The Överhogdal tapestries (Swedish: Överhogdalstapeten) are a group of extraordinarily well-preserved textiles dating from late Viking Age or early Middle Ages that were discovered in Överhogdal, Sweden.
Discovery and dating
The Överhogdal tapestries were found in the vestry of Överhogdal Church by Jonas Holm (1895-1986) in 1909. The tapestries were brought to Östersund by the artist Paul Jonze in 1910, and the County Governor’s wife Ellen Widén, who was a dominant figure within the regional heritage movement at the time, took charge. The first thing she did was to give the dirty linen a good wash in a bath tub in the cellar.
Radiocarbon dating tests conducted in 1991 indicated that the tapestries were made between 800 and 1100 AD, the Viking Age. Newer tests in 2005 instead indicated a period between 1040 and 1170 AD.
Description and construction
The Överhogdal tapestries have been theorized as depicting imagery of both Norse and Christian origin. The contents of the pictures are much debated, some characters have a pagan content, featuring the detailed look of Odin's horse Sleipner, while other characters are clearly part of Christian imagery. The four surviving sections of the tapestries have 323 figures of people and 146 and 3 partial animals, all generally moving to the left.
The large animal and smaller human figures seem to rush by a tree, which could be the mighty ash Yggdrasil, a massive tree central to nine worlds in Norse mythology. Some scholars have suggested that what is shown is the Christianization of the region Härjedalen. However, today the dominant theory, given the radiocarbon dating of the tapestries, is that Ragnarök, a series of events foretold to occur in Norse mythology, is being depicted. Research has established that the figures are made of plant dyed wool, which is interwoven with the linen with a special technique.
- Göransson, Eva-Marie (1995). "Människor i Rum av Id: Bilder av Kvinnor och män på Överhogdal" (PDF). Fornvännen. Swedish National Heritage Board. 90: 129–138. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
- Nordanskog, Gunnar (2006). Föreställd Hedendom: Tidigmedeltida Skandinaviska Kyrkportar i Forskning och Historia. Lund: Nordic Academic Press. p. 255. ISBN 978-91-89116-85-6.
- "'Nya' rön om de gåtfulla vävarna" ["New" findings about the mysterious tapestries]. Länstidningen Östersund (in Swedish). 22 January 2010.
- Kaliff, Anders (1998). "Recensioner" (PDF). Fornvännen. Swedish National Heritage Board. 93: 54–56. Retrieved 2 June 2010. (reviewing Wikman, Sture (1996). Fenrisulven Ränner: En Bok om Vävarna från Överhogdal. Jämtland Museum. ISBN 91-7948-118-3.)
- The Överhogdal Tapestries at Jamtli