Woven cultures: New insights into Pictish and Viking culture contact using the implements of textile production

Lindsey Stirling, Karen Milek

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This paper presents new approach to Pictish and Viking culture contact in Orkney using the material culture of everyday life, focusing in this case on implements used in textile production. The production of textiles was a major component of everyday life between the 5th and 12th centuries and the tools of production have survived well in the archaeological record. This paper uses a study of the implements used in textile production from six Viking and Pictish period sites on Orkney to assess the nature of textile production at this time and investigate whether or not it was affected by the arrival of Scandinavians. The results demonstrate that significant changes took place at the beginning of the Viking Age, with different thicknesses of thread being spun and woven, new materials and styles of artefacts being used, and new types of tools employed for particular tasks. The early Viking Age (9th–10th centuries) produced a great variety of textile tools, representing both Pictish and Scandinavian practices, suggesting a time of transition in which both Pictish and Viking styles were accommodated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-72
Number of pages26
JournalMedieval Archaeology
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

This paper is based on the undergraduate dissertation of Lindsey Stirling, which was supervised by Karen Milek, and which won the Society of Medieval Archaeology's John Hurst Memorial Dissertation Prize Acknowledgements
This research would not have been possible without the assistance of Dr Martin Goldberg at the National Museum of Scotland, Lynda Aiano at Tankerness House Museum, Orkney, and Beverley Ballin Smith. The authors also wish to thank the two anonymous reviewers who provided valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper.


  • Material culture
  • Textile Production
  • Picts
  • Vikings
  • Orkney
  • Scotland


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