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Friday, April 25, 2008

ROSKILDE - Some Images

This morning I took a stab at trying to get some images off my camera (now my equipment bag is here and I have the cables) and converted through the computer at my billet and up on the blog here.

This is the woman I mentioned who is working on the sail weaving project. She is here packing a line of weft with her sword beatter. Got some interesting advice on the correct way to make one of these. She also had a number of samples of cloth using various threads that they had made up as test samples. (The thread weights are in my head...)
This is an overview of the activity room. The Knorr hull is to the left, the longship to the right, with the weaving station to the rear. The hull replicas are full scale.

This is the woman's grave described in the last post. Clearly 'killed' as we had learned about from Neil Price. Very interesting. (See what happens to women that get too uppity...)
A series of glass bead strands. The text stated 'from a number of graves', but that description applied to the entire case, and there were also a number of smaller clusters of beads. (And yes Neil [Peterson, of DARC- ed.], the other groupings were closer to 15 beads each.) Not sure if this grouping had been seen in other catalogues.
This is the drop spindle with wool yarn. Sorry that the image is not the sharpest. The image was taken hand held at about 1-15 second exposure.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

ROSKILDE - the Roskilde Museum

As I mentioned on the last posting, the Viking Ship Museum has no artifacts, other than the ships themselves.

The main artifact collections are housed at the Roskilde Museum. The institution is more of a complex spread around the core of town (kind of like the Smithsonian on a smaller scale). I spent most of Wednesday in the 'historic' collection. This is housed in a set of interlocking buildings dating roughly to the mid 1700's.

I obviously spent hours with the Viking Age and Medieval materials. Here in Denmark, they seem to divide things into 'Early History' and then 'Medieval', with the break at 1000 AD. This messes me up anyway, since it cuts across what I would be looking at for the Viking Age. Our perspectives in North America are shaped with the English experiences: 450 for the end of the Romans, 500-800 for the Saxon invasions, 800 -1066 for the Viking Age, 1066 and on for the Normans.

It turns out the early Viking Age history of Roskilde is a bit vague, and not well represented in the artifact record. The earliest references to Roskilde run from roughly 1030 - 1050. The earlier settlement remains have never been found. For this reason, there were few objects in the museum from the core part of the Viking Age. From this late Viking Age period, through the Middle Ages, Roskilde served as and important centre for trade, political and religious power. The Catholic Church established a number of buildings here, centered mainly on the tall hill that dominates the area.
(Note, I expand on the description of Roskilde town on todays 'Hammered Out Bits' posting)

All this taken into account, the Viking Age materials represented a the Roskilde Museum amount to maybe 200 artifacts. I took photographs of almost everything, with notes mainly on dates and my own observations. The descriptive texts were quite limited (and of course in Danish, which I can't read anyway).There were no reconstructions or even images of the objects in use. This is a short coming of the museum, as without context, objects mean less to the average viewer. Objects were most often grouped by type, not necessarily detailed in date or find location. The lables did not contain the object registration numbers. This would make attempting to identify individual pieces for latter reference a challenge.

I had contacted museum currator Jens Ulriksen ahead about my visit, and he kindly too some time to introduce me to the VA collections.

Most interesting of all (for me) was a grave grouping from about 800 AD. A female buried with a spear, the body laid over with three massive stones. (Does this sound familure?) Combined with a male, legs crossed (bound) arms thought to have been bound to the sides - with the neck broken. I recognized this right off from the work of Neil Price, who some of us met at Haffenreffer a couple of years back. Very cool!

There was also a very nice pattern welded sword, in extremely good condition. Two cores, I think I counted 9 or 10 layers to the rods. Although not dated (other than Viking Age) I would guess early. It was only 65 cm of blade and quite wide, about 8 cm.

Upstairs in the Medieval section were also a number of pieces that were 'late Viking Age' - from roughly 1050 to 1100.
The huge score here was a fragment of woolen textile. I did my best to get a clear close up shop (through the glass and in the dark). Again no details, save a date at 1100. Looked like wool, my estimate was about 10 -12 threads per cm. There were seveal groupings of spindle whirls, plus one complete spindle (original wood shaft) which also had its wool yarn (no date).
There was also a large collection of leather shoes, easily 15 or 20, mainly from 1300 -1400. There was a single (flat) sample dated to 1100. The types were mostly turn shoes, several with centre seams (like the Yorvik style).
A reasonable amount of small iron objects. Several groupings of glass beads. Four complete sewing shears (Meghan will be keen on those images - the objects here show I was correct about the thickness of the spring sections.)

I did chat a fair amount with the only staff member working in the building. This was curious in itself (we did talk funding and cut backs, the universal problem). The age of the building means that it was a series of smaller rooms linked together, most of them about modern living room size. The materials were grouped by theme. It was presented more as a Victorian styled 'stuff' museum. With only one person to mind admissions, there was no provision for interactive presentations.
This balanced by the low activity. Remember that this was a weekday morning, and really off season at that. Even still, over the five hours I was there, I saw five other people plus one school group. The kids were maybe grade 4, and spent about 20 minutes with the VA exhibit and were gone. (This involved in some kind of 'pick and object and then draw it' project. And yes, I was too asked to interpret the collection for the kids, but of course could not lecture in Danish - Neil)

I must admit that we have been spoiled by the last couple of large international exhibits we have worked on!


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ROSKILDE - Viking Ship Museum

This is the first in what is hopefully a series of field reports from Denmark. (Sorry if some of the charaters used seem odd - this is being typed from a Danish version keyboard.)

The first thing about the Viking Ship Museum - its ALL about Ships. Just ships. The complex is basically in four parts. Only the main 'Viking Ship Hall' appears to require admission. I had a comp anyway, so I'm not even sure if there was any cost. In the main building are four sections: the boat hall - an activity room - gift shop - temporary exhibits.

The boat hall has the ships. These are mounted on the steel frames that you have certainly seen photos of. I found the fames a bit of a pain. These do outline the hulls as they would have been when complete. They also cover over some of the detials on the joints, as the metal supports the timbers at both top and bottom. this is less a problem with Skuldeleve 1 (the ocean knorr). This is the hull that Paul Comptons 'Viking Saga' is based on.
The ships comprise the only artifacts on display in the museum.

In many ways the activity room was the most interesting. There are mock ups that you can climb into, the decks of Skuldeleve 1 and also number 2, the warship. The kids gravitate to the warship hull, which is larger inside and has shields and costumes to try on. The knorr deck is smaller (of course) but the cargo area is outfitted with a duplicate of the Mastermyr chest, the metalwork from Oseberg, a low tent cover over barrels and buckets. Some of these are open showing a cargo of glass work, pottery, grains. A very nice presentation over all.
Of most interest to our gang, there was a woman in this area working away on a WW loom. She is involved in a project to research production of a wool sail. I talked to her for about an hour, made a page of notes and shot a number of close in shots of her set up. Got some insight from her about weaving sails and some idea of the ongoing experiment. (Should I write this up here, or wait for a set piece lecture later...)

The outside areas make up the majority of the complex. There is a smallish building that houses the archaeological preservation lab, but it was closed (not staffed, or I would have tried to talk my way in).
There is a large dock area containing something like 20 or so various reconstructed boats. These range from a small one log duggout to the Ottar (based on number 1). Number 1 and number 3 (the coastal trader) are completely outfitted for sailing.
There are a number of various other Scandinavian VA boats reproduced as well. A very complete overview of lapstrake ships up to the early 1900's.

The last part of the complex is the working boat yard. This is a building roughly the size of the Wareham workshop, divided into two larger spaces plus offices and storage. A lot of work also goes on outside. Here was a large peg board arrangement with all the replica tools. They basically have copies of every known VA woodworking tool, thankfully for me each was labled with source, date and artifact number. (As these are replicas, I will be able to check back to the original artifacts for details.)
My pre-contact effort paid off best here. I was allowed to handle and record the tools. For the axes, I just made direct tracings of the profiles, as well as scaled photos. (Mind you, my normal inch-cm scale is also in the missing bag, so I had to use a cheap tape measure.) Again, I will leave the details to a later time or posting. The main thing of note was that their comparison of working these tools against the tool marks shows all the ships found at Roskilde were constructed using standard axes and then finished with planes. They also found that the small spoon bits for rivet holes need to be worked with a bow drill.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Watch this space!

Our estimable leader - Darrell - leaves for Denmark any day now, and then Neil and myself are tripping off to Scotland and Iceland shortly thereafter. Darrell's been invited to a symposium on early Scandinavian iron smelting, whereas Neil and I are finally taking our honeymoon and exploring historical sites just for fun.

Being laptop enabled, and prone to seeking out internet connections (okay, semi-addicted to email), it's my intention to post our Viking related travels live from the road on this blog, and non-Viking related adventures on my personal blog.

Darrell will most likely post his adventures after he returns. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Smelting Materials on Hand (Spring 2008)

This is a list of the materials stockpiled. The list may prove a bit confusing, as some of the items were paid for specifically by the Wareham Forge (WF) and are held under its recorded inventory. (In practice, those materials are also used for the general run of experiments, but are also dedicated for use in paid demonstrations and student courses.)

Sorry about the mixed units

Ore Bodies:

Total number of 40 - 50 lb smelt events indicated

Hematite Grit (WF) - 7 x 90 lb bags plus about 40 lbs loose = 670 lbs (15 smelts)
Taconite Pellets (WF) - about 40 lbs loose (1 smelt)
Spanish Red - about 15 lbs loose
Virgina Geothite (poor quality!) - about 125 lbs total (3 smelts)
about 20 lbs has been crushed to size
Jamestown Geothite (WF)- about 200 lbs as rock (4 - 5 smelts)

DARC Dirt 1 - about 50 lbs (1 smelt / April 13)

Mixed Gromps - estimate about 100 lbs from past smelts

Silica Sand - for DARC Dirt, about 35 lbs


Total number of 50 - 60 kg smelt events indicted

Royal Oak - 10 x 20 lb bags = 200 lbs (1 full, 1 partial)
Black Diamond (WF) - (damp) 2 x 10 kg + 4 x 15 kg = 80 kg (1 full, 1 partial)
Black Diamond (WF) - (dry) 5 x 10 kg = 50 kg (1 full / April 13)
there is also a smaller quantity in partial bags (maybe 5 kg)

Charcoal Fines (WF) - total about 25 kg

Smelter Construction:

Ceramic tubes (tuyeres) - total 7 (1 for April 13)

Ball Clay - 2 x 50 lbs (1 full smelter)
Ball Clay (WF) - 2 x 50 lbs (1 for April 13)
Plus two partial bags (used for April 13)

'Cooperstown Brown' - dried & rough, about 50 lbs
Slab clay - boxed and partial dried, about 35 kg

Misc: (standard 5 gallon pails)

Ash / Sand packing - about 4 pails
Course Sand packing - about 3 pails
Wood ash - about 5 pails
Sawdust - about 6 pails
Straw - about 3/4 bail


Our primary shortage is once again charcoal. Supplies on hand would just get us through perhaps a total of two smaller (20 - 25 kg) smelts. (Note that most of the WF materials are allocated to the April 13 smelt and the possible June 7/8 course.)

As with past years, ore remains a potential problem. The supply of Jamestown Geothite is of proven high quality, and is enough to provide a stable type for several inter-related experiments.



Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Wooden Beams for Tents

Note: This is adapted from a post to NORSEFOLK.

When planning the materials for a period tent, either A frame or Geteld type, consider something about the structural nature of wood as it applies to the loads imposed by tents. Then work backwards against availability and cost (rather than the other way round).

Now several of my old friends will be rolling their eyes. Repeating my own mantra back to me : " Metal good - wood EVIL " !

The thing to consider is grain in the wood - and how grain effects strength.
You are applying two load types to the wood used in a tent. One is compression - the weight of the tent itself applied straight down the long axis of the beam. This aspect effects the uprights, especially the vertical pieces on a Geteld style. The second load is a sideways thrust, contributed by both tent and the force of wind against the horizontal cross beam.

Against these forces, consider the direction of the grain in the timber. Also the relative density of the wood, and how fine the grain is. Individual species will also differ in their basic flexibility (I suspect largely determined by the relationship of density and grain structure - but ask a wood guy.) Fast growing soft woods ( southern pine) are going to have the weakest grain structure. Slow growing hard woods (northern oak) are going to have the strongest. Certain species (as noted by others) will combine strength and flexibility - ash for example.

Modern timber is almost without exception cut to maximize production. This most often results in individual pieces having diagonal lines of the grain that run against the line of the beam: ///////// : Imagine applying force to either the end or the side of a stack of these diagonal lines...
On the compression members, there will be less effect (leading to failure). Practical experiences (related by many here) show that even smaller sizes of cheaper, lighter materials are less likely to fail. You can likely get away with 2 x 2 pine for the uprights.
The greatest effect will be seen on the horizontal beam. The sideways stress from wind can easily shear sawn lumber. We all have seen the warping effect that even the weight of a tent cover can exert on sawn planks.

If you could fix a plank used for the horizontal beam so that it rested with the largest dimension at 90 degrees to the ground : l : this would put the greatest mass of wood against the line of greatest stress. (It would not help with the sideways stress of wind load however). In practice, this would require the use of some kind of quite strong mortise and tendon arrangement where the upright joined to the horizontal. The tenancy is for the tall thin cross section to try to 'roll over', so there is a great sideways force applied to the pin used to join the two members.

Historically, timber was not sawn - but split. This results in the grain running in straight lines along the length of the timber, so this diagonal weakness in the grain is not present. Think of the thin split timbers used for ship construction.

The other way to avoid the whole problem is to use whole saplings. This gives the gain an uninterupted set of circluar 'tubes' that provide the maximum strength for the size and weight of the material. This is by far the superior solution to the problem of stress loads.

Getting the required saplings, for the longer horizontal beam especially, may prove a bit of a problem for urban dwellers. I'd suggest contacting your rural living friends. My own A frame uses a spruce sapling cut from about a 16 foot tree down to the required 12 foot length. It runs about 4 inches to about 2 inches. This tent is over 15 years old, and has weathered repeated violent storms (including one legendary one at L'Anse aux Meadows in 96). The main overhead beam still remains solid and straight.
In practical terms, you want to look for a small grove of trees growing too close together, This tends to force them upwards - rather than spreading outwards. The trees towards the centre are likely to have few sideways branches as well. (Imagine a single pine cone hitting fertile soil.)

One other important effect of the use of natural saplings is that you are also duplicating the type of wood used by the Norse. No cut 2 x 2 in the Viking Age. We have replaced all our commercial uprights with saplings for just that reason.

There are a set of simple plans for a classic Norse A frame tent available on the Norse Encampment series:

oh - one piece of advice:
Strip off all the bark. With the increasing contamination from alien insects, many regions do not allow transport of any timber with the bark on. You can NOT transport bark on timber across the US / Canada boarder for example. Easy to do with the wood green.


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