One of the original boots found in the Oseberg Burial Mound dating back to 834 AD. (Photo: skinnblogg.blogspot.no)
A number of complete Viking Age shoes found in Scandinavia and England have the same characteristics. They are flexible, soft and mostly made of cattle hide, but also other kinds of leather was used.
There are complete shoes found in the Oseberg ship burial mound in Norway, Hedeby trading center in Denmark, and Coppergate (York, Viking Age Jorvik, Editor’s note) in England.
All three of these discoveries show a similar construction and form typical for the Middle Ages.
The shoes found in the Oseberg ship consists of two main parts, soles and uppers, and are so-called “turn shoes”.
Reconstructed boots found in the Oseberg burial mound, by Bjørn Henrik Johansen. (Photo: Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ skinnblogg.blogspot.no)
The shoemaker stitched the shoe together inside out, and then turned right side out when finished. This hides the main seam, prolongs the life and prevents moisture from leaking in.
Viking Age shoes (793 – 1066AD) were well suited for use in wintertime by using thick, felted wool socks and fur inside.
Materials and Tools
Studies of the leather shows that mainly cattle hide was used from the 9th to mid-11th century and was typically 1 – 3 millimeter thick.
Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England. (Photo: definedlearning.com via Pinterest)
A bristle or metal needle was used stitching flax, hemp, or a combination of the two. Shears or blades were used to cut the leather, and a simple awl to punch the holes.
At Coppergate twelve examples of iron shears were found.
Tanning and Color
Vegetable tan was the primary method for tanning, but also alum tans and oil tans were used in luxury leathers.
Reconstructed Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England by Bjørn Henrik Johansen. (Photo: by Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ skinnblogg.blogspot.no)
Modern vegetable tans are much stiffer due to industrialization and shortening of the process and are unsuited for turn shoes.
Like today, elaborately made clothing and shoes were visible proves of high social status.
Scientists have concluded that the better-quality shoes and boots had much more color than can be seen from archaeological discoveries.
- See also: The Colorful Vikings
Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews