Iron Age Clothes

Written by colleen morrison
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Iron Age Clothes
(courtesy Eva Koch, Prehistoric Plant Food of Denmark)

Much of what we know about clothing in the Iron Age comes from evidence discovered at archaeological sites, in particular, from ancient bogs. On occasion, someone cutting peat for fuel will uncover a "bog body," the remains of an individual who lived in northern Europe as long ago as 8000 years. Some of these remains are remarkably well preserved, which gives archaeologists a window through which to view the ancient world and its people, including the clothing they wore.

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Types

People who lived during the Iron Age wore clothing made of fur, which provided warmth and woven fabric, including woollens and linens. The fabric might be natural in colour or it might be dyed with plant dyes. Women wore dresses or blouse and skirt, and in cold weather they covered up in fur capes. Men wore capes, woollen leggings and trousers. The clothes that have been found in bogs are not particularly shapely, and they lack sleeves. Nonetheless, some articles do show lovely workmanship in the trim.

Features

Iron Age artisans made woven fabric from wool and from the fibres of the flax plant, used to make linen. They used dyes made from plants to colour the clothing in shades of brown, red, green and blue. They spun thread using spindles made of bone or wood, wove the thread into fabric on a vertical wooden loom and used other bone tools to sew pieces of fabric together.

Function

Brooches, some with fine decorations, some relatively plain, were commonly used to hold clothing together. A woman's dress, for example, might be held together at the shoulders with a series of pins or brooches. Most brooches were made of base metals; very few in existence today are gold or silver.

Considerations

Typical Iron Age shoes were made of soft leather that was cut and moulded to fit the wearer's foot, held together with laces. The leather was usually thin, leaving very little to protect the sole of the feet from sticks and stones.

Geography

A Danish family digging for peat uncovered Tollund Man in 1950 in an area close to the town of Silkeborg. Named for the hometown of the discoverers, Tollund Man has revealed more about life during the Iron Age than any other single source. Scholars believe he may have been a sacrifice to a god who protected the bog. Iron Age remains have been uncovered throughout northwestern Europe.

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