Roman ”style” was a hit in Iron Age Jutland!

1st. century Iron Age chieftain in Jutland copied roman textile fashions and lifestyle…

New research based on archaeological finds in Herning, Jutland DK, show that local villagers copied Roman fashion by weaving broad coloured stribes into their clothing.

A Wannabee Villa Rustica?

In 2005 Museum Midtjylland – City of Herning, excavated a very unique building complex in the suburb ”Tjørring”, from the period round 1-100 AD. The excavations revealed a building layout, done exactly like a roman Villa Rustica.

The strata beneath these buildings - before the first century AD – show traditional typical Iron Age farms for almost 500 years, but then suddenly - from the first century AD – it changes and becomes roman inspired!

Here, far from the borders of the Roman Empire, a ”Danish chieftain” clearly wanted to live like a real Roman. Building his house and courtyards, and even his funeral facilities like the Romans would have done it. Just like in the Asterix comic ”Le Combat des chefs” – The Duel”.

Who Was he? Noone knows. Was he a Roman far from Rome?.. or – more likely – a local tribesman who had been abroad  - maybe served the legions as an auxilia – and now had returned with a wish to remake his local village into a ”Micro-Rome!?”



Pieces of the textiles from Tornebuskehøj - with very visible "Roman fashion" stripes.


Roman Fashion

And also textile technology in this region seemed to be inspired by Roman style in this period. Research made at CTR - Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen – have examined three textile finds from the Herning area; Hammerum, Tornebuskehøj and Tjørring.

These finds clearly show the Roman inspiration with tightly woven stripes in the cloth.

This is a special feature for this region, because Iron Age people normally would weave stripes into the cloth without changing the texture or the tightness of the weave.

The technique used, look at first hand like the way the Romans would have made CLAVI on their tunics. But the craft reveal that it was produced locally.

”When the Romans made Clavii, they did it by stopping the ground weave, which normally was a plain weave, they would then rearrange the warp and beat the weft very tight, so a clear and sharp stripe would appear. And in this way avoiding getting a blurred stripe.”  Ulla Mannering, senior researcher at CTR explains.

In the Herning textiles they also wanted to avoid blurred stripes. But they used a another way of solving the problem.

”In Denmark it was common to weave twill textiles and with this technique there was no need to rearrange the warp as you see it in Roman weaving. They had found a much easier way to do it, because of the natural set up of the twill weave. The final look of the stripes would have given the cloth the same appearance as the clavii, but in an easier proces”.

Ulla Mannering, is among world leading experts in ancient textiles, and has also examined Roman textiles found in the Mons Claudianus Quarry i Egypt.

”The person that imported the Roman lifestyle to the region may have seen a Roman loom,  but the weavers produced the textiles did it using local methods. So it was only ”the look” that were imported, not the technology”.  Ulla Mannering concludes.



Hammerum Woman from Grave 83. 


Textile colours

A unique feature with the three finds from Herning is, that it has been possible to conclude the colours in the textiles.

In Grave 83 – The Hammerum Woman was clad in a tube-like dress that reached to the knees and was held together at the shoulders in a similar way as the Greek peplos. The dress is made of balanced wool twill of a clearly red colour. Throughout the textile rows there would have been a pattern of white narrow stripes in a different quality of yarn. The garments are edged with a tubular tabby band in colours of red white and blue wools.

On top of the woman and around her back a more fragmented textile were found. This textile -  which could be compared with a roman Palla -  was most likely white with a pattern of stripes in a denser white, in a different texture.

A third textile was found underneath the woman in the area of her knees. This textile which would have measured at least 23 cm wide and 48 cm. high, was woven with a clear red yarn in one direction and a white yarn in the other.

The Hammerum Woman was dressed and wrapped in three textile costume. One of which is an almost a complete dress. No metal jewellery have been found, and it is concluded, that she was a ordinary young woman. Her outfit was both modern and old fashion.

Old fashion in the sense that the two part tubular garment belong to a tradition that has its roots in pre-roman Scandinavian tradition.

And modern in the fact that it was produced on a warp-weighted loom – a tool wich during the late Iron Age obtains an important position in both high standard and mass production. And, she had a modern style - "roman style".

The Hammerum Woman can now be studied at Museum Midtjylland where she is a part of the permanent exhibition.



Ulla Mannering, is among world leading experts in ancient textiles, and has also examined roman textiles found in the Mons Claudianus Quarry i Egypt.


Cohors II is most grateful to Ulla Mannering for her personal help with this article.

Other sources:

Seniorforsker Ulla Mannering, CTR:

Ulla Mannering & Lise Ræder Knudsen: Hammerum: The Find of the Century, NESAT XI, Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH 2013.

Arkæolog Erik Møller-Jensen; Den romerske villa og fyrsten ved Tjørring : økonomiske, sociale og politiske forhold i ældre jernalder ved Herning. Midtjyske fortællinger, 2006