Dyecolors from the Vendelperiod

All this information is from the book Nørre Sandegård Vest, exept for the piqture of me.

I usually do not write in english, but here goes.

Foto: Kristina Ekero Eriksson ur hennes bok Gamla Uppsala, människor och makter i högarnas skugga, s. 165.

The fabrics from Nørre Sandegård Vest from the Vendeltiden period has been found to have a range if colors – pale yellows, dark brown, blues and practically black shades.

Some fragments have traces of blue and has been analysed in collaboration with Penelope Walton.

Most colors are from the diamond twills that were very similar or the same as the finds of diamond twills from Birka.

The linen is more white and brown (not sure if that is the original color though).

Some fabrics have been miscolored by metal in red and green, so that is not the original color.

Dyestuff identified:

  • Indigotin
  • Indigotin+tannin
  • Tannin
  • Indigotin+unidentified orange dyestuff
  • Unidentified orange dyestuff
  • Unidentified red dyestuff

They took tests from 12 graves, and from them 27 fragments total from different fabrics.

Blue – blackish

5 diamond twills showing blue color and in 7 more cases there was blue with mordant dye. One did not show any secondary dyeing, so 12 total can be identified with the blue color indigotin.

8 of them were diamond twills, 2 unbalanced twill and one cord layes found with one of the diamond twill from grave 70.


Yellow-brown has been recorded on 9 samples. 8 of these were an additional dye on blue cloth. 4 of these were identified as tannin-bearing dye from bark, nuts or oak galls.

One of the fragments from grave 9, of Birka type (very fine diamond twill – gåsöga) , was colored only with tannin. The author conclued that a dark color was prefered to have as contrast to other colors. The warp was also darker than the weft!


4 samples also showed red/orange colors but were so slight as to know what. One of them, un anbalanced tabby, were blue and then dyed with an additional red color and it could have become a nice purple color ?

One more unbalanced tabby was probably dyed with the same orange color.

A cord and a ball of yarn were probably red 🙂 I find that exiting ?

The colors could be derived from madder (krapprot) or bedstaw (vitmåra).


The linens were not dyed at all. But used in light shades of linen.


So the 9 out if the 13 Birka type diamond twills were blue and 1 was brown. It was not possible to see if it was subtropical indigo (Indigofera tinctioria L) or woad (Isatis tinctiora L) . But the fact that they dyed with brown over the blue might show that they used woad that is harder to dye dark and needs moore dips in the dyebath to get a stronger color. (Also woad is what is present here un the north).

Of the 7 Nørre Sandegård, typ 3, fabrics, 3 had colors – 1 blye, one possibly orange and one blue or purple.

The only Gerlev-Dråby type fabric had no color traces.

2 cords were dyed red.

In Denmark a few samples of blue and yellow x has been find to make a green (but I dont know if that is from the vendel period) .

Another conclusion was made that the sheepwool used were mainly white. But there are finds of naturally pigmented wool as well from this period also in Nørre.

So in Scandinavia they preferd a white and blue combinaton dress with added reds, purble and brown shades, the authors conclude.

In England apparently red was more used and on Irland more purple. The Scandinavian finds are from graves and the English and Irish are from settlement and middens finds (gödselhögar?), and that can be a factor in this conclusion.


I hope I got this right…

Lots of other finds could have been analysed now, after 1997, so if you have any tips they are very welcome.

Regards, Linda


Lars Jørgensen and Anne Nørgård Jørgensen, 1997. Nørre Sandegård Vest. A Cemetary from the 6th-8th Centuries on Bornholm.

Kristina Ekero Eriksson, 2018. Gamla Uppsala, människor och makter i högarnas skugga.

(I did not read this one) Penelope Walton, 1990. Dyes and wool in textiles from Norway and Denmark. Journal of Danish Archaeology 7. Odense.