spiral; inside the circle are (from left to right): a small, vertical almond, a large, well vertical half almond (with the straight side left) and three small seeds that are spread like a fan in the right half of the circle. (France-Lanord, 1962)

Only 17 of the rosettes survived, although there were originally 18 or 19 in total. Parallel gold threads run along the edge of the band. The band was 30 mm wide and about 37-38 cm long. (France-Lanord, 1962)

In the project kaftan sleeve embroidery, the design of the roundels was altered slightly to make one of the designs look more like bees, which are a part of my heraldic device. The base fabric of the embroidery was a natural linen warp and a red silk weft in a tabby weave. This linen/silk fabric is conjecturally very similar to the textile found in Arnegunde’s grave. I used a synthetic metal thread for cost savings and ease of use. The threads were couched onto the textile using a silk sewing thread.

The design of the gold embroidery on the cuff.

The design of the gold embroidery on the cuff.

The same turquoise taffeta used to line the sleeves was used as an edging on the embroidered band. Narrow bands were cut and hand sewn to the embroidered band to give it a clean finish. We don’t know that the bands would have been bound, but I liked the clean finished edges.



The completed bands before they were put onto the sleeves.

The completed bands before they were put onto the sleeve


This project was the culmination of a multi-year process. The kaftan is one part of the ensemble, and the first one completed. Future projects include learning the card woven brocade technique for the front opening edge, the leather belt with gold leaf and embroidery, shoes and garters, gold brocaded vitta, and if I feel particularly daring, the metal buckles for the garter and shoes.

One of the constraining elements of this project is that very little of the published resources is in English or accessible to non-academic researchers. It took time to track down and translate many of the resources used for this project. And there was always the dangerous distraction of the most recent publication find.


Audollent, A. (1921) Les Tombes des Martres-de-Veyre. Man, 21. 161-164.

Bachrach, B.S. (1973) Liber Historiae Francorum. Coronado Press: Lawrence, Kansas.

Effros, B. (2002). Caring for body and soul. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State  University Press

Fleury M., and France-Lanord A. (1998) Les trésors mérovingiens de la basilique de Saint-Denis, Woippy, Klopp.

France-Lanord, A. (1979) La fouille en laboratoire. Dossiers de l’Archéologie 32, 67–91.

Geary , P. J. (1988) Before France and Germany, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Laporte, J. P., & Boyer, R. (1991). Trésors de Chelles: Sépultures et reliques de la Reine Bathilde (+ vers 680) et de l’Abbesse Bertille (+ vers 704). Société Archéologique et Historique de Chelles.

Marzinzik, Sonja, (2008). “Expressions of Power – Luxury textiles from early medieval northern Europe” Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings. Paper 113.

Owen-Crocker, G.R. (2004). Dress in Anglo Saxon England. Boydell Press.

Perin, P. (2000). Aspects of Late Merovingian Costume in the Morgan Collection. In From Attila to Charlemagne: arts of the early medieval period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 242-267.

Périn P., et al. (2007) La tombe d’Arégonde, Nouvelles analyses en laboratoire du mobilier métallique et des restes organiques de la défunte du sarcophage 49 de la basilique de St. Denis. Antiquités nationales 36/2005, 181–206.

Périn P. and Calligaro T., (2005) “La tombe d’Arégonde: Nouvelles analyses en laboratoire du mobilier métallique et des restes organiques de la défunte du sarcophage 49 de la basilique  de Saint-Denis”, Antiquités nationales 37, 181-206.

Rast-Eicher, A. (2008) Textiles et costume du Haut Moyen Âge. Histoires et Images Médiévales 20, 50–56.

Rast-Eicher, A. (2010) Garments for a Queen. North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles X. 208-210

Rogers, P.W. (2007). Cloth and clothing in early Anglo-Saxon England: AD 450-700. (No. 145). Council for British Archeaology.

Stafford, Pauline, (1983). Queens, Concubines, and Dowagers: The King’s Wife in the Early Middle ages. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press.



An interesting article on Sassanian clothing

Just a quick note to let you know about this interesting website on Sassanian clothing. The Sassanian culture roughly encompassed the area that is now Iran. Textiles from this culture have been found in Merovingian graves and church reliquaries. So they may have influenced local production and aesthetics in textiles and clothing.

Sassanian Clothing

And here’s a Flickr stream with images of Sassanian textiles!

Extant 6th century gore in a wool garment

Original website here.

6th century wool, colored with blue indigo. sewn-in gore.

The fragment found in a belt buckle was studied by Mr. H. Masurel and Mrs. S. Desrosiers. It has triangular pieces sewn together, giving expand gradually to the garment. The very fine fabric is woven in a clever cross 2/2 forming Argyle. The fiber analysis kindly performed by Mr. Witold Nowik, Laboratory of Historic Monuments Research shows that it was colored with indigo blue, or perhaps in another color obtained by hand-dyed (green?, Purple ?). Natural indigo was in antiquity from the leaves of a crucifer with yellow flowers, pastel. According to Caesar, “the Britons dye themselves with woad, which gives them a blue color, and renders, in battle, they look particularly terrifying.” Charlemagne recommends its culture in its fields. From the seventeenth century, was used to obtain indigo, indigo dye tropical whose power is higher than that of pastel

© musée des Antiquités nationales, © Direction des musées de France, 2004



Early medieval textile remains from settlements in the Netherlands. An evaluation of textile production

Just a quickie post to tell you about this article by Chrystel R. Brandenburgh.

Chrystel R. Brandenburgh: Early medieval textile remains from settlements in the Netherlands. An evaluation of textile production. Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 2-1 (May 2010)


Many fragments of archaeological textiles have been found in the Netherlands during the last century. This article focuses on the way these textiles were made and used. How and where were textiles and clothes made and by whom? Was cloth production already a practice of specialists, acting in an extensive trade network, or was it a craft that mainly took place at the household level? To answer these questions 440 fragments of 265 different textiles, from 31 sites have been examined. Without exception these textiles were discovered in settlement context, mostly in the north of the country. The analysis of the remnants has resulted in the distinction of the different steps in the production process and insight in the way the textile products were used. The results show that many textiles are likely to have been produced at a household level. Only in a few cases were they made using special skills and tools or did the production process require much time. Some products, such as the finer fabrics, the fine needlework on several hats, fabrics with a raised nap, piled weaves and a veil-like garment, may be considered as the work of textile specialists. In this article it is argued that these specialists were either working for a patron or in an independent workshop.



UPDATED: Conjectural clothing construction


I’m getting ready to draft the pattern for my final garment of the Arnegunde outfit, the outer coat. I’ve finished the embroidery for the front opening and I’ve ordered the gold thread for the cuffs.

There are so few extant garments from this period making it hard to know how they were constructed. This is just a list of websites and resources for information on garment construction (and some other goodies).

Gallo-Roman tunic from Martres de Veyre. 1-2 C.

  • Originally published in <Audollent, A.  (1921) Les tombes des Martres-de-Veyre. Man, 21 (Nov.), 161-164.>
  •  Website in Russian by a woman who recreated the garments


Close up of a seam

A very fuzzy image of the Robe


Viking Age

  • Carolyn Priest-Dorman’s excellent website on Viking Tunic Construction which lists the following locations/eras:
    • Thorsbjerg (Scheleswig-Holstein, Germany), Migration Era;
    • Evebø (Norway), fifth century;
    • Birka (Sweden), ninth and tenth centuries;
    • Bjerringhøj (“Mammen,” Denmark), tenth century;
    • Hedeby (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany), tenth and eleventh centuries;
    • Jorvík (the Danelaw in England) and Dublin (Ireland), tenth and eleventh centuries; and
    • Viborg (Denmark), eleventh century

Persian Caftan


ETA: Correction of translation in second paragraph. Thanks, Catherine!

Please see the original article for more information and to see images.

par James MOTTEAU* Mots-clefs : Habillement, Haut Moyen-Age. Key-words : Clothing, Dark Ages.

Lors de la découverte de la sépulture 6, en 1973, 20 prélèvements de textiles ont été effectués à l’emplacement du corps, des épaules aux genoux ; il faut leur ajouter un fragment de lanière en cuir qui maintenait une bouclette sous un genou et des restes de chaussures (Lelong 1976 : 220). Une étude préalable sur 12 échantillons a indiqué la présence de lin et de soie éventuellement associés en armures toiles et serge (MOTTEAU 1984 : 264). Les analyses complètes ont permis de préciser le nombre des tissages, plus ou moins distendus selon les prélèvements, et de déterminer leur succession sur le corps.

English translation: Upon discovery of the tomb 6, 1973, 20 textile samples were performed at the location of the body, from shoulders to knees, you have to add a piece of leather strap that held a buckle under the knee and leftover shoes (Lelong 1976: 220). A preliminary study of 12 samples indicated the presence of linen and silk may be associated with plain weave and serge (MOTTEAU 1984: 264). Full scans have clarified the number of weaving, more or less distended as samples, and determine their sequence on the body.

1. ETUDE DES TEXTILES. A l’exclusion des bas, tous les tissus se retrouvent des épaules aux genoux. Au contact de la peau apparaissent des restes d’une toile de soie presque entierement décomposée dont le nombre d’épaisseurs reste mal défini. Au-dessus, sont préservées 2 ou 3 épaisseurs d’une toile de soie formée de fils en légère torsion Z qui varient de 18 à 35 par centimètre pour la chaîne et de 20 à 35 pour la trame ; aux endroits où la distension semble absente, la moyenne par centimetre s’établit à 18 fils pour la chaîne et 22 pour la trame. Son aspect blanchâtre, lorsqu’elle est protégée, vire le plus souvent au brun (Fig. 1).

English Translation: With the exception of the hose, all fabrics are from shoulders to knees. In contact with the skin appear the remains of a silk fabric almost completely decomposed, the number of layers is unclear. Above, are preserved two or three thicknesses of cloth made __of silk thread in slight twist of Z ranging from 18 to 35 per centimeter in the warp and from 20 to 35 for the weft, where the distension seems to be absent the average per centimeter son is 18 and 22 for the chain to the weft. It is whitish, when protected, most often turns to brown (Fig. 1).

La soie est recouverte d’un ottoman formé de 2 épaisseurs, d’aspect brunâtre. Les fils de chaîne, en lin, sont torsadés 2 à 2 en S ; les fils de trame, en soie, cachent presque totalement la chaîne ; ce tissu côtelé est constitué de 10 à 14 fils de chaîne et d’environ 30 fils de trame au centimètre. La face la plus externe présente des motifs bleus, des épaules vers les genoux, avec une bande unie en bas, obtenus par impression probablement directe d’indigo (non caractérisé par analyse chimique) (Fig. 2). English translation: The silk is covered with an ottoman made __of two layers, brownish appearance. The thread of the warp, linen, are twisted in S 2-2, the thread of fabric, silk, almost completely hiding the warp, the ribbed fabric is made of from 10 to 14 warp threads and about 30 weft threads to the centimeter. The outermost face of this blue motifs, from shoulders to knees, with a solid band at the bottom, probably obtained by direct printing of indigo (not characterized by chemical analysis) (Fig. 2). Au niveau du bassin et le long de la jambe droite, les prélèvements renferment les restes d’une cordelette enroulée au moins 2 fois et qui adhère à l’ottaman. De diamètre voisin de 3 mm, elle est formée de faisceaux de fibres de lin et de soie torsadés de façon indépendante 2 à 2 en S puis regroupés en torsion S par brin ; 2 brins torsadés Z constituent cette cordelette.

English translation: The pelvis and along the right leg, the samples contain the remains of a cord wound at least 2 times and adhering to the Ottoman. In diameter around 3 mm, is made __up of bundles of flax and silk twisted independently 2-2 in S and S grouped per strand twist, 2 strand twisted cord that Z is. * Laboratoire d’Archéologie Urbaine de Tours, Château de Tours, 25 quai d’Orléans, 37000 TOURS.

Une toile de lin, double, dont 2 pièces sont cousues au point caché (Fig. 3), recouvre l’ottoman et la cordelette. Les fils individuels, en torsion Z, sont torsadés, 2 à 2 en S pour la chaîne ; leur nombre oscille entre 10 et 18 par centimètre pour la chaîne et entre 15 et 26 pour la trame. L’aspect général de ce tissue relativement grossier est brun (Fig. 4).

English Translation: A linen cloth, double, 2 pieces are sewn at the point hidden (Fig. 3), covering the Ottoman and the cord. The thread individual torsional Z, are twisted, 2-2 S for the chain, and their number is between 10 and 18 per centimeter for the warp and between 15 and 26 for the weft. The general appearance of this tissue is relatively coarse brown (Fig. 4).

Des fragments brunâtres de sergé recouvrent le tout. Les fils de chaîne, en lin, sont très souvent décomposés ; les fils de trame, en soie, sont en torsion Z. L’armure présente environ 22 fils par centimètre dans les 2 sens. La bordure est tissée en toile sur 4 rangs (Fig. 5, schéma reconstitué à partir de plusieurs échantillons).

English translation: Fragments of brown twill cover everything. The thread of the warp, linen, are often broken, and the thread of fabric, silk, are torsion Z. The armor has about 22 per centimeter thread in 2 directions. The border is woven fabric of 4 rows (Fig. 5, diagram reconstructed from several samples).

Une toile de soie adhère sur une face des cuirs et s’intercale entre la peau et les chaussures. Les fibres, en légère torsion Z, sont au nombre de 17 à 18 par centimètre pour la chaîne et de 22 pour la trame.

English translation: A web of silk on one side adheres to the leather and inserted between the skin and shoes. The fibers, a slight twist Z, are among 17 to 18 per centimeter in the warp and 22 for the weft.

2. ESSAI DE RECONSTITUTION DE L’HABILLEMENT. Ces déterminations permettent de proposer une reconstitution de l’habillement. La présence d’une chemise en soie est possible mais non prouvée de façon certaine ; la robe en ottoman, doublée de soie, était serrée au niveau de la ceinture par une cordelette dont les extrémités pendaient librement le long de la jambe droite. Sur l’ensemble, était passé un manteau en sergé, doublé de lin. La femme portrait des bas en soie maintenus par les lanières de cuir portant les bouclettes.

English translation: These determinations allow a reconstruction of clothing. The presence of a silk shirt is possible but not proven with certainty, the Ottoman dress, lined with silk, was tied at the waist by a cord, the ends hanging loose down the right leg. On the whole, had passed a twill coat, lined with linen. Portrait of a woman silk stockings held by leather straps with the loop.

Pourtant des questions découlant de la manière d’échantillonner la sépulture restent sans réponse : présence ou non de manches à la robe et /ou au manteau, limite supérieure des bas, forme des décors de la robe. Le mauvais état de conservation des textiles explique cependant en partie ceci. Aucune trace visible de voile, sur lequel auraient été cousus les fils d’or (Lelong 1976 : Fig. 5), n’a été repérée au niveau de la tête lors de la fouille ; cette hypothèse peut être raisonnablement retenue. De même, aucun prélèvement n’a révélé la présence de tissu assimilable à un linceul. La détermination de la nature des cuirs, en trop mauvais état de conservation, n’a pu être menée à bien (observations de c. chahine, Centre de Recherches sur la Conservation des Documents Graphiques – Paris).

English translation: Yet questions arising as to sample the burial remain unanswered: whether or not the sleeves to the dress and / or mantle, upper limit of the low form of decoration of the dress. The poor state of conservation of textiles, however, partly explains this. No visible trace of veil, where the thread would have been sewn with gold (Lelong 1976: Fig. 5), were located in the head during the excavation, this hypothesis can be reasonably successful. Similarly, no samples revealed the presence of tissue similar to a shroud. The determination of the nature of leather, in too bad condition, has been completed (ie observations Chahine, Research Center on the Conservation of Documents Charts – Paris).

Notes et documents 257 Faute de nombreuses études sur des sepultures habillées de l’époque mérovingienne, notre reference la plus complète est représentée par la tombe d’Aregonde à Saint-Denis ; nous y retrouvons un type d’habillement voisin bien que plus riche (France Lanord 1979). En Région Centre, pendant le Haut Moyen-Age, la soie, abondante dans les diverses armures de Perrusson, reste un produit rare et importé (ferdiere 1984 : 216). Ces éléments conferment le rang social élevé de la personne inhumée dans le sarcophage 6 de Perrusson mais n’apportent pas de précisions quant à son origine et à son statut dans la Société de l’époque (LELONG 1976 : 228-229).

English translation: Without many studies on the graves of the Merovingian period dress, our most complete reference is represented by the tomb of Saint-Denis Arnegunde, where we find a type of clothing that richer neighbor (France Lanord 1979) . In Central Region during the Middle Ages, silk, abundant in various weaves of Perrusson, remains a rare and imported (Ferdière 1984: 216). This confirms the high social status of the person buried in the sarcophagus of 6 Perrusson but do not provide details as to its origin and its status in the Society at the time (Lelong 1976: 228-229).

The beginnings of a Merovingian Material Culture Bibliography

This is by no means an exhaustive listing. But it should give you some starting places to begin your research, or to add to your current research. Eventually, I will have this annotated as I get things translated and assimilated.

If you know of any resources that not listed here, please put them in comments. Thanks!


  • Aberg, N., (1922). Die Franken und Westgoten in der Volkenwanderungzeit. Uppsala.
  • Aberg, N., (1923). Die Goten und Langobarden in Italien. Uppsala.
  • Aberg, N., (1945). The Occident and the Orient in the Art of the Seventh Century. Vol. 3, the Merovingian Empire. Stockholm.
  • Alduc-Le Bagousse, Armelle (ed.). Inhumations de prestige ou prestige de linhumation? Expression du pouvoir dans l’au-delà (IVe-XVe siècle). Table ronde du CRAHM 4. Caen : CRAHM, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, 2009. Pp. 464.
  • Böhme, H. W. (1974). Germanische Grabfunde des 4. bis 5. Jahrhunderts zwischen unterer Elbe und Loire: Studien zur Chronologie und Bevölkerungsgeschichte. Munich.
  • Böhme, H. W. (1986). Das Ende der Römerherrschaft in Britannien und die angelsächsische Besiedlung Englands im 5. Jahrhundert. Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz 33: 469-574.
  • Böhner, K. 1958. Die fränkischen Alterthümer des Trierer Landes. Berlin: Verlag. Gebr. Mann.
  • Brugmann, B. 1999. The role of continental artefact-types in sixth-century Kentish chronology. In The Pace of Change: studies in medieval chronology, eds. Hines, J. Høilund Nielsen, K. and Siegmund, F.. Oxford: Oxbow: 37-64.
  • Brulet, R. 1990. Les fouilles du quartier Saint-Brice à Tournai: l’environnement funéraire de la sépulture de Childéric. Louvain-la-Neuve.
  • Carver, M. O. H. (ed). The Age of Sutton Hoo: the seventh century in north-western Europe. Woodbridge: Boydell Press: **
  • Crowfoot, E. and Hawkes, S.C. 1967. Early Anglo-Saxon gold braids, Medieval Archaeology 11, 42-86.
  • Cutler, Anthony. (Oct., 1997). The right hand’s cunning: Craftsmanship and the demand for art in late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Speculum, 72(4). 971-994.
  • Evison, V. I. 1965. Fifth-century invasions south of the Thames. London: University of London, The Athlone Press.
  • Farrell, R. and Neumann de Vegvar, C., (eds.) Sutton Hoo: fifty years after. American Early Medieval Studies. Oxford, Ohio: 75-81.
  • Ferdiere, Alain. (1984). Le travail du textile en Region Centre de l’Age du fer au haut Moyen-Age. Revue archeologique du Centre de la France. 23(2). 209-275.
  • Fleury, M. (1963). L’anneau sigillaire de la reine Arnegonde, femme de Clotaire I. Annexe aux Proces-verbaux de la Commission municipale du Vieux Paris (séance du 11 fevrier 1963), p. 5-14.
  • Fleury, M. (1963). L’anneau sigillaire de la reine Arnegonde, femme de Clotaire Ier, decouvert a Saint-Denis, Bulletin de la Societe nationale des Antiquaries de France (séance du 20 favrier 1963), p. 34-42.
  • Fleury, M. and France-Lanord, A. (1961). Les bijoux merovingien d’Arnegonde, Art of France, 1, p. 7-18.
  • Fleury, M. and France-Lanord, A. (1979). Bijoux et parures merovingiens de la reine Aregonde, belle-fille de Clovis, decouverts a Saint-Denis, Dossiers de l’Archeologies, n° 32, janvier-fevrier.
  • Fleury, M. and France-Lanord, A. (1998). Les tresors merovingiens de la basilique de Saint-Denis, G. Klopp, Woippy.
  • France-Lanord, A. (1979). La fouille en labratoire: methode de travail. Les Dossiers de l’Archaeologie. 32. 69-91.
  • France-Lanord, A. and Fleury, M., (1962). Das Grab der Arnegundis in Saint-Denis, Germania, 40, 2, p. 341-359.
  • Gaillard de Semainville, Henri (2003). Nouvelle examen de la plaque-boucle merovingienne de Landelelinus decouverte a Ladoix-Serrigny (Cote d’Or). Revue Archeologique de l’Est. 52. 297-327. (French).
  • Hawkes, S.C. and Dunning, G. 1961. A catalogue of animal-ornamented buckles and related belt fittings. Medieval Archaeology, 5: 1-70.
  • Hodges, R. and Whitehouse, D. 1983. Mohammed, Charlemagne and the origins of Europe. London: Duckworth.
  • Hübener, W. 1981. Eine Studie zu den Beilwaffen der Merowingerzeit. Zeitschrift für Archäologie des Mittelalters 8: 65-127.
  • LaPorte, Jean-Pierre. (1985). Tissus medievaux de Chelles et de Faremoutiers. . Tissu & vetement: 5000 ans de savoir-faire. Musee Archeologique Departmental du Val-d’Oise.
  • Leeds, E.T. 1936. Early Anglo-Saxon art and archaeology. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
  • Legoux, R., Perin, P, and Vallet, F. (2006). Chronologie normalise du mobilier funeraire merovingingien entre Mance et Lorraine, (n° hors serie du Bulletin de liaison de l’Association francaise d’Archeologie merovingienne), AFAM, Saint-German-en-Laye.
  • Legoux, R., Périn, P. and Vallet, F. 2004. Chronologie normalisée du mobilier funéraire mérovingien entre Manche et Lorraine. Paris: Association francaise d’Archeologie merovingienne .
  • Martin, M. (1991). Zur frümittelalterlichen Gürteltracht de Frau in der Burgundia, Francia, und Aquitania, dans DONNAY, G. (ed), L’Art des invasions en Hongrie et en Wallonie, Actes du colloque de 1979, Musee royal de Mariemont, Bruxelles, p. 31-84.
  • Martin, Max.(2001). Early Merovingian Women’s Brooches. In From Attila to Charlemagne. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. 226-241.
  • Marzinzik, S., 2003. Early Anglo-Saxon belt buckles (late 5th to early 8th centuries A.D.) : their classification and context. Oxford: BAR British series 357.
  • Motteau, James. (1985). L’habillement de la sepulture merovingienne de Perrusson (Indre-et-Loire). Revue archeologique du Centre de la France. 24(2). 256-257.
  • Noble, Thomas F. X. Julia M. H. Smith. (1997). The Carolingians: An English Language Bibliography
  • Perin, P., (1991). Pour une revision de la datation de la tombe d’Arego nde, espouse de Clotaire Ier, decouverte en 1959 dans la basilique de Saint-Denis, Archeologie medievale, XXI, p. 21-50.
  • Perin, P., (1991). Quelques considerations sur la basilique de Saint-Denis et sa necropole a l’epoque merovingienne, dans DUVOSQUEL J.-M. And DIERKENS A. (eds), Villes et campagnes au Moyen Age. Melanges Georges Despy, Editions du Perron, Liege, p. 599-624.
  • Perin, P., Calligro, T., avec la coll. De Buchet, L., Cassiman, J.-J., Darton, Y., Gallien, V., Poirot, J.-P., Rast, A., Rucker, C., and Vallet, F. (2007). La tombe d’Aregonde. Ouvelles analyses en labratoire du mobilier metallique et des restes organiques de la defunte du sarcophage 49 de la basilique de Saint-Denis, Antiquites nationales, 37, (2005), p. 181-206.
  • Perin, Patrick (2000). Aspects of late Merovingian costume in the Morgan Collection. In From Attila to Charlemagne: arts of the early Medieval period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art . 242-267.
  • Procopius. History of the Gothic Wars.
  • Rast-Eicher, Antoinette. (2010). Garment for a queen. North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles X. 208-210.
  • Riché, Pierre, (1996). Dictionnaire des Francs: les temps mérovingiens (Etrépilly). 944.01303 R397D STX.
  • Rogers, P. W. 2007. Cloth and clothing in early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450-700. York: CBA Research Report 145.
  • Roth, H. (1986) Zweifel an Aregunde, Marburger Studien zur Vor- und Fruhgesichichte, 7, p. 267-276.
  • Schulze, M. (1976). Einflusse byzantinischer Prunkgewander auf die frankische Frauentracht, Archeologhische Korrespondanzblatt, 6,2, p. 149-161.
  • Sørensen, P. 1997. Jutes in Kent? Consideration of the problem of ethnicity in southern Scandinavia and Kent in the Migration Period, in Method and Theory in Historical Archaeology (Papers of the ‘Medieval Europe Brugge 1997’ Conference), eds. De Boe, G. and Verhaege, F. Zellik: 165-73.
  • Soulat, J. 2009. Le matériel archéologique de type Saxon et Anglo-Saxon en Gaule Mérovingienne. Paris: Tome XX des Mémoires publiés par l’Association française d’Archéologie mérovingienne.
  • Thillaud, P., (1993). L’Age au deces de la reine Aregonde, espouse de Clotiaire Ier, d’apres, une nouvelle expertise osteoarcheologiques, Cahiers de la Rotunde, 14, p. 169-172.
  • Vielitz, K. (2003). Die Grantscheifibeln der Merowingerzeit, (Europe medievale, 3), Editions Monique Mergoil, Montagnac.
  • Von Armin Volkmann and Theune, claudia. (2001). Millefiori beads from the Merovingian period of middle Europe. Ethnographisch-Archaologische Zeitschrift. 42(4). 521-553. (German).
  • Welch, M. 1991. Contacts across the Channel between the Fifth and Seventh Centuries : a review of the archaeological evidence. Studien zur Sachsenforschung 7: 261-269.
  • Wood, I. 1992. Frankish hegemony in England. In Carver, M. O. H. (ed). The Age of Sutton Hoo: the seventh century in north-western Europe. Woodbridge: Boydell Press: 235-241.

And here’s a gratuitous picture because it’s purty.

Disc brooch from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Books on Roman textile production

In studying archaeological textiles, it helps to track back the the technology and social influences on your chosen fiber culture. For the Merovingians, their direct descendants were both the vast Roman linen estates in Gaul and the Sassanian silk weaving houses. John Peter Wild wrote a book on Roman textiles and also inspired others to write another book on the influence Roman textiles.

J. P. Wild. (1970) Textile Manufacture in the Northern Roman Provinces. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

and this is the book it inspired…

Penelope Walton Rogers, Lise Bender Jorgensen, Antoinette Rast-Eicher, (2001). The Roman Textile Industry and its Influence. A Birthday tribute to John Peter Wild.   Exeter:  Oxbow Books, 2001.

  • Read a review by Margarita Gleba, Bryn Mawr College, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology

Going back even further, we have a book on Pre-Roman Italian textile production. (Yes, the author of the previous review)

Gleba, M. (2008): Textile production in pre-Roman Italy. Oxford: Oxbow.


And while we’re on the subject of ancient Roman textile production, here’s a decent bibliography which should give you a good start. It’s not exclusively Roman or Merovingian (but we won’t hold that against them!)

and look over there! Sassanian textiles!

A Byzantine shirt construction

Contact with the Byzantine Empire was robust, especially during the later part of the Merovingian period. Here is a website that details how to reconstruct an extant Byzantine shirt from an archaeological find in Turkey. I wish we had more extant garments to base our research on.

Byzantine Shirt from Turkish grave site

Byzantine Shirt from Turkish grave site