On Wed, 11 Jan 2006, Marc Carlson wrote:

> First, it's unlikely that any Herjofsnes garments were found with
> linen pads of any sort (linen has not survived in the conditions at
> Herjofsnes).  What may be being remembered is the polar bear breeches
> from Angmagssalik (now called Tasiilaq), and may not be even Norse.  
> It's also possible that they are thinking of whatever those seal skin
> things that I've heard Robin mention.

Marc, I'm the one who brought up the sealskin belt/pad arrangement from
Herjolfsnes. There were a few fragments of bast fibers (some pieces of
cloth, some microscopic fibers) found in various spots at Herjolfsnes. The
cloth bits are mentioned in Norlund, and Else Ostergard summarizes them,
but IIRC she misses the reference related to the item I described -- not
surprising as it is one of the microscopic ones, and would not have been
housed as a textile find. However, I misremembered that the cord on the
sealskin also was linen; it was wool, and sheep's hair and moss were also
the materials found under the sealskin covering. The item was mentioned
only in the medical section of Norlund's report, written by Fr. C. C.
Hansen, professor of anatomy, Copenhagen. From p. 322:

[as part of a discussion of possible incontinence of one of the women]

<<I mention this latter fact as a feature which hypothetically might
perhaps be related to the peculiar finding in the pelvic bones of this
woman which will be described in more detail below. For it could be shown
that a piece of sealskin had been lying from the front of mons pubis
between the femora, passing before genitalia and anus up behind os
coccygis to the sacral region, remains of sealskin being found adhering to
these places (in addition to human perineal hairs), together with the
remnants of a twisted woollen cord (or string) which had evidently been
fastened to the sealskin in front on mons pubis and behind in the sacral
region. Besides loose hairs of undyed light sheep's wool the remains of
fibres of plant substance (hemp?) were also made out. It is an obvious
explanation that the woman may have worn a kind of protective bandage
before pudenda and anus perhaps to soak up secretions during a possible
incontinence. Otherwise we know nothing about a special article of
clothing for this region among the women of the time..>>

Later, in the discussion of this particular skeleton (I forget which one,
the numbers are different than in the clothing analysis and I'm not going
to hunt all through right now to match them up), there's a much more
detailed description. Bits follow, pp. 332ff. Be aware that the
translation into English is a bit askew. Parentheses are theirs, square
brackets mine.

        On a small perfectly well-preserved bone (by os sacrum), which
could be clearly recognized as the 2nd vertebra coccygea, fitting aginst
the also quite uninjured and well-preserved 1st vertebra coccygea
subsequently found, was found adhering to the posterior surface a piece of
sealskin (microscopy!) with the hairs on; in this little piece of sealskin
were the remains of a little twisted rebrown woollen cord or string
(microscopy!) with the remains of a strongly twisted knot. [There are
references to figures that I thought I had copies of but can't find now. I
know I've seen a drawing of this fragment, but I may have missed xeroxing
it.] As on os pubis this cord was very frail and crumbled easily. ... When
this little piece of sealskin with remnants of a small twisted woollen
cord with a knot, has remained quite firmly attached to so small a bone as
the 2nd vertebra coccygea, which like the 1st vertebra coccygea was
perfectly well-preserved and uninjured, the reason must be as follows:--
        When the body was laid in the grave there must have been lying on
the back of os coccygis ... a strip of sealskin to which was fastened a
redbrown woollen cord to keep the sealskin in place, while in front on
mons pubis it was also kept in place by a couple of woollen cords which
probably passed up to a cord or belt about the hip-region, thus
representing a kind of bandage passing from mons pubis between femora down
before pudenda and anus and up between nates in the sacral region.
        As the body was laid on its back in the grave the point of the
sealskin with the woollen cord was wedged into sulcus inter nates and
secured in its position to os coccyis where, as its shown by the state of
these bones as well as of os sacrum, which is well-preserved, the
putrefaction and destruction was least, and when the cold subsequently
increased, so that the earth became permanently frozen, just these small
bones were preserved with cohering remains of hair, sealskin, and woollen
cords. We must assume that even more remained at the exhumation than we
now possess, but that most of it decayed or crumbled away before it
reached the Museum of Normal Anatomy. Finally fibres of a plant substance
(resembling hemp microscopically) were found close by, and in the layer
beneath the sealskin on the symphysis were found, besides the human pubes
hairs, loose hairs of sheep's wool of a light colour or only slightly
pigmented, and lastly, small leaves of moss, this latter perhaps an
accidental admixture(?). 

Then a long discussion of the procedure for investigating the sealskin
pieces, human skin, and hairs. The hair from the head was light brown,
that in the pubic area "fairer and less pigmented." Among other points
worth noting: There was a mix of different types of sheep hair among those
found, some pigmented and others not. (Perhaps a combination of rags/bits
from different sources?) The sealskin was apparently old and long-used;
its hairs were in bad shape, unlike the human hairs next to them. Also:

<<In addition to the animal hairs well preserved threads occurred, and on
other skeletons remnants of cloth[,] made of coarse-fibred plant
substance. Those from the present case have already been mentioned. The
examination showed bast fibres quite similar to hemp (not flax). Finally
we note that particles of moss evidently from the same period were found
lying here and there under fragments of skin, between these and the bones,
but as a rule mixed with wool.>>

Lots more about bones, skin, hair, body oils, etc. for people who don't
mind wading through 1920s medical terminology translated from the Danish.
His descriptions seem sound, though his conclusions are sometimes a bit


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