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Leatherwork from Hedeby

I’ve picked up a commission to make a Hedeby quiver. First step is to have a go at translating the relevant chapter of the standard reference, Willy Groenman van Waateringe’s Die Lederfunde Von Haithabu into English. I sent it off to a friend who was working with a group of German-literate people for the first cut. What came back was great, but it was obvious the people were neither archers nor leatherworkers. I think I’ve tidied it up to the point where it’s as coherent in English as I ever get. There will still be errors, so if you see any, I’d appreciate if you let me know.

Original text is in blockquotes, English below each section and I’ll keep my comments in something obvious. We’re starting on page 37, although there is a little relevant information from earlier pages that I’ll interpolate as we go.

4.4 Pfeilköcher (Abb 22; Taf. 25-27)

Die folgenden sieben Lederfragmente gehören zu mindestens zwei verschiedenen Gegenständen.

4.4 Arrow quiver (Illus. 22; Plate. 25-27)

The following seven leather fragments belong to at least two different objects.

1. Unregelmäßiges, längliches Lederstück, (46) x (27) cm; an einer Stelle Nahtlöcher, keine Zwirnabdrücke, eingedrückte Verzierung; entlang einer Naht unmittelbar an einer ausgefransten Schmalseite ein annahernd dreieckiger Fortsatz, Basis 11cm, Höhe 4 cm, am Rand Nahtlöcher, darin eine ovale Öffnung (3 x 1,5 cm), durch die ein der Länge nach doppelt gefaltetes Lederband zusammenge wird; Fragment eines zweiten, dreieckigen Teiles mit einer Öffnung, das ursprünglich auf diese aufgenaht war (Taf. 25. 1-2).

1. Irregular, elongated piece of leather, (46 x 27 cm); along one edge are stitch holes but no thread marks on the surface, embossed embellishment; an approximately triangular extension, base 11cm, height 4 cm is attached. At the edge of the attachment are stitch holes, in it an oval hole (3 x 1.5 cm), through which a lengthwise folded leather strap passes; Fragment of a second, triangular portion with a similar hole, (Plate 25. 1-2).

2. Drei aneinander und aufeinander passende Fragmente, die zusammengefügt einen an einer Schmalseite runden und an der anderen Schmalseite annähernd zickzackförmigen Genstand ergeben, 45 x 20.5 cm, an allen Seiten Nahtlöcher, nur am oberen Rand Zwirnabdrücke an der Narbenseite, eingedrückte Verzierung; etwa 13 cm unterhalb des oberen Randes, auf etwa einem Drittel der Höhe, links und rechts zwei annähernd dreieckige Fortsätze (11 x 4.5 cm mitm; 10 x 6 cm), entlang dem Rand Nahtlöcher, eine ovale Öffnung, (etwa 2 x 1.5 cm Taf. 26. 1 a, c-d).

2. Three matching fragments that are joined together with a folded edge on the outer side and a damaged edge on the other, 45 x 20.5 cm, stitch holes on all sides, on the upper edge there are thread imprints on the grain side. An embossed decoration is about 13 cm below the upper edge and at about one-third of the height, are two roughly triangular attachments (11x 4.5 cm; 10 x 6 cm) on the left and right with seam holes along the edge and an oval opening, (about 2 x 1.5 cm Plate 26. 1 a, c-d)

3. Dreieckiges Lederstück, 10.5 x 4 cm; an beiden Seiten, nicht jedoch an der Basis Nahtlöcher; fast quadratische Öffnung, 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 cm (Taf. 26. 1 b)

3. Triangular piece of leather, 10.5 x 4 cm; stitch holes on both sides, but not at the base; almost square opening, 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 cm (Plate 26. 1 b)

4. Stumpf kegelförmiges Stück Kalbs-/Rindsleder, Durchmesser der oberen Öffnung rund 9 cm, Höhe 16.5 cm; der obere Rand zur umgeschlagenen Randstück eine Verstärkung aus einem dicken Lederstück; Radialnähte vom Typ 1 b, Zwirnabdrücke an der Narbenseite; im unteren Rand bogenförmige Öffnungen mit Nahtlöchern, eingedrückte Verzierung in Form eines Kreuzes (Taf. 27 1 a-c).

4. Truncated cone-shaped piece of calf / cow leather, diameter of the upper opening approximately 9 cm, height 16.5 cm; the upper edge of the folded-over edge piece covers a reinforcement of a thick piece of leather; Radial seams of type 1 b [single needle saddle stitch], thread marks on the grain side; in the bottom arched openings with stitching holes, embossed ornament in the form of a cross (Pl. 27 1 a-c).

5. Kreuzförmiges Lederstück, Länge der Kreuzbalken 9.5 cm und 8.5 cm; der Form nach identisch mit der Verzierung auf Fragment 4 (Taf. 25.4).

5. Cruciform leather piece, length of the cross beam 9.5 cm and 8.5 cm; in form identical to the ornament on fragment 4 (Pl. 25.4)

6. Zwei längliche, an einer Seite spitz zulaufende Lederstücke, 39 x 2-9.5 cm und (34.5) x 5.5-9 cm; die andere Schmalseite gerundet, an allen Seiten Nahtlöcher, keine Zwimabdrücke; eingedrückte Fischgrätverzierungen (Taf. 27. 2 a-b).

6. Two elongated pieces of leather, tapering on one side, 39 x 2-9.5 cm and (34.5) x 5.5-9 cm; the other narrow side rounded, on every side stitch holes, no thread imprints; Embossed herringbone decoration. (Pl. 27 2.a-b)

[Page 38]

b0ae502e5088e6d70585a3358b5e55f7

Abb. 22 Pfeilköcher. 1 Rekonstruktion. 2. Darstellung auf dem Teppich von Bayeux (nach Stenton 1965).

Fig. 22 Quiver. 1 reconstruction. 2. Presentation on the Bayeux Tapestry (after Stenton 1965).

7. Sechs Fragmente von Randeinfassungen; der Form nach gehört die runde Einfassung (Taf. 26.2) sicher zu einem der unter 6. Beschriebenen Fragmente, die übrigen stammen möglicherweise su den unter 1.-2. beschriebenen Lederstücken.

7. Six fragments of edging; the circular rim (Pl. 26.2) belongs with one of the 6 outlined fragments, the others may have been below the other 1-2 leather pieces described.

Die Fragmente 1-5 werden hier als Teile von mindestens zwei Pfeilköchern interpretiert (Abbt. 22. 1). Grundlage dieser Ansicht bilden die Darstellungen von Pfeilköchern auf dem Teppich von Bayeux (Stenton 1965, Taf. 61-61; 70; X), auf denen deutlich zu erkennen ist, daß die Pfeilköcher der Bogenschützen einen verdickten oberen Rand aufweisen, ihre Seiten parallel geführt, das untere Ende gerundet und die Köcher selbst zumeist am Gürtel befestigt sind (Abb. 22.2).

The fragments 1-5 are interpreted here as parts of at least two quivers (Fig. 22. 1). This view is based on the depiction of arrow quivers on the Bayeux Tapestry (Stenton, 1965, plates 61-61, 70, X), which clearly show that the quivers of the archers have a thickened upper edge, the lower end rounded, and the quiver itself attached to the belt (Fig. 22.2).

k04

Plates 25, 26 and 27, quivers from Hedeby

Da die Fragmente 1 und 2 unterschiedliche Länge besitzen, müssen sie von zwei verschiedenen Exemplaren stammen. Die Gesamtlänge der Köcher betrug, falls Fragment 4 als oberes Randstück auf Fragment 1 oder 2 aufgesetzt war, mindestens 62 cm. Das stimmt gut mit der Länge der Köcher auf dem Teppich von Bayeux überein, die einem erwachsenen Mann von der Hüfte bis kurz unter das Knie reichen. Aus den Nahtspuren am unteren Rand von Fragment 4 ist die Art der Befestigung auf Fragment 1 oder 2 nicht deutlich rekonstruierbar. Diese Spuren passen auch nicht zu der Naht.

[Page 39 is missing from my copy]

[Page 40]

Beschrieben wird (Richardson 1961, Abb 19.24; S. 85): “Triangular appendage made of leather straps broken off below a rigid tubular thong with knobbed ends threaded through the straps to keep them spread out. The two outer straps are also threaded with thongs, one of which passes through the apex. Perhaps used for suspending a dagger or purse from the belt.” Es gibt aber, u. a. aus dem Dublin des 12. Und 13. Jahrhunderts auch Stücke, die hochmittelalterlich datiert werden (Katalog Dublin 1976, S. 43, Nr 188): “Leather object of unknown function. Oval with semicylindrical projection at each narrow end. Longitudinal slashing as ornament. Late 12th century. High street. Length 9.5 cm.” Ein vergleichbares Stück wurde 1974 bei den Ausgrabungen am Woodquay geborgen.[15] In Southampton ist ein solches Lederstück als “shoe tongue, slashed and pierced at either end for attachment” (Platt und Coleman-Smith 1975, S. 301) angesprochen worden. Die Datierung bewegt sich vermutlich im 16. Jahrhundert. Ähnliche Stücke sind darüber hinaus im spätmittelalterlichen Ledermaterial aus Holand vertreten.

Since the fragments 1 and 2 have different lengths, they must be from two different items. The total length of the quiver if fragment 4 was placed as the upper edge on fragment 1 or 2, will be at least 62 cm. This agrees with the length of the quivers shown on the Bayeux Tapestry, which reach from the waist to below the knee on an adult male. From the seam marks on the lower edge of fragment 4, the type of attachment to fragment 1 or 2 cannot be clearly reconstructed. These stitch holes also do not match the seam described (Richardson 1961, Figure 19.24; p.85): “Triangular appendage made of leather straps broken off below a rigid tubular thong with knobbed ends threaded through the straps to keep them spread out. The two outer straps are also threaded with thongs, one of which passes through the apex. Perhaps used for suspending a dagger or purse from the belt.” But there are, however, other finds from Dublin of the 12th and 13th centuries, also pieces that are dated high medieval (catalogue Dublin 1976, p 43, No. 188): “Leather object of unknown function. Oval with semi-cylindrical projection at each narrow end. Longitudinal slashing as ornament. Late 12th century. High street. Length 9.5 cm.” A similar piece was found in 1974 during excavations at Woodquay. [15] In Southampton such a piece of leather has been referred to as “shoe tongue, slashed and pierced at either end for attachment” (Platt and Coleman-Smith 1975, p.301). The dating is probably in the 16th century. Similar pieces are also represented in the late medieval leather material from Holland.


Anyone who knows me will already know that I disagree with the reconstruction shown in figure 22.1.

I’ve had a look around at what other people have done, and everyone seems to be using garment leathers to copy the appearance of the fragments after  1000 years is wet ground. As a consequence, no one has done the moulding on the top piece. I’ll be using vegetable tanned calf and cow leather so should be able to do those parts easily.

Thanks to Lissy O’Brien and her team of talented people. I owe you a beer and/or lunch.

References

Willy Groenman van Waateringe, Die Lederfunde Von Haithabu (K. Wachholtz, 1984) in Volume 21 of Berichte über die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu, ISSN 0525-5791

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9 thoughts on “Leatherwork from Hedeby

  1. This. Is. Fantastic.
    I’ve been (slowly) working my way into a project involving different types of quivers that were available to the people of the Viking Age. It is likely that I’ll branch into other periods and cultures (if my patience holds). The Hedeby quiver is one I’ve been fighting with.

    A quick google search of the Hedeby quiver reveals a couple of pictures of a version made with dark brown and tan coloured leather. The maker (whom I do not know) obviously believes that the tan leather was some kind of shroud used to protect the fletching (from the elements or travel or…). The reconstruction in 22.1 doesn’t support this. What are your thoughts on this particular detail?

    One more question, if I may… I am a rather inexperienced leather worker. I was planning to use the 8oz veggie tanned leather for the body and a softer, more flexible pigskin for the “shroud”. Does this sound like an ok thing in your opinion? If not, would you be so kind as to offer me a substitute?

    Thank you so much for this!
    Steve
    (random Scadian, wandering around Ealdormere)

  2. Hi Steve,
    Yes, I’m aware of that reproduction but I don’t find it very convincing. We do know there were covers on some quivers, but I don’t think this example is one. The main reason is that the edge is notched so wouldn’t do much of a job protecting the fletching. The embossing on the sides would also prevent it being pulled up. I think it’s mainly to help keep the quiver open and round, there’s a thick piece of leather inside the top roll. I did something similar on my Saxon quivers because they needed it.
    There’s a clear photograph of the top piece on plate 27 of the book, where you can see that the embossing is quite deep, around 5mm and that the edges have been skived, folded under and stitched.

    I had to look up what 8oz leather was, we work by thickness in mm here so excuse me if my conversion back is a little out. I used 2.7mm and 3.2mm leather (7 & 8 oz in your measure) on the main body of the two Saxon quivers I’ve done. I’ll be using the 2.7mm again on the Hedeby one. I’ll be doing the top band in 1.2mm (3oz) veg tanned calf hide so I can do the embossing, and 0.8mm (2oz) sheep hide for the decorative piping in the seams. I’ll probably wrap that around a slim linen cord to give it a bit of shape. The carrying lugs will be two pieces 2.7mm thick, placed back to back and sewn together.

    I think the main body is comprised of three parts, one up the back that goes about one third of the way around the quiver, a large front piece that goes full height at the sides, but has an inverted “V” cut out of the front, and the tear-drop shaped piece in plate 27 (two pieces 2a and 2b from two different quivers) at the centre front at the bottom. This means that the bit of the quiver that is likely to be damaged by the arrowheads being dropped in on it is replaceable without having to dismantle the entire quiver.

    I’ve only done mental 3d modelling at this stage, I’ll turn up a wooden form the same shape as the quiver and make patterns off it to confirm as soon as the temperature in the workshop drops below 45 degrees C for a few hours. This may take some time.

    Have you looked at the Nydam wooden quivers yet? One of those seems to have a leather lid. I’ll be turning one later and covering it on my other blog.

    Cheers,
    Wayne

    • Ok, I’ve got to ask…where is home for you? Throwing out metric measurements like they were Timbits n stuff, probably have The Hip playing in the background and knowing exactly what Gord is talking about in Bobcaygeon… I’m a Canuck and I’ve only ever heard of leather referred to as ounces. Weirdness.

      Yes, I am rather familiar with the quivers found at Nydam. I’m a professional woodturner and that made choosing to do Nydam first made sense to me. I’ve turned the form, cut it open (badly) and I’ve begun adzing out the inside. If I can offer you a tip, use a narrow adze. Myself, I’ve got very little experience using one. Lots of mis-hits have been made. I’m going to have a helluva time fixing it.

      I’m going to reread your comments about constructing the Hedeby quiver after I sleep. My brain has turned to mush.

      • The (currently far too) sunny Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, Australia. We’re about half way through a forecast 10 day heatwave, with temperatures most days in the low 40s. My generation are the ones who transitioned from avoirdupois/customary units to metric, so we’re mostly bi-lingual. I’m as comfortable working in inches or millipedes, but hadn’t encountered leather measurements in my childhood so work exclusively in metric for those. There must be more than just us, because the Internet is strewn with oz to mm leather thickness conversion tables. I do remember that 8oz is one of those sweet spots where it is 1/8″ thick and (therefore 3.2mm) but the others seem entirely arbitrary.

        I’ve been wondering about Nydam, the images I’ve seen of the inside look turned, which I think can be done with sufficient skill. There’s no evidence of cutting, hollowing and glueing on the “arrow tubes” found at Nydam in 1862 and 1993. Could the archaeologist doing the reporting have misinterpreted a longitudinal crack as as a deliberate seam, possibly due to an exaggerated belief in the limits of pole lathe turning? I’ll give it a go and report success or failure.

  3. Wayne,
    I finally looked up my source for the Nydam find. It is dated 2007 (linked below).The author is quite clear that the quiver was turned, split and carved out. I cannot imagine trying to turn the inside with a pole lathe. Heck, to do so on a modern lathe would require multiple steady rests and enough torque to pull a mountain up a bigger mountain. For mine, I have turned it, cut it in half lengthwise and I’m using a mix of my adze and gouges to hollow the halves. It is slow going.

    I would like to see the reports you have read on the Nydam find, if you could link to it. Here is the one I have… https://www.academia.edu/1812945/Remarks_on_finds_of_wooden_quivers_from_Nydam_mose_Southern_Jutland._Archaeologica_Baltica_8_2007

  4. Pingback: Hedeby Quiver – part the first | The Reverend's Big Blog of Leather

  5. Pingback: Hedeby quiver – part the second | The Reverend's Big Blog of Leather

  6. Pingback: Hedeby Quiver – the finish | The Reverend's Big Blog of Leather

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