Reconstruction of Birka B2 pattern

Silver-brocaded band found in grave Bj 824A.

A. Geijer, Birka III, p. 85:

“B 2 a. GRAB 824. Taf. 19: 1 und Abb. 19 f. Brettchenband mit Silberschuss. In der Musterpartie 9 ganzseidene Br.2 Unterseite dicht und unregelmässig. Am Rande waren 2 ganzseidene Schnüre und dazwischen 2 oder 3 jetzt vermoderte. Im Ganzen 17-19 Br. Schussdichte 15 per cm. Breite 12 mm. 2 Stücke von 12 bzw. 19 cm. Am Rand ist ein Seidenfragment (S 4) angenäht, aus dem auch ein querverlaufender Streifen hergestellt ist, der das eine Ende der beiden Borten mit daran sitzender Seide umschliesst.
B 2 b. GRAB 824. Taf. 19: i. Brettchenband mit Silberschuss. In der Musterpartie 9 ganzseidene Br., ziemlich grob. Am Rande waren 4 bis 5 Br., von denen nur die innerste aus Seide übrig ist; infolgedessen bildet jetzt der Silberschuss am Rande eine Reihe dichtgedrängter Ösen. Insgesamt 17 oder 19 Br. Unterseite dicht, aber unregelmässig. Schussdichte 14 bis 15 per cm. Breite 13 mm. Länge 9 cm sowie kleine Fragmente.
Im Muster usw. sehr ähnlich dem vorhergehenden. Vielleicht ist es dasselbe Band, obwohl es so ver-schieden wirkt — teils wegen der starken Zersetzung im ersteren Band, teils deswegen, weil die Randschnur in dem letzteren verschwunden ist.”

Google translate:

“B 2 a. GRAB 824. Plate 19: 1 and Fig. 19 f. Board tape with silver shot. In the sample section 9 whole silk board cords. Underside dense and irregular. At the edge were 2 completely silk cords and in between 2 or 3 now rotting. A total of 17-19 board cords. Weft density 15 per cm. Width 12 mm. 2 pieces of 12 or 19 cm. A silk fragment (S 4) is sewn onto the edge, from which a transverse strip is also made, which encloses one end of the two borders with the silk attached to it.
B 2 b. GRAB 824. Plate 19: i. Board tape with silver shot. In the sample lot 9 whole silk board cords., Quite rough. On the edge were 4 to 5 board cords, of which only the innermost is made of silk; as a result, the silver shot now forms a series of densely packed eyelets. A total of 17 or 19 board cords. Underside dense, but irregular. Weft density 14 to 15 per cm. Width 13 mm. Length 9 cm and small fragments.
In pattern etc. very similar to the previous one. Perhaps it is the same band, although it looks so different – partly because of the strong decomposition in the first band, partly because the edge cord in the latter has disappeared.”

Photos of the bands from Birka III, Taf. 19.1:

Fragment of a photo from historiska.se:


Now lets take a closer look at the pattern. Luckily the photos in Birka III allow an almost certain reconstruction of the pattern. We can see, that it’s very regular, perfectly mathematically executed. It follows all the general tabletwoven brocaded band’s rules: odd number of tablets, brocading covering a maximum of 5 cords in every passage.

On the top fragment, looking from left to right, there are two “winged” motifs, than a “spacer”, than 5 “overlapping circles” (the “overlapping circles” is a common decorative motive on the early medieval findings of both Scandinavian and Slavic origin!). If we look closely at the right hand end of the top fragment, we can see that the 5 circles are ended by a “spacer”.

Now looking at the bottom fragment, after the damaged beginning on the left there’s the part of a “spacer”, followed by 3 “winged” motifs, and again – beginning of a “spacer”.

When we sum it up, we have the most probable pattern: spacer, 3 winged motifs, spacer, 5 circles [repeat]. On the photo from historiska.se the back side of the band (not sure, if it’s exactly the same band, but suppose it is) is visible, but the resolution is too small to inspect it in detail. It looks like all the tablets are threaded in the same direction in the pattern part of the band. The cords on the edge of the pattern, visible on the photo in Birka III, are also threaded in the same direction. This probably means the band will twist a bit, if it’s not sewn onto some fabric.

Now lets try it out:

19 tablets, threaded in the same direction.

60/2 silk (should be reeled or other 1-ply, but I have bad memories about using untwisted silk from last year)

0.2 mm silver wire

50 g weights (this is unnecessary information, if you’re using a horizontal period-correct loom)

These thread dimensions give a width of about ~12 mm and one pattern is 85 mm with weft density of about 14 per 1 cm. Pretty close to the original 🙂

If you would like to order a band like this one, please visit my Etsy shop online.