Ancient Finnish Costumes .pdf
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Titolo: Ancient Finnish Costumes
Autore: Pirkko-Liisa Lehtsalo-Hilander
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FROM FINDS TO RECONSTRUCTIONS
Finnish inhumation cemeteries ......................................................................................................................................2
Textile finds and dresses................................................................................................................................................4
Excavations in the field and in laboratories ...................................................................................................................5
Colours under the microscope .......................................................................................................................................7
Fabrics and materials .....................................................................................................................................................8
From details to dress ......................................................................................................................................................9
SKETCHES AND ADAPTATIONS
The first pictures of ancient Finnish costumes.............................................................................................................10
The sketches of the costumes from Tuukkala ..............................................................................................................13
Ancient costumes on the stage.....................................................................................................................................14
What the scientist said .................................................................................................................................................16
Aino costume ...............................................................................................................................................................19
Hjalmar Appelgren-Kivalo's book and the first »Eura costumes» ...............................................................................19
RECONSTRUCTIONS FOR EXHIBITION AND FOR USE
The Pernio costume .....................................................................................................................................................22
The Tuukkala costume.................................................................................................................................................28
The new costumes made according to finds from Ladoga Karelia ..............................................................................33
The Eura costume ........................................................................................................................................................45
UNIFORM AND DISSIMILAR FASHION
Women's costume and its ornaments in western Finland during the late Iron Age .....................................................54
Development of fashion in other parts of Finland .......................................................................................................56
Basic structure of costumes in Northern Europe..........................................................................................................59
The origin of Finnish spiral ornamentation..................................................................................................................60
Real or imagined schools of decoration.......................................................................................................................61
Pan-European trends of fashion ...................................................................................................................................62
Select bibliography ......................................................................................................................................................64
Suomenkielinen lyhennelma - Resume pa svenska .....................................................................................................65
THE MOST RECENT RECONSTRUCTION: The Masku costume ..........................................................................77
National Board of Antiquities of Finland, Archive for Prints and Photographs (NBA)
Kalevala Koru Limited
English language checked by Philip Binham, M.A.
Karjalaisen Kulttuurin Edistämissäätiö and
A. Ahlström Osakeyhtiö Company hade provided financial support for the publishing of this book
Design and (c) Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander
Published by Suomen arkeologinen seura - The Finnish Archaeological Society,
Box 913, 00101 Helsinki, Finland
Printed by Vammalan Kirjapaino Oy, Vammala, 1984
by Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander
This is the story of Finnish ancient dresses, of dress
fragments found in graves and of costumes made
according to them. These costumes have become the
festal garments of many Finnish women, but only
few know the history of them.
These dresses are not national costumes although
they have often been confused with them. National
costumes are copied or constructed according to the
peasant dresses of the 18th and 19th centuries. The
costumes we are studying now are more or less
scientific reconstructions of much older garments
deriving from the Viking Age and centuries
Their story, however, is closely linked with the
history of Finnish national costumes, and also with
that of »Kalevala», the Finnish national epic.
Therefore there is every reason to tell it now, on the
eve of the 150th anniversary of »Kalevala».
From Grave Finds to Reconstructions
Finnish inhumation cemeteries
There are almost no pictures of Iron Age costumes in Finland. Accordingly only grave finds can
tell us how the Finns were dressed in prehistoric times. However, during nearly all of the Bronze
and Iron Ages, cremation was the prevailing form of burial in Finland, and therefore the first
information we can obtain from graves is from a fairly late phase of the Iron Age. Certainly, the
oldest known textile remains are from the 4th century A.D., but they are only small fragments
fastened on a spearhead found in the Kärsämäki cemetery in Turku. It is not possible to make
any reconstructions based on them.
About the year 600 A.D. inhumation burial became usual in Eura and Köyliö in Satakunta. At
the end of the 8th century this practice had extended to Yläne in northern Finland Proper, and it
spread also to the other neighbouring areas, but only sporadically. In Eura, Köyliö and Yläne,
however, the inhumation cemeteries were in continued use until the end of the heathen era.
Accordingly it is mostly from these parishes round Pyhäjärvi that we can get information about
dresses and their materials during the Merovingian and Viking periods.
From the 11th century onwards there are inhumation graves also from other parishes in
southwestern Finland, and from the next century there is also material from eastern Finland, from
Savo and Karelia. The dress fragments found in these graves are also important from the panEuropean point of view, because there are furnished graves as late as these only from a very few
areas in Europe and there are no costumes from that time in any private or museum collections.
Dress details have mostly been preserved in Finland because some garments have been
ornamented with small bronze spiral tubes sewn on to the fabrics. These spiral ornaments have
often been preserved, and their oxides have also conserved textiles. The spiral ornamentation is
richest in the garments found in the youngest graves, and therefore our knowledge about the
costumes of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries is most abundant. Finds like those from Yliskylä in
Perniö and Ristinpelto in Lieto, where textile fragments more than one metre long have been
preserved, are very unusual, however. In general only after a careful excavation, a detailed
documentation and many laboratory examinations can we get enough information about the
connections of the ornaments and spiral decorations.
The deceased have not always been dressed like living people. Sometimes the dead women have
been covered with their big mantles or they can have been wrapped up in them, although they
have otherwise been dressed in their best garments. The men on the other hand seem often to
have had the mantle on their shoulders just as it could have been worn. But although there were
many details in graves and they were in their proper places, it is a long way from the finding of
an inhumation grave to a reconstructed dress.
Textile finds and dresses
The problems involved with textiles and other organic substances already begin to appear while
excavating. The textile remains are seldom well-preserved, because the graves are generally
shallow, about 40 to 100 centimetres deep, and the fine sand - and still less the gravel - in which
the graves have most frequently been dug is by no means favourable soil for the preservation of
organic substances. On the other hand, the custom of ornamenting clothes with small twisted
spirals of bronze and using heavy bronze ornaments has helped preservation. Accordingly the
best details have been preserved in graves with abundant furnishings.
The spiral decorations are often the only parts of clothes left. In women's mantles, only the
trimming has been preserved, in aprons the hems, and in veils the rows of rings round the face.
There are not many remains of under garments or dresses. There might be small textile fragments
in connection with brooches and other ornaments of dress, but skirts and gowns have usually not
been ornamented with 'spirals, and therefore they have not so often been preserved. Shirts and
under garments have mostly disintegrated, especially linen ones, because linen suffers more from
soil acids than wool.
According to digging observations, the under garments have also often been of wool. It is
however possible that in these instances too the deceased might have had a linen shirt nearest his
skin. Not all details have been preserved, and often
only the textiles directly under or over bronze ornaments are identifiable. Thus there could have
been more than we can observe now.
Spirals were used less in men's clothes, and therefore there are fewer remains of them. In some
graves in Eura and Köyliö there have been men's belts and garters with spiral platings. Men's
cloaks have also been ornamented with applicated spiral stars and with ornaments extending
from the corners or edges of the mantle. Thus it has been possible to reconstruct some details of
the male costume also.
There are also children's graves in the Finnish cemeteries, and some of them have been
abundantly furnished. Thus we know that sometimes the children have been adorned with
miniature-sized ornaments. It seems that little girls could have had garments similar to those
used by women, although there are no remains of aprons and veils in children's graves. Shirt,
dress and mantle have been sufficient for little girls.
The little boys have been given a miniature spearhead or an axe, and there are sometimes details
of belts and mantle brooches or ornamental pins. Textile remains are however few. There is
nothing from Finland like the spiral-ornamented tunic found in a Livonian boy's grave at
Salaspils Laukskola in Latvia. Just as in men's garments there has not been abundant metal
ornamentation in their costumes. This does not mean that these garments have not been
decorated. They may have had colourful bands and ornamental borders, which have not been
Excavations in the field and in laboratories
Textiles a thousand years or more old are very brittle. Nor have the small bronze spirals always
preserved their structure during the centuries. Even in some instances the cords have been
preserved and the spirals have disappeared. And they can disintegrate very soon after the
excavations. Therefore it is very necessary to chart and photograph various details at the
There are however certain risks in trying to throw light upon all details during the excavations.
The varying of conditions, a change from damp cool sand to the air at a temperature of perhaps
30 degrees Centigrade, will not fail to leave traces on objects and fabrics. Rust cracks off in
flakes from iron objects, birchbark and leather curl up, textiles crumble in the hands. In no more
than the time it takes to make a drawing and take a photograph, objects may disintegrate.
This happened, for instance, to the large bronze-coated knife sheath found in the Luistari grave
according to which the Eura costume is reconstructed. The sheath was dug up almost
undamaged, and was photographed along with other objects from the grave, but before it could
be transferred to a box for transportation, the leather below the bronze plating began to curl up.
This caused the thin bronze plate, which had become very brittle, to disintegrate, so that nothing
but fragments was left. Fortunately the photographs had come off well; the details could be
studied in them.
To avoid situations like this, various methods of transporting graves or parts of them packed in
some kind of adhesive substance have been developed. The final excavation is performed in the
museum after the grave has first been studied by X-raying. Every detail is drawn on maps and
studied in microscopes before the lumps of organic material are parted from metals. It is most
fortunate, although not
always possible, if this kind of "excavation" in the museum is performed by a team of textile
experts, laboratory personnel, archeologists, draughtsmen and photographers.
The conservator's biggest problem is how to handle the combinations of many different
materials. Bronze spirals sewn on to various pieces of clothing or with threads through them are
met with in almost all investigations of inhumation graves. Pieces of cloth preserved on or under
bronze ornaments and rusted fast to the surfaces of iron objects are not uncommon either.
Leather has often been preserved together with bronze-plated knife sheaths, belts and purses, and
sometimes one may find remains of skins spread beneath the dead persons. Brocade ribbons and
silver braids are more rare, but they are found every now and again. The conservator wants to
separate the different materials for the proper treatment, but this cannot be done without careful
The textile expert may be quite content if he observes the composition of a rare fabric, or a
tablet-woven band with an unusual weft. The archeologist wishes to know whether this fabric
was the cover for a body or whether the body was dressed in it. The things the historian of dress
is interested in are again different. He wants to know whether the warp may run across the body,
and whether the unusual band was stitched on to the edge of the fabric or was separate from it.
Even very small pieces of fabric may help him to reconstruct the whole, if he gets correct
information about them.
Colours under the microscope
The structure of fabrics can be detected from little bits, too, and it is possible to find out the
original colours of the fibres to some extent by microscopic studies. Some colouring matters
used like indigo can be detected by chemical analyses, but most of the vegetable dyes are as yet
impossible to distinguish with chemical methods. Therefore the microscopic observations are
very important in defining colours. Also our knowledge about dyes formerly used by country
women is of use, likewise the fact that interest in dyeing with vegetable matters is increasing in
Finland. So we can compare the old fibres with the new ones dyed with known matters.
Unfortunately, the colours have changed in the earth during the many hundred years gone by.
Bright scarlet and deep-blue are, however, easily distinguishable from others. In addition, there
are also textile finds in which different tints can clearly be seen. For instance from Tuukkala in
Mikkeli (Savo) there are cloth fragments with brownish basic tone and red, blue and yellow
stripes. Thus we know that strong colours have also been used.
It is possible that the threads for tablet-woven bands and other ribbons were most often dyed.
With them one could get a colourful impression although the garments would have been of
natural colours, white, grey or blackish brown. It is however worth remembering that there are
many plants in Finland which were used in dyeing before the aniline colours were invented, and
it is not difficult to get them or use them in dyeing. Nettles and spruce twings for greens, birch
leaves, heather and lycopodium for yellows, moss and lichen for browns and hazels, many
different kinds of Galium species for brick red and orange yellows can be found everywhere.
And it is known that still during the last century woad (Isatis tinctoria) was cultivated in Finland
to get blue. Now it is almost extinct; it only grows wild in some places on the Finnish coast.
The dyeing substance in Isatis tinctoria is the same as in the indigo plant, although much weaker.
Therefore it is not possible to say whether the dyeing has been done with woad or with indigo.
Probably the colouring matter used in the northern countries in ancient times was woad, because
its seeds have been found from the Oseberg ship burial in Norway. It is also known that
Charlemagne had woad and madder fields sowed in his domains, and later on these plants were
widely cultivated in Western Europe.
According to present finds we could assume that blue was a very popular colour among the
Finns. However, this can be a misconception. When textiles have been preserved only in graves
with ample furniture, blue can be the colour especially favoured by the rich and only used by
them. Are then the clothes dyed blue
imported? There are no other facts to support this claim; weave constructions and thread counts
are mostly the same in the blue stuffs as in other woven fabrics found in Finland.
Fabrics and materials
The fabrics woven in Finland during the Iron Age were not complicated. In addition to plain
weave, different twills were woven. Plain four-shaft fabrics were the most popular, but in the
youngest finds there are also chevron and broken twills and three-shaft twills. Sometimes the
pattern was formed by using threads spun in differing directions.
It is most likely that the stuffs were woven in warp-weighted looms similar to those still in use
among the Lapps. The fabrics woven in these could be very wide but seldom long, although it
must have been possible to roll up the stuff in some measure. We will see later that this fact has
had a certain effect upon the forms of the garments.
In Finnish twills the thread counts are mostly about 10 × 10 threads per centimetre. There are
much rougher twills, too, but they are rare. The finest fabrics can have more than 20 warp
threads, but then the weft is usually looser. Some stuffs in the Karelian finds with nearly 40 warp
threads may possibly be imported. There are however bands from the Viking Age made of very
fine threads, so the great thread density is not necessarily a mark of foreign origin.
Woollen tabbies are found more seldom, but every now and then they occur, and mostly in under
garments. They have usually eight to ten threads in both directions, but finer weaves are not
uncommon. Linen, hemp and nettle appear only in plain weave. Thread counts in these vary very
much. The loosest hemp weaves have less than ten threads per centimetre in both directions, the
finest linen found more than twenty.
Bands woven with gold and silver threads and silk fabrics are the most unusual finds in Finnish
cemeteries. These luxuries have not however been unknown in
Finland during the Viking Age and the centuries immediately following. The oldest silk find is
from a 10th century man's grave in Eura, and there are both silk and brocade bands from a man's
grave of the 12th century in Tampere. From about the same time or still later are the Karelian
graves containing remains of brocade bands. In these the bands were found in connection with
female head dresses. All these rare fabrics are certainly imported.
From details to dress
A mere cloth, although its structure and colours may be known, is not a costume. It is not enough
for a reconstruction of a dress that one sample of each article of clothing is analyzed. The pieces
of fabrics from different parts of the grave must be studied and the analyses of them must be
compared. It is most fortunate if there are several pieces of fabric of all the garments in one and
the same grave, but the graves are seldom so well preserved.
In studying ancient costumes there are always many details which allow different interpretations.
Even if we inspect the things most carefully, there are always details about which we cannot be
sure. If there are several contemporaneous textile graves in the same cemetery, the observations
made from different graves can be used to support each other. It must be remembered, however,
that in all probability the fashions were not so uniform as is generally supposed.
We can obtain information also by studying dresses of the neighbouring areas and
contemporaneous fashions of the neighbouring countries. Possibly also the native costumes of
later times can suggest practical solutions. There is good reason, however, to be cautious in
dealing with this material, because many international fashion trends have influenced the Finnish
native costumes we know from descriptions of the 18th and 19th centuries and from garments
collected in the museums.
Every Finnish dress reconstruction is made by linking together excavation observations, analyses
and knowledge of fashion. The role played by each of these has been dependent on the individual
scientists and on the object of the reconstruction work. Some costumes have been reconstructed
for a museum exhibition, some others to be worn as festal garb, some to be stage costumes.
Some dresses have first been drawn as sketches, and realized later on just as sketchily, some
have been studied in every detail. When Eura costume was reconstructed, archeological
observations were the most important, most of the others have been reconstructed by scientists
with ethnological background. Thus these dresses do not only describe the fashion of ancient
times, they tell us also about the changes in the principles of investigations.
Sketches and Adaptations
The first pictures of ancient Finnish costumes
The first pictures of ancient Finnish costumes according to archeological finds could be seen in
1887, when drawings of an Iron Age man and his wife were published in the third popular
edition of "Kalevala", the Finnish national epic. According to the explanation with the pictures,
the costumes had been sketched on the base of the grave finds excavated by Theodor Schvindt in
The details in the man's appearance have probably been taken principally from grave 3 in the
Kekomäki cemetery in Kaukola. In this grave there was a sword with silver-ornamented handle
and a sheath with bronze chape. Both can clearly be seen in the picture. Further the band around
the neck, two knives, a purse, a firesteel and a spear are drawn according to the finds in grave 3,
although all details are not accurate.
Both in grave 2 and 3 there was a ring-shaped brooch like the one fastening the man's shirt, but
the big silver brooch in the tunic must have been drawn according to a brooch from grave 1 at
Kekomäki; in graves 2 and 3 the big silver brooches were of a different type.
Silver cross pendants had already reached Finland in the 11th century, and they seem to have
been chiefly used by men. Also in the Kekomäki cemetery men in graves 1 and 3 had been
buried with cross pendants on their chests, but this detail has not caught the interest of the artist.
Apparently he has wished to picture a man from pagan Finland, although he has taken his models
from graves dated to the 12th and 13th centuries.
The man's costume consists of a shirt, a long-sleeved, knee-deep smock and rather tight trousers.
On his feet he has fur brogues laced round the ankles. The belted tunic is open almost to the
waist, and it is fastened with the big silver brooch mentioned.
In the woman's dress there are also details from many different graves. The brocade band round
the head, the veil with spiral borders, the neck ribbon with small silver studs and the hat-formed
brooch in the neck-line are certainly from grave 1 at Kekomäki. But there are no breast
ornaments similar to the ones in the picture from any of the Karelian graves excavated before
Many graves in the Tuukkala cemetery in Mikkeli had been excavated in 1886, and apparently
these also had influenced opinions about the shape of the female dress. Oval brooches with the
so called crayfish ornament (in fact a palmette composition), small bronze tubes with hanging
pendants, cross-formed chain holders, an ear-spoon with pendants and a bird pendant must have
been drawn according to the finds from Tuukkala. But the imposing ornament has not been
enough; there are two knives, a firesteel and a purse hanging from the chains. Of these, only one
knife really belongs to the set according to the grave finds.
The influence of the Tuukkala finds is visible also in the garments. The fringes on the side seam
of the skirt appear also in the pictures of a girl and a woman from Tuukkala, drawn and
published in 1889, and a textile fragment with a preserved seam with fringes really exists, found
from grave 36 at Tuukkala. Some fragments found at Hovinsaari in Räisälä have been explained
by Schvindt similarly. The spiral decoration of the skirt hem on the other hand can only have
been made on the basis of the finds in Tuukkala grave 26.
The apron ornamentation, on the other hand, seems to have details of two separate aprons, both
found in the Kekomäki grave 1 at Kaukola. There were in this grave two men and two women,
and apparently the border ornament has been taken from the one and the broad applicated
ornament from the other apron. Thus the confusion of the details, which appears in all
reconstructions of the eastern Finnish ancient dresses, originates in the first sketches ever made.
There are still some interesting details. The long-sleeved jacket with open front appears only in
this picture. Its model has probably been obtained from jackets of later peasant dresses. It is not
impossible that garments with open front were used in Finland during the 11th and 12th
centuries, but probably they were used by men.
Another garment which requires comment is the woman's mantle. It hangs down her back and is
fastened with three brooches. A big silver brooch joins its upper comers, and two oval brooches
make it fast to the jacket. There is, however, a mention in the explanations attached to the
pictures that probably the oval brooches should be under the mantle to fasten some other
The sketches of the costumes from Tuukkala
There is in the ethnological Archive for Prints and Photographs of the National Board of
Antiquities in Finland a series of water-colour sketches and Indian ink drawings of costumes
from Tuukkala. In all probability all of them have been made according to the instructions of
A.O. Heikel, a former well-known ethnologist and expert in questions of native dresses, who has
published the finds from Tuukkala.
The water-colours represent a man, a young wife and a girl, and there are two sketches of an
older married woman. The Indian ink drawings picture the man, the woman and the girl in the
same positions. These have been published in connection with A.O. Heikel's report on the
excavations of Tuukkala in 1889.
There has not been much more material than some shirt brooches and bronze-mounted belts for
the reconstruction of the man's costume. Thus it does not have many details, and also in the
water-colour sketch all the man's garments are light-coloured, white or grey.
The man has rather wide grey trousers fastened round the calves with gaiters and garters holding
them. He has a white shirt fastened with a ring-brooch and a natural white coat girded with a belt
with rectangular bronze mounts. This belt, from which a purse, a firesteel and a knife are
hanging, has clearly been drawn according to the belts found at Tuukkala. The man has an axe
stuck in his belt and a bow and arrow in his hands. It is probable that grave 39 at Tuukkala has
provided most details for this sketch.
The Tuukkala girl's dress consists of an apron, a long-sleeved shift, a waist-high skirt and a
sleeveless tunic open at the shoulders. In this dress the oval brooches have a real task: they hold
the tunic up. After this picture was published all the brooch pairs found in graves have been
regarded as fastenings of a dress open at the shoulders. The long tunic, however, appears only in
the pictures made of the Tuukkala girl and the young wife. Later on the brooches have been
connected to the long skirt, which covered the chest and the back and was fastened with
brooches over the shoulders. The older Tuukkala woman has apparently this type of dress,
although the mantle fastened on the right shoulder covers the details of the upper dress.
There is more colour in the Tuukkala female dresses than in the man's costume. All the women
have been given a white shift, a blue skirt or dress and a grey brown apron. The woman's mantle
and the girl's tunic are brown, the young wife's tunic, which also covers the upper part of the
apron, is almost black. All the wives have a white veil on their head, but the girl has only a dark
headband. There is still more colour: the neck-openings and wristbands of the shifts are bordered
with red. This is a detail which certainly has not had a counterpart in reality.
The water-colour of the young Tuukkala wife contains an interesting detail: the woman's mantle
is striped with different colours. When it was painted, no textiles with stripes had been found at
Tuukkala. It was almost fifty years later that rather large fragments of a brown garment with
yellow, red and blue stripes were found from this cemetery!
If these sketches of Tuukkala women are compared with the earlier picture of the Karelian wife,
it is not difficult to see that the differences are small. None of these pictures is made on the base
of one grave only, and no reports exist explaining which finds had been used and why. Although
they are made according to the
instructions of scientists, they are not well-founded scientific reconstructions. The Tuukkala
woman's costume, in which the mantle covers the shoulders, corresponds, however, rather well
to the picture obtained on the base of the grave finds. Seemingly it is based principally on details
in grave 26 at Tuukkala.
All the Tuukkala people in these sketches have birchbark shoes, but this is not correct. Remains
of footwear in graves have always been of leather, and there are not many of them. Although
birchbark was used for many different purposes, there are no remains of objects made by
weaving strips as in these slippers. All birchbark articles found in graves have so far been made
by sewing uniform pieces together.
Ancient costumes on the stage
The next time the ancient costumes appeared, they were already on living people. This happened
at a lottery festival of the Viipuri students' union in 1893, where a tableau of an ancient Finnish
family was shown. There were a man, a woman and a little girl in costumes probably made
according to the instructions of Theodor Schvindt. This "ancient family" was photographed
perhaps in the previous year, and accordingly we know what these first costumes of natural size
Contrary to the pictures presented the man was dressed in a very tight-fitting tunic, which seems
to have been a little too narrow for its wearer. Its hem was ornamented with a multi-coloured
band woven with a rigid heddle. There was a small skull-cap on the man's head, and his-dark
trousers were cross-gartered to his calves with long coloured ribbons. His tunic was girded with a
leather belt, and a purse, a firesteel and a knife were hanging from it. There was a ring-brooch in
the tunic's neck-opening, and a spear represented the man's arms. Some of these objects are in
the collections of the National Museum in Helsinki.
The woman's dress was deposited with the historical collections of the National Museum of
Finland almost in its entirety, and therefore we know its appearance still better. This ancient
mistress of the house was dressed in a white veil and a shift, over which she wore an azure blue
shoulder-strap dress and a cherry-red apron. The dress was decorated with coloured bands round
the edges of the neck-opening, the arm holes and the hem, and the apron hem was applicated
with a spiral border and ended with fringes. This decoration resembles the border found in grave
3 at Hovinsaari in Räisälä and one of the ornaments in grave 1 at Kekomäki in Kaukola.
There was a penannular brooch on the neckline of the shift. This brooch has not been deposited
with the collections of the National Museum; only the round brooch from the girl's shift neckline
is there. Two oval brooches with band ornaments fastened the dress on the shoulders. These
brooches bore the chain holders and chains, from which an ear-spoon, a purse, a firesteel and a
knife were hanging. It is noteworthy that all the objects are hanging from the breast-chains; no
side-chains appear as in the costumes designed according to the finds from Tuukkala.
The chains are of iron like the original chains in Karelian finds, but their links are eight-formed.
Apparently they have not been made according to the actual finds, and the fastening of the
objects directly to them must be based on wrong interpretation of sources. The objects in the
arrangement have been copied according to different grave finds from Kaukola, Räisälä and
The most interesting in this connection is however the dress of the little girl. It seems that in her
dress the brooches have been fastened on straight selvages of the cloth. Apparently this has been
done according to the finds of grave 5 at Kekomäki in Kaukola. There was in this grave a man, a
woman and a little girl, and the girl was dressed in a costume resembling the costumes of grownup women. The brooches only were of miniature size and the textile fragments had clearly
selvage borders without any ornamental bands.
The girl's stage costume was however simpler than the one in the original grave. In the latter the
girl had a silver brooch on her neckline, chain holders on her chest and a mantle with engraved
silver brooch. There were also some beads, a knife and a bronze pendant representing a horse
with two heads. Accordingly she had been buried dressed as gorgeously as a lady of a big house.
The girl on the stage had multi-coloured bands round her waist and her calves instead of these
What the scientist said
In the same year as the tableau mentioned above was performed, Theodor Schvindt took his
degree of doctor of philosophy. His thesis was about the Iron Age in Karelia, and although he did
not publish any sketches of reconstructed dresses, he portrayed the costumes in words.
According to him the Karelian men had next to their skin a shirt of woollen cloth. This had a
neck-opening in front fastened with a silver ring-brooch. Sometimes there were eyelets for the
brooch pin, sometimes the pin was stuck through the shirt cloth. Most of the brooches were of
silver, some gilded, and seemingly many of them were imported from the western world; one of
them had a text Ave Maria on the front.
According to Schvindt there were few remains of trousers, but near the waist there were often
remains of a thick woollen garment, which also covered the chest. This garment was most
probably some kind of a smock or tunic, closed in front and girded with a leather belt studded
with bronze or iron mounts. In some graves there was also a cloak fastened with a silver brooch
engraved with vegetable patterns. This is a garment which had not appeared in any of the
Schvindt was of the opinion that the men's footwear had been of leather although there were only
small fragments left. Some other leather fragments he interpreted as remains of a cap, but
otherwise headgear seems to have been lacking in the men's graves in Karelia.
The men had around their neck a birch bark band covered with fine nettle linen and mounted
with thin silver studs. On their chest they bore a silver cross pendant, and on their fingers they
had rings of silver or bronze.
According to the finds, Karelian women had next to their skin a woollen shirt-like garment, the
neck-opening of which was fastened with a round silver brooch. The shirt was covered by a
garment open at the shoulders, the upper and lower selvages of which were bordered by tabletwoven bands or plaited ribbons. Thus in the graves there were no bands woven with a rigid
heddle as in the dresses made for the stage. Later it has been thought that rigid heddle bands
were probably not woven in Finland during prehistoric times.
In the same connection Schvindt mentions clearly that the dress was sometimes folded in two at
the shoulders, and he compares it with the Grecian peplos, which was only a large rectangular
piece of cloth. He reminds us also that similar mantle-dresses were seen as late as in the 19th
century in south-eastern Karelia and in Inkeri. On the other hand he talks of a dress sewn
together under the arms. In either case he passes over in silence the shoulder straps which
appeared in the women's dresses in the pictures and in the tableau. Thus from the beginning
scientific ideas of dresses were different from those of "art".
Schvindt tells us that the apron was one of the most imposing parts of the Karelian woman's
costume. He reminds us, however, that the apron ornamented with bronze spirals was not worn
as often as breast ornaments of the dress. All women had two oval shoulder brooches and often
there were heavy chain arrangements hanging from them.
As their topmost garment, women had a large folding mantle, which covered the breast
ornaments but not the shirt brooch. This statement is also in contradiction to the fashion plate of
the third edition of "Kalevala ", where the mantle covers only the back of the woman. Moreover,
Schvindt tells us nothing about the spiral ornaments of the mantle. He mentions only that the
border of the mantle was woven differently and was fringed. The mantle in the plate has a spiral
In addition Schvindt makes a very interesting remark. He says that the veil could have been the
selfsame garment as the mantle. This supposition has not been sketched in any of the
reconstruction drawings known, but it has not been made without grounds. If we recall the
madonnas in eastern icons and the western
European fashion of the same time, the 12th and 13th centuries, which Schvindt also mentions, it
seems very possible that a wide mantle could have covered both the head and the shoulders.
Schvindt supposed that the footwear of the women was not made of only one piece of leather
like the slippers called "nokkakurpposet", which are known from ethnological material. Among
the finds there were fragments and ribbons of leather with holes along the borders, so that the
shoes must have been sewn from several pieces. Separate soles or heels were however not found,
so the shoes could have been made of one piece, but ornamented with separate lists. Schvindt
explains in his book that birchbark slippers were not found in graves, because they were working
shoes. The deceased were buried in their festal garments, and so they had to have finer shoes
According to Schvindt there were no socks or stockings in these graves, but later on Tyyni
Vahter, another Finnish ethnologist and dress researcher, interpreted a textile fragment from
Kekomäki in Kaukola as a remnant of a sock. Probably this is a misconstruction and the
fragment is from a mitten. The fragment in question is made with needle like sewn mittens,
which are known from some Finnish late Iron Age finds.
Although Schvindt interpreted his finds critically and presented several possibilities, he is
responsible for the existence of the dress which was later known as the "Aino costume". This
costume, which became connected with Aino in "Kalevala", was very popular at the turn of the
20th century and was put on a level with national costumes.
Schvindt first published a coloured drawing and instructions for this "ancient Finnish woman's
dress" in an appendix to the periodical "Koti ja yhteiskunta" (Home and Society) in 1899. When
this appendix, which also contained seven national costumes, was very soon sold out, Schvindt
published a separate pattern brochure in 1902. In addition to several national costumes it
contained patterns for the Aino costume and also for an ancient Karelian man's costume.
In these pattern drawings the woman's dress resembled rather closely the costume presented on
the stage in 1893. There were the same white shirt, azure blue dress with shoulder straps and
cherry red apron with spiral decorations. The dress hem, neckline and arm openings were
bordered with multi-coloured rigid heddle bands.
These costumes also became known through the medium of schools and courses. Black and
white drawings of them were published as educational pictures in 1906, and there were
needlework courses in Helsinki where women made Aino costumes for themselves and for their
daughters. I have not seen anybody mentioned who had sewn an ancient costume for a man.
The immense popularity was fatal for the Aino costume. There was soon a variety of dresses all
called by the same name. Not everybody wanted to make difficult spiral ornaments, and they
began to replace them with flat metal pieces or needlework decorations, finally with weaved
stripes. The ornamental bands became wider and more coloured, and in the end the apron totally
disappeared and the dress was given a belt with mounts, a detail which is never found in Finnish
Accordingly the Aino costume, which is still manufactured, has almost no genuine details. It
could be considered as a perfect fantasy dress, for the shape of which the late Doctor Schvindt
could no longer be responsible.
Hjalmar Appelgren-Kivalo's book and the first "Eura costumes"
Still in the same year 1893, when Theodor Schvindt defended his thesis about the Karelian Iron
Age, Hjalmar Appelgren(-Kivalo) excavated at Yliskylä in Perniö. He dug up only eleven
graves, but some of them were the best preserved in the whole of Finland. Moreover, AppelgrenKivalo, who later became the Finnish state archeologist, was one of the best excavators Finland
has ever had. Through his excellent work in the field, the western Finnish woman's dress of the
12th century began to take shape abreast of the eastern Finnish costumes.
Appelgren-Kivalo's work "Finnische Trachten aus der jüngeren Eisenzeit" was published in
1907, and it is still a very important source-book, especially for its excellent pictures. It also
throws light upon find conditions much more completely than any earlier and many later
published works. There are, however, no
reconstruction drawings of costumes in this book. Appelgren-Kivalo was content with
descriptions of the finds, which had contained dress details.
He has seemingly, however, already in this connection drawn the sketches preserved in the
archives of the Section for Prehistory of the National Board of Antiquities. In addition to the
sketches of costumes based on the Perniö finds, there are also drawings connected with the finds
from Eura and an outlined dress with the heading "Osmanmäki". Osmanmäki is a late Iron Age
cemetery in Eura, disturbed and excavated during the last decades of the 19th and at the
beginning of the 20th century.
The last-mentioned sketch represents a female torso, which has on its shoulders a mantle ending
in spiral. ornaments. It is interesting to note that the model for these ornaments has been the
same border which Appelgren-Kivalo explained in his work as an apron hem decoration.
This woman has round her neck a band with some beads and a round pendant or coin. The dress
front reaches right up to the neck and its upper edge is quite straight. There is at the right
shoulder a strap coming from behind and overlapping the front part, to which it is fastened with a
double cross pin common in East Baltic countries. Apparently there is another pin at the left
shoulder covered by the mantle. There are spiral-ended chain holders between the pins and the
breast chain, and on the right a very big knife sheath has been fastened with a side chain to the
On her left wrist and arm the woman bears two spiral bracelets. Spiral-ended charms and a round
pendant or coin hang from one of them. All these details appeared in a grave published in
Appelgren-Kivalo's book and excavated in 1890 at Osmanmäki in Eura. The grave was,
however, not undisturbed when it was excavated.
Also the earliest published picture of western Finnish costume seems to a great extent to have
been based on the finds from Eura. In a picture plate prepared for school teaching and printed in
1911 there is among objects of the late Iron Age a woman dressed in an ancient costume. It is
quite apparent that the pattern for her apron and mantle has been obtained from the Osmanmäki
and Lauhianmäki finds in Eura. It is also possible that the chain arrangement with its round
shoulder brooches is based on finds from Eura, although there are additional pendants e.g. from
some other western Finnish finds.
Some of the bracelets can also be from Eura. likewise the penannular brooch on the woman's
breast, but the neck-ring has been shaped according to some Lappish hoard finds. There is also
at her neck a silver chain with many pendants, the original of which was found from
Hämeenlinna. Her head is decorated with a diadem based on the Perniö finds.
Apparently the rich finds of Eura were not enough for those, who dreamed of an ancient time of
greatness. This woman has not only ornaments from many different parishes, but she has been
dressed in the fashions of many centuries. The oldest ornaments in her dress are not later than the
middle of the Viking period (about 900 A.D.), the youngest details show the fashion of the 12th
Reconstructions for Exhibition and for Use
The Perniö costume
The first dress
A woman's dress based on the finds from Perniö is exhibited on a mannikin in the Finnish
National Museum in Helsinki. It was reconstructed for the Nordic Archeological Congress in
1925, and it was made according to the instructions of Hjalmar Appelgren-Kivalo, who was then
the head of the museum. For many decades it represented the official truth, because the scientific
basis of the Karelian dress sank into oblivion and the Tuukkala costume was reconstructed
without new detailed research.
The excavations at Humikkala in Masku in the 1920's produced plenty of new material, but the
excavator Sakari Pälsi, who - although an archaelogist - is better known as a writer and an
ethnologist, was of the opinion that these finds only confirmed the truthfulness of the
reconstruction in the National Museum. Nobody contested the shape of the dress, although there
were discussion about its colours. It was still claimed in the 1970's that no need could appear for
greater alterations in the design of the ancient woman's dress.
The Perniö dress in the National Museum consists of a shift, a dress, an apron, a mantle and a
headdress. The shift is of linen, although according to Appelgren-Kivalo also the innermost
garment in the Perniö graves was of four-shaft woollen cloth. Its simply bordered neck opening
is fastened with a small open penannular brooch, but in none of the Perniö graves was there a
brooch which could be regarded as a shift brooch.
Over the shift the mannikin has a red sleeveless dress, open at the shoulders. It widens out to the
hem, there are straps at its shoulders and the arm-holes extend to the waist. The hem, the
neckline and the arm-holes are trimmed with a tablet-woven band. The band is so wide that it is
turned double round the edges. There are no finds from Perniö, or for that matter from anywhere
in Finland, with a border band like this. Besides, no known find has contained a shoulder strap
with clipped edges. Also the fastening of the brooches to the cloth differs from that known from
most finds. Accordingly there are in this dress many questionable details. Perhaps just because of
them the reconstruction of the Perniö dress has never been scientifically justified.
The splendid spiral decoration
There was a much sounder base for the reconstruction of the mantle and the apron. The aprons in
the Perniö graves were bordered with spirals round the edges, so that their size is rather easily
measurable. There is at the waist a broad spiral ornament, for which cloth has also been
preserved, and the apron corners have been decorated with small fan-like ornaments.
In the Yliskylä grave 6, on which the Perniö dress was principally based, all sides of the mantle
have been ornamented with spirals. Therefore its size is also accurately known: its length was
147 centimetres without fringes and its width 94 centimetres. On the long sides there is about 1
cm broad spiral plaiting and on the short sides an ornament made of spirals, crosswise braided
warp threads, tablet-woven bands and fringes.
The last-mentioned ornaments are rather complicated. Warp threads in both mantle ends have
first been used as weft in tablet-woven bands which terminate the cloth. Then these same warp
threads have been plaited and braided crosswise, and at the same time small spirals have been
threaded in them, so that different figures were formed. After that a new tablet-woven band has
been woven, and again the original warp threads have been used as weft. Finally they have
formed the fringes of the mantle ends.
The spiral borders of the long sides have been made differently. They are braided as separate
bands, and the equal length of the spirals has been very important for these ornaments. It says
something for the skill of the ancient women that not even the mantle in the National Museum
has been made like its originals. The modern reconstructor has not had sufficiently patience for
the slow threading, and so the spirals have been soldered into bigger parts, which have been
sewn on to the selvages of the mantle cloth.
There are still more ornaments in the mantle. In every comer it has roundels, which have been
made of long and short spirals, and on the long sides there are applicated cross-formed and round
ornaments, seven on both borders. The mantle with its many decorations has certainly been the
most splendid garment of the women, and it is possible that there were women specialized in the
making of these.
The Perniö mannikin has on her head only a diadem made of plaited woollen threads and bronze
spirals. At the beginning there was also a picture of a veil arrangement in the exhibition. In this
the veil was folded over some kind of a stand and fastened with a penannular brooch on the back
of the head. This picture was based on the grave finds, but perhaps there were some difficulties
in the placing of this headgear on the head of the mannikin. So it was left out and was later
On the other hand the mannikin has more objects than were found in a single grave. There were
in grave 6, from which the model for the garments have chiefly
been taken, no bracelets, knife or earspoon, and only one bead was found in it. All these details
have been found in the other graves in the Yliskylä cemetery.
In grave 1 there were more than thirty beads, so the neckband mostly originates from it. The
earspoon, a chain made of rod-like links and a bronze-plated knife sheath have been borrowed
from grave 3, and the bracelets have been made according to the originals in grave 5.
The shirt brooch has perhaps been added after the finds at Humikkala in Masku (Finland Proper).
The Humikkala graves were excavated in the same year as the costume was completed, and there
were often more than two brooches in these. According to them it has been possible to have up to
five penannular brooches in a woman's dress.
In the old drawings and photographs of the Perniö costume the knife is hanging from the righthanded shoulder brooch. Perhaps this detail was also reconstructed
according to a find from Humikkala, for in the Perniö grave 3 the knife, chain and earspoon were
found near the waist and probably an apron band went over the chain. The fastening of the knife
sheath to apron bands seems to have been usual in western Finland, and so this detail was
changed some years ago in the dress of the mannikin.
The mannikin has two more ornaments. She has a broad bronze ring on her finger and a silver
pendant on her breast. Similar silver plates have most frequently been pendants of neckbands,
but according to Appelgren-Kivalo this one had been hanging in a band between the shoulder
The Perniö costume was made for the exhibition, and therefore there are details in it which were
not studied thoroughly. It became, however, the festal garment of many women and so differing
adaptations began to appear. The colours had not been studied in detail, and so they were not
accepted by all. Some said that the red of the dress was not correct, it should have been more
brownish. Others wanted a costume coloured like the fragments found in grave 6, from which the
details of spiral decorations had been taken.
So there are in use costumes coloured like the one in the National Museum, but also some which
are different. The dress can be natural white and the apron blue, the mantle can be without
coloured tablet-woven bands. Which is right and which is wrong? This cannot be said without
colour analyses, and perhaps not even after them. Since this costume was not made according to
one grave only, it gives the general idea of the costume of the late Iron Age and particularly
Appelgren-Kivalo's opinion of it, but only the model of the mantle and the apron could be based
with certainty on the grave finds.
There are also in Appelgren-Kivalo's sketches details which cannot be ascertained from the
original finds any longer. One of them is the fastening of the brooches to the dress. In these
sketches the brooches are fastened on the front side of the broad straps. The pin goes
transversally through the strap and the dress front under it. But in the other, later finds the
brooches have been fastened to two tangent edges so that the pin goes from below upwards. The
edges are also often double. Have we here two different models of dress or only two different
The finds from the Perniö grave 1 seem to contain a dress with a totally straight upper edge. It
could have been sewn together at the shoulders or it could have been fastened with an iron pin
found in the grave. But there were no knife or brooches in this grave. Appelgren-Kivalo,
however, has fastened the dress front in his sketch with a penannular brooch. Why? Can we be
sure that his sketch of the dress in grave 6 was based on carefully studied details, when this other
dress has been improved with quite imaginary objects?
The Tuukkala costume
A dress for use
The first ancient Karelian dresses were stage costumes, and the Perniö dress was made for a
museum exhibition. When the Tuukkala costume was realized, it was right from the beginning
meant to be a festal garment of dignified women. Elsa Heporauta, a woman author, was the
driving force behind the plans, and the first Tuukkala costume was made for her at the end of
The sketches made according to Heikel's instructions have been the base of the costume, but they
have not been followed slavishly. The blue dress appearing in the sketches has been chosen for
the main garment, but the brown mantle has been changed to a light grey one, and this colour has
been chosen for the apron also. Tyyni Vahter, the textile expert mentioned above, was however
of the opinion that there had not been any blue dresses in Tuukkala; the skirts and dresses should
have been grey. Thoroughgoing analyses have not been made, and so there is no certainty about
There are no border bands in the Tuukkala dress, although these appear in the finds. In
connection with shoulder brooches most often plaited ribbons were found, but sometimes also
tablet-woven bands. The spiral ornamentation of the dress hem is very much simplified. In the
costumes in use there is no more than a simple spiral row, although in the sketches there is in
addition to this an applicated border made of threads and very small spirals.
This ornamentation of the dress hem has been amply discussed. It has been claimed that the
ornaments in the Tuukkala grave 26, which were interpreted as dress hem decorations, were in
fact apron ornaments moved from their places. This is possible, because the grave was partially
disturbed. These ornaments are, however, different from those which certainly belong to the
apron, so the situation is not quite clear. These ornaments which it is possible to connect with the
dress hem have been found only in this single grave, and therefore it should be quite possible to
make Tuukkala costumes without these ornaments.
Also the apron is ornamented differently from the originals and the aprons in the sketches. The
spirals round the borders are not placed as densely as in the originals, and the applicated spiral
band has been sewn far away from the hem, although in the preserved apron borders it is only a
couple of centimetres from the spiral row on the hem. So the decoration of the apron is also
rather different from that in the sketches.
It is noteworthy, however, that the aprons in the sketches are not quite correct either. They are
probably drawn according to an apron found in the disturbed area of the cemetery. In this apron
the side ornaments are narrow bands and the general impression is that both sides of these bands
are similar. In the sketches the innermost sides are indented and the outer sides straight. It is
quite possible that these side ornaments had reached from the hem to the waist as in the sketches,
but they have not been preserved. The hem ornament is broader than these and it is quite straight.
The apron in grave 26, according to which most of the other details have been drawn, was
however different. In it both the waist and the hem had been ornamented with applicated spiral
bands, and these had been curved and not straight as in sketches. Apparently also the hem
ornament in an apron pictured in Heikel's
work had been bent, although it was drawn as straight and was exhibited many years as straight
in the National Museum. There are certain marks in the cloth which prove that the spiral band,
now loose, must have been sewn on the cloth in curved line.
The Tuukkala apron ends in fringes, and it is usually shorter than the aprons in the other ancient
dresses. This seems to be correct, because the aprons found have been about 65-70 cm long, and
apparently the others from the same time have been about five to ten centimeters longer. These
aprons from the 12th and 13th centuries seem, however, to have been shorter than the ones from
the Viking Age, although the Karelian aprons are rather wide.
The mantle in the Tuukkala costume is large and fringed all around the borders. There is also a
plaited band on the edges, but in the only mantle fragments found at Tuukkala - these also were
found in grave 26 - there are only tablet-woven bands in the mantle ends. So there are also
questionable details in the mantle.
Very often the persons wearing the Tuukkala costume fasten the mantle on the shoulders with
oval brooches. This is not correct. The penannular brooch of silver sheet is the brooch for the
mantle, the oval brooches belong to the dress.
The ornaments of the first Tuukkala costumes
The ornamental set of the first Tuukkala costumes consisted of a silver penannular brooch and a
chain arrangement hanging from two oval brooches. According to some photographs and a
portrait the author Elsa Heporauta seems to have used the penannular brooch in her neckline, but
there is in some other of the oldest Tuukkala costumes a round silver brooch for the shift.
The first chain arrangements of the Tuukkala costume were lop-sided. There was a tubelike
ornament with loops between the brooch and the chain holder only on the right side. On this side
the holder was also without pendants, although the one on the left side had small palmetto-like
ornaments hanging from it. The knife-sheath was hanging from the latter on a bronze chain, and
on the right side there was a bird pendant. The breast chain was simple and of bronze.
There was no knife in the oldest knife sheaths but only a stick made of leather. The upper part of
this was encircled with bronze and it was thrust into the sheath.
It is not easy to discover the prototype for the first chain arrangements, because apparently the
intention was not to copy accurately. Perhaps the source for inspiration has been the set of
ornaments in grave 9 at Tuukkala. In this two brooches with crayfish ornament hold up a chain
arrangement with only one tube with loops. The birdlike ornament hanging from chains has been
copied according to a pendant found loose, and the knife sheath is technically so different from
the original finely engraved sheaths that it is not possible to make comparisons.
Very often these first ornaments seem to have been gilded. Perhaps the intention has been to give
more grandeur to the ornaments embossed with thin brass plate. The originals are however never
gilt and they have been cast in solid bronze.
The ornaments newly reconstructed
The set of ornaments was newly reconstructed in 1964. Now it consists of parts of silver, bronze
and iron. The mantle is fastened with a penannular brooch of silver engraved with plant and
ribbon motifs. There is also in the neckline a silver brooch, round and bulging and also decorated
with plant motifs, but differently. It is fastened to the chain arrangement with a chain.
The shoulder brooches are rather small, of bronze, and decorated with the crayfish ornament. A
leather thong is fastened to them and it goes through the tubes with loops and joins the chain
holders to the brooches. There are four loops in every tube, and chain holders consist of crossformed ribbon plaitings. Small hanging charms decorate both the tubes and the chain holders,
and at both ends of the tubes there are bronze beads. A bird or animal pendant is hanging from
the right-hand chain holder, and on the left-hand side there is a knife in its bronze-plated sheath.
The latter is ornamented with embossing, stamping and engraving.
It has been attempted to copy the ornaments as accurately as possible. Therefore all parts
possible to reproduce by casting have been copied by this method. The gravers were made
especially for the engraved ornaments, and the chains were twisted by hand from bronze and iron
wire. The lengths of the chains were defined according to the excavation observations. The iron
breast chain is made by the same method as the ancient ring mails, and the side chains of bronze
are of double rings.
In grave 26 at Tuukkala the dress was fastened with the oval brooches high up on the shoulders.
The shift brooch was under the chin and the mantle brooch was on the right shoulder. Thus the
mantle had covered the left arm and it had been fastened on the right.
If we consider all the Finnish mantle finds as a whole, we can observe that the mantle may have
been fastened also in the middle, and sometimes the brooch may have been on the left shoulder,
too. There was a certain variation in the use, but I do not know of any finds according to which
the oval brooches belonged to the mantle. In my opinion the incorrect use of oval brooches in
connection with the mantle is based on the picture in the third popular edition of "Kalevala", and
not on any thoroughly studied finds. Accordingly there is every reason to give up the picturing of
the Tuukkala costume with oval brooches fastening the mantle.
Although the ornaments of the Tuukkala costume have been revised and copied according to new
principles, the dress itself is still awaiting its scientific reconstruction. We know now rather more
about the details of the cloth fragments from Tuukkala than those enthusiasts of the 1930's who
created the Tuukkala costume, but we also realize that we do not know all. Perhaps some day
there will be new finds which will make an ideal reconstruction possible.
The new costumes made according to finds from Ladoga Karelia
The first Tuukkala costumes were prepared during the last years of the 1930's. The decade
around World War II passed without any new ancient dresses. but in the 1950's two dress
reconstructions differing considerably in details were made according to the finds from Ladoga
The ancient Karelian dress
The Karelian Culture Foundation and the Foundation of the Karelian Isthmus gave support to the
making of the ancient Karelian dress, which was completed in 1952. Tyyni Vahter, who has
already been mentioned, was the specialist behind this reconstruction. Although there is no doubt
about her great competence as a textile expert, she was not a field archeologist and not a
specialist in jewelry. Moreover, this dress like the Tuukkala costume was reconstructed for use,
and therefore there were from the beginning some modifications in it.
Vahter has given about two pages of written instructions for the making of the ancient Karelian
dress, and there are in connection with these colour and textile patterns and sketches of details.
All information about the finds on which these details are based, are lacking, as also the
instructions for the making of tablet-woven bands and thread counts for the clothes. The length
of the dress and apron has not been mentioned, and the patterns are only sketchily drawn. It is
however possible to see that some of the puzzling details which appear in the ancient Karelian
dress are really based on the instructions of Tyyni Vahter. However, some details have certainly
been changed after the first dresses were made.
The ancient Karelian costume complies with the pattern created in connection with the Perniö
costume, although the details are naturally different. It consists of a dark blue shoulder strap
dress, a white blouse and veil and a greyish mantle and apron.
According to Vahter the colour of the mantle and the apron should be pearl grey. The colour
pattern following her instructions was however greenish, and although Vahter has expressly
mentioned that the colour should not be like this, greenish grey is the colour appearing in the
The short white blouse, which to my mind should be a long shift, is of thin woollen tabby. The
cutting is simple, there is an opening in front, and the neckline is tucked in a narrow separate
band. Theodor Schvindt certainly supposed that there were in Karelia also this kind of neck
openings, but among the fragments preserved until this day there are only ones with simple
Tyyni Vahter explained that the dresses in Karelia had been made of only one piece of cloth used
cross-wise. She supposed however that this would be impractical in the modern versions, and
advised making the dress of two pieces and using the cloth length-wise.
The dresses made are of four-shaft twill, they broaden a little to the hem and have fringes on the
right-hand seam. The broad rounded shoulder straps are bordered with three-coloured (brownish
red - pearl grey - light grey-blueish green) tablet-woven bands, and a similar band edges the hem.
There are two oval brooches at the shoulders, and a chain arrangement hangs from them.
The rather small mantle is also of four-shaft twill. It is bordered with a slightly
different two-coloured (brownish red and the colour of the mantle) table-woven band, and on one
side there are fringes. A big silver penannular brooch belongs to it, and apparently it was meant
to be worn as in the picture of the third popular edition of "Kalevala".
According to Vahter the veil should be of light grey thin woollen twill or of plain-woven linen,
but nowadays the veil is usually white and made of thin woollen tabby. It is folded over the head
and a crested silver penannular brooch fastens it at the neck. Originally the silver ornament
called "sykerö" was placed on top of the head, but probably it should be more on the forehead.
The short pin belonging to it could not have been its fastening. Probably in ancient times there
was a band through the loops at its ends, and it was fastened to the head with this band. The pin
perhaps pinned folds of the veil.
The apron of the ancient Karelian dress is the most imposing part of this festive garb. It is of
same greenish grey shade as the mantle and ornamented with a broad spiral border on its hem.
The pattern in this border is the same as in the apron
pictured in the third popular edition of "Kalevala", and accordingly it is copied from the border
found in grave 1 at Kekomäki in Kaukola.
The apron ends in fringes and there are spiral rows on the sides. It is fastened to a multicoloured
waistband, woven with a tablet loom, The pattern is the same as in the bands of the dress. Also
two bands with small metal studs, one for the neck and one for the head, belong to this costume.
The former of these is based on the grave finds, but there have been no bands with mounts for
the head in graves.
The ornaments copied for this costume had been found from different graves, Since no detailed
reconstruction report has been made, we do not know why certain ornaments have been chosen
and why certain details have been made differently from those in the originals.
It is a real mystery why for the first ancient Karelian dress as for the Tuukkala costume, a
defective chain arrangement had been chosen as a model. This is the more remarkable because
already in the picture of the third popular edition of "Kalevala" the chain arrangement was
symmetrical with two brooches, two small tubes with loops and two similar chain holders.
There are several graves from Karelia with a complete set of ornaments, but none of these had
been taken as a basis for reconstruction, The ribbon-ornamented oval brooches had seemingly
fascinated the selectors, and since there was no grave with these and a complete chain
arrangement, the latter was gathered from separate parts. Accordingly there are many errors and
real absurdities in it.
For instance, in the chain arrangement which belong to the first costume ever made, the looped
tube is crosswise on the right hand side, and on the other side it is substituted for a short piece of
chain, a use quite unknown in the prehistoric Karelian material. In Karelia the chain holders were
joined to the brooches by leather thongs, and very often these thongs were covered with bronze
beads or tubes. There are finds with only one tube with loops, but it is most probable that these
finds were not undisturbed.
In Karelia the chains were always of iron during the 12th and 13th centuries, but in the
reconstructed costumes they are of bronze. A peculiar feature is that the firesteel hanging in the
middle of the breast chain could also have been made of bronze. In the first costume the knife
sheath is fastened to the breast chain, but in the next one, made in the same year, it hangs from a
side chain, which is correct. It seems that since there were no complete written instructions,
every new set of ornaments differed from the others.
In the first set of ornaments the ear spoon was hanging on a chain on the right hand side, and on
the left hand side there was a double-head horse or bird pendant fastened to a long double chain
by its ears. The original pendants have, however, a hole in the middle, through which a leather
band has been thrust and tied into a knot. It is also quite possible that both the earspoon and the
pendant should be on the right-hand side and the knife alone on the left.
The firesteel is quite needless. It has not belonged to the artefacts found in women's graves, and
it would have been very impractical in the middle of the breast chains, not to mention the fact
that a firesteel of bronze is absurd, Both this and the purse hanging from the breast chain are
details which appeared already in the picture of the third popular edition of "Kalevala". It is quite
surprising how this
picture, drawn before the most important finds from Karelia, has influenced opinions concerning
Karelian female costume.
The shift brooch in the first dresses produced is round, made of thin silver plate and ornamented
by driving. The decoration has apparently been copied according to the shift brooch in grave 5 at
Kekomäki in Kaukola, but a small flower ornament has been added in the middle. This brooch is
also smaller than the original.
The silver penannular mantle brooch connected to the first costume made is engraved like the
originals. The section of the ring is however inaccurate, so it is not an exact copy of an original.
Later both the mantle brooch and the brooch for the veil were made by driving and pressing, and
they were rather different from the originals. The model for the mantle brooch was taken from
the ornament found in grave 5 at Kekomäki, but the form and decoration of the pressed veil
brooch, which is still being made, is from the Tuukkala grave 16. Its size is no more than about a
half of the original brooch, which is circa 14 cm in diameter.
Considering that there are about a dozen brooches of the same type from Karelia, this was a
rather thoughtless choice. It seems, however, that at the beginning the veil brooches were copied
according to some other originals, but
since there was a rather similar silver brooch in Kalevala Koru's production, this was transferred
to the ancient Karelian dress. Nobody seems to have noticed that the brooch in question was
from Mikkeli in Savo. and would have been more in place in connection with the Tuukkala
The set of ornaments made by Kalevala Koru for the ancient Karelian dress was partly revised in
the middle of 1960's. The shift brooch was copied according to a brooch found in grave 1 at
Kekomäki, because it was possible to get a correct impression by casting. The shoulder brooches
were made according to a variant of the ribbon-ornamented brooches which has been found only
in Karelia. These were cast in moulds made by using an original brooch as a casting model.
The chain holders were also changed to the ones ornamented with spirals and volutes, and
between these and the brooches a bronze bead was added. The original breast chains were
studied, and a new chain plaited like the ring mails was made for the arrangement. The side
chains, the pendants and the knife have not been revised.
It is also possible to obtain nowadays penannular brooches for the veil and the mantle engraved
by hand. They are naturally more expensive than the pressed ornaments, but the women who
own the ancient Karelian dress are seldom poor. Without doubt these ornaments also lend more
dignity to this dress, which has become a very popular festive garment of many important
women in Finland.
The Kaukola costume
Perhaps just because the ancient Karelian dress did not correspond completely to the grave finds,
the Section of Prehistory of the National Museum had its own version of the Karelian costume
reconstructed for the museum exhibition. This so-called Kaukola costume was made according
to the studies of Riitta Heinonen, and it was completed in 1956.
There was, however, not sufficient time for studies - it has been said that Riitta Heinonen was
engaged for this work for only a month - and therefore this costume also was reconstructed
without detailed and complete analyses. A reconstruction report was never made, and therefore it
is not clear on what original finds the costume was based. It seems that only some details had
been studied and the structure known from the Perniö and Tuukkala costumes had been accepted
as it was.
Like the other ancient dresses, the Kaukola costume consists of a shift, a dress, an apron and a
mantle. It has also a veil and a silver head ornament just like the ancient Karelian dress. As a
matter of fact it differs from the latter mainly in its colours: the dress is brown, the mantle white,
the veil and apron blue. The indigo-blue colour was based on the chemical analyses, but according to a unwritten tale - the brown dress cloth was dyed with Parmelia saxatilis to a hue
found by looking at the backs of the books in a book-case!
According to Riitta Heinonen this costume was based principally on finds in grave 5 at
Kekomäki in Kaukola. Perhaps the brown dress and the blue apron, the shoulder brooches and
the tubes with loops are from this grave. At the beginning all the silver ornaments on the
Kaukola mannikin were original grave finds from different locations, but in 1972 these were
substituted by copies made according to the finds from grave 5.
There are however many details which are not from grave 5. For example the pattern of the
apron ornamentation is from the apron found in grave 1 at Kekomäki. In grave 5 the spiral
decoration of the apron was made of several square pieces applicated side by side on the hem,
whereas in grave 1 the ornamentation was continuous from one side of the apron to the other. It
is this very finely-made decoration with swastika pattern which was chosen both for the ancient
Karelian dress and the Kaukola costume, although the apron of the former is greenish grey and
that of the latter deep blue. As a matter of fact, this is the apron pictured already in the third
popular edition of "Kalevala".
The head ornament of silver wire and the blue woollen veil of four-shaft twill are from grave 6 at
Kekomäki, which is the only grave in the whole Karelia with this kind of headdress. There are in
fact seven sausage-like ornaments made of silver wire and with conical silver-plate ends like this
from Karelia, but only for this grave do we know that they have been head ornaments. The
remains of the blue veil were found fastened on the silver wires, and accordingly the ornament
must have been partly under the veil.
The fashion in which the veil is arranged in many photographs with this ornament on top of the
head cannot be correct. The veil could not have stayed on the head of a living woman without
some perhaps complicated folds and arrangements, but is has been considered best to arrange it
as simply as possible. Perhaps the veil originally covered also the neck and shoulders, and it was
a very practical garment during cold and rainy days.
The shift of the Kaukola costume is made of natural white woollen tabby, and its neck opening
has a separate border band just like the shift of the ancient Karelian dress. The straight sleeves
seem rather too short, because the wrists of the mannikin are bare.
The shift brooch is round, of silver plate and bulging a little. It is decorated with engraved
ornamentation. There is a plain rosette and round it a border with slanting transverse lines.
Farther out on the edge there is a cord-like list in relief. This is the same pattern as in the first
shift. brooches of the ancient Karelian dress, but now copied accurately according to the brooch
found in the Kekomäki grave 5.
The brown shoulder-strap dress of four-shaft twill has a very large neck opening and big
armholes, both bordered with a tablet-woven band. This band has reddish edges and a middle
part with white and blue pattern. This pattern is rather similar to that in the mantle band of the
ancient Karelian dress, but it differs from those pictured according to the finds from grave 5 at
Kekomäki. The dress is made of only one piece of cloth. It is quite straight and seems
cumbersome. Apparently it is too short and made of too heavy and rough cloth.
The shortness of the dress is accentuated by the fact that the apron is rather too long and wide.
When the spirals for the apron ornamentation were made, they became a little too large. There
are more than 5000 spirals in the broad apron hem ornament, and so the very small fault was
multiplied manifoldly. No wonder that the apron and the dress seem to belong to different
The apron is bordered by a spiral row and it is tied on the waist by a long separate tablet-woven
band made of the same blue yarn as the apron. In this it also differs from the apron of the ancient
Karelian dress, in which the waistband is multicoloured and sewn to the apron.
The spirals in the apron border ornament are
threaded in woollen plaits and not in horsehair
as in the original apron. It is rather amusing
that the only apron in which the original
technique was tried out in practice, belongs to
the costume made for the stage!
The white mantle of the Kaukola costume is
also made of woollen four-shaft twill. It has
long fringes at both ends, and there are spiral
rows on the long sides. Probably this is a
mistake, because there are no finds from
Karelia in which the mantle brooch has been
fastened to a cloth bordered with spirals.
Possibly there was a veil with a spiral row on
the forehead in grave 5 at Kekomäki, and it is
this garment which has been confused with the
mantle. This detail like all the others cannot be
checked, because Riitta Heinonen neither
wrote a report of the reconstruction work, nor
published the results of her investigations.
Also the chain arrangement joined to the Kaukola costume is based on separate finds. The chain
holders are rather similar to the ones in grave 6 at Kekomäki, but the variant appearing in the
reconstructed dress is more common in the Mikkeli area than in Ladoga Karelia. Although the
breast chain is correctly of iron, the faulty side chains of bronze appear also in this dress, and
they are fastened to the wrong loops of the chain holders.
The double-headed horse pendant has been copied according to an ornament found in grave 5 at
Kekomäki, but it was found in connection with a little girl and not with the woman to whose
chains it has been fastened. The ear spoon and the knife and its slide have been copied according
to finds from grave 1 at Kekomäki. Perhaps the ear spoon found in grave 5 was considered too
plain because it was without ornaments.
The Kaukola mannikin has also a neckband with silver studs, although no neck ornament was
found from grave 5, and there are only two from all of the women's graves in Karelia - one of
them however from grave 6 at Kekomäki. Originally the mannikin also had earrings, although
they have never been among the ornaments favoured by Karelian women. There are only a
couple of finds with possible ear- or temple rings, and none of them was found near the head of a
woman. Accordingly those earrings have now been removed from the ears of the mannikin.
A confusing interlude
The Kaukola costume has been criticized much more than its pair the Perniö dress. We have
however seen that the Perniö costume is not without faults either. It seems that nobody before the
1970's considered these costumes seriously and questioned how much in them is based on
studied details and how much only on belief in authority. Although there have been many new
finds, questionable details which had appeared in the first pictures drawn of ancient Finnish
costumes have been added to the dresses reconstructed decades later. And - what is very serious these details have been believed to be studied facts by scholars of other countries.
In 1962 an ancient Finnish dress was endowed to the Musée de l'Homme in Paris by the
Kalevalaiset Naiset society, a women's organisation specializing in fostering ancient Finnish
culture. According to some documents the intention was to make an exact copy of the Kaukola
dress in the Finnish National Museum, but for some reason the dress which was sent to Paris is
the version adapted for use and known as the ancient Karelian dress.
Unfortunately also the ornaments following this dress had not been made with the original
technique. Thus one does not know whether to laugh or to cry at the article in which a French
scientist analyses these ornaments believing that they represent ancient Finnish methods of
working. She has given attention to the method of production of the mantle, veil and shift
brooches, although a modern silversmith had copied them by methods best known to himself. He
had used pressing, stamping and driving, whereas the original ornaments had been made by
casting and hammering, and been decorated principally with engravings!
Another ancient Karelian dress is in the National Museum in Bresil. It is to be hoped that nobody
has written an article about its ornaments without any knowledge of their real connection to the
The Eura costume
Eura, a parish in south-western Finland near the cities of Rauma and Pori, was already in the last
century famous for its archaeological remains. Probably the largest of its inhumation burial
grounds was however only discovered in spring 1969, when an excavator - used in connection
with sewerage construction in Eura - lifted a silver-ornamented sword in its bucket. The digging
was stopped immediately, and excavations were begun the same summer. Up to now over five
hundred graves have been excavated, and the burial place of Luistari in Eura has turned out to be
the largest found in Finland. Only about a half of the area with graves has now been scientifically
excavated - probably the total number of graves will overstep a thousand.
The richest grave found up to now in this famous burial place was discovered already in the
summer of 1969. It belonged to a rather tall woman, who had died in the early part of the 11th
century at the age of about 45 years. In addition to round buckles with knobs worn on the
shoulders and another brooch to fasten the cloak, bronze chains, broad spiral bracelets and four
rings, the deceased wore a necklace comprising coloured glass beads, twelve silver coins and two
silver pendants. At the level of her waist there was an adorned bronze-plated knife sheath.
Furthermore, her cloak and apron were ornamented with bronze spirals.
Due to the metallic oxides released by the bronze, textile fragments were also preserved in
different parts of the grave. Thus it was possible to reconstruct the dress of the late Viking Age
through the medium of this single grave, numbered 56.
The work became possible through the efforts of women's organizations in Eura. These formed a
committee to raise funds for the research project, and they also took care of the practical
arrangements of the work. The scientific research was carried out by a team consisting of the
author, conservator Leena Tomanterä and research associates Seija Sarkki and Eeva Savolainen
from the National Museum of Finland.
The different phases of the reconstruction work were carried out in 1976-1982, and the prototype
of the Eura costume was presented officially on July 24th in 1982 in Eura. It was later transferred
to the Kauttua factory museum, in which it is on display just a few hundred metres from the site
of the Luistari cemetery. The costumes for use, carefully made according to this model, are being
made in Eura by the same committee that collected funds for the scientific project.
Grave 56 at Luistari did not contain any larger pieces of fabric, but there were fragments in many
different places and at strategic points. The grave was also discovered in excavation, and even its
smallest details were recorded from the very beginning. Accordingly the particulars that differ
from the earlier observations could not be due to the objects in the grave having changed place.
The necklace, from the whole front part of which hung silver coins and pendants, was found
round the woman's neck. The heavy round bronze brooches were on the collar-bones. Their
situation corresponded accordingly to that of the penannular brooches in the Perniö costume and
the oval brooches in the eastern Finnish costumes. The third brooch in this grave was longish,
equal-armed, and it was found between the round brooches in the middle of the chest.
On the underside of the round brooches there were rusted iron sheets, which were discovered to
be chain holders made of iron wire. The wire had been bent into three loops, which had been
fastened together with a very thin bronze wire, and both its ends had been rolled in spirals. The
chain holders were joined by a bronze chain of double links, and there was a chain also from the
right-hand one to the equal-armed brooch. There were also loops of chains hanging from the
chain holders, and in both of these two pendants, on the right a sleigh bell pendant and an iron
hook, on the left a sleigh bell pendant and an oval pendant in open-work.
A bronze-coated knife sheath about 25 cm long was attached to a band which was found at the
waist. The sheath was ornamented with a driven and stamped pattern all over, and it contained a
knife with a blade only about 5 cm long. There was a spiral of bronze wire on the wooden handle
near the blade, and the other end of the handle was decorated with iron pendants. This knife
sheath is one of the most imposing ones found in Finland, and it is very carefully made.
The woman had round her wrists broad spiral bracelets, both made of about 180 cm of triangular
bronze rod. These bracelets had about ten turns, and they were ornamented with zig-zag lines.
They had been worn over the sleeves of a garment, because there were fragments of very dark
woollen tabby inside them.
On each hand there were two rings, one simple spiral ring with eight turns and another with a
broad middle part decorated with engraved ornaments. Fragments of a striped textile, coloured
red, blue and perhaps yellow, were found in connection with these rings. Apparently there had
been some kind of mittens in the grave, but perhaps they had not been on the hands. They could
have been tucked in the band at the waist.
This band, reddish in colour and woven with tablets, had apparently also held up the apron. It
was running twice across the waist, and the upper edge of the apron was folded over the first
turn. In the grave the edge was turned inside, but most probably it was turned outside when used
by a living person, because it was also bordered with spirals as were all the other sides of the
For these spiral ornaments it could be observed that the apron had been about 50 cm wide and
somewhat over 90 cm long. Although its hem had been partly
destroyed by a later burial, more than a half of it was preserved and contained five applicated
spiral ornaments. Under these ornaments both the cloth of the apron and some other garment
were preserved. This other garment was bordered with a multicoloured tablet-woven band.
Fragments of this same band, woven of red, blue and white (?) yarn, were found also under the
bracelet of the right arm. The fabric continued from this band towards the head, and the same
fabric was found in connection with the brooches and the necklace pendants and also on the
chest. Under the chains there were two layers of this cloth. The upper layer was with the reverse
side facing outwards and the under one with the same side inwards. As this fabric was also found
bent double near the neck under one of the pendants, it seemed probable that the grave had
contained a dress with the upper part folded like the peplos of the ancient Greek women.
It was mostly this observation and the fragments of the sleeves - the first found