AN APPROACH ABOUT KELTOI (D) – celtic clothing 2last



Figure 18- The Roman copy of the Suicidal or Ludovisi Gaul from the victory monument erected by Attalus I at Pergamum soon after 230 B.C. (Attalus Suicidal Gaul)

Creating the Costume- So what do we know of Celtic dress?

Women’s dress stereotypically is summed up by the famous, or should I say infamous ‘bog dress’ or ‘peplos’ but luckily for female reinactors it is not limited to this costume alone. The bog dress is an enduring style which is not just reflected in Greek fashion but holds its popularity based on several Celtic Iron Age finds as well. Its endurance is supported by the Princess Zweeloo’s gown found in Drenthe, Netherlands which dates later, and outside the parameters of our time period, to 450 AD. (Figure 19) Yet, its origins lie much earlier and possibly to the Greeks. Recent archaeological evidence, supported by a wealth of imported Mediterranean trade items, suggest a strong Greek influence with the early Continental Celts. This may have influenced dress as well. Artistic pieces from the early Iron Age may support this. The Greek statue the Ludovisi or the ‘Suicidal Gaul’, which commemorates the victory of Attalus I over the Gauls of Galatia around 230-220 BC, demonstrates the undeniable use of the dress. (Figure 18) In it a Gaulic warrior has just killed his wife who hangs limply from his grasp while he heroically plunges his short sword into his neck. He wears only the classic rectangular cloak, but she is fully clothed in a bog dress. The delima we are faced understanding the impact trade with the Greeks had on the mainland Celts brings into question if her clothing reflects Greek female standards superimposed on a suggested Celtic woman or an understanding of classic female dress. Another questionable find is that of the Gundestrup Cauldron discovered in Denmark which dates to the first century BCE. The stylized images of two women seem to wear a bog dress with possibly a long sleeve shirt or leine underneath. (Figure 20) The manufacture of this cauldron has been argued to be of Greek craftsmanship however the very Celtic themes on the piece suggest a knowledge or kinship between the peoples if this fact is true. (Bergquist 107)



Figure 19- Reproduction of the Princess of Zweeloo’s dress from Drents Museum in the Netherlands. 5th century AD. (Encyclopedie Drenthe Online- Gewaad van de Prinses van Zweelo)

The most famous noted bog dress is the Huldremose dress discovered in a bog close to that of woman’s burial from Huldre Fen, Djursland Denmark which dates to the earliest phase of the Iron age between the dates of 160 BC and 340 AD. (Figure 21 and 26) The dress woven of wool from a single circular piece of cloth was composed on a tubular loom (Figure 1) which measures five feet seven inches in length and nine feet in circumference. (Glob 131) Part of the length of fabric was fold outward at the shoulders and pinned to create a rather bib or cloak. Other female garments found from Huldre Fen which were worn by the entered woman included a skirt, three cloaks and a scarf. (Figure 22-26) Modern testing suggests some type of tunic or top composed of linen was probably worn, but did not survive. The skirt manufactured from natural colored wool in a lovely plaid of golden and dark brown. “The skit was gathered at one side during the natural weaving process, at the exact point where there are now remains of leather laces, so that its ultimate function as a skirt was in mind even as the cloth was being woven.” (Glob 129) These leather laces acted as a drawstring in the woven waist band of the skirt. The skirt was seemed up the front using a double blanket stitch. (Figure 25) The National Museum of Denmark’s website has probably the best descriptions of these finds. They note that her outer skin cape was sewn of several dark brown sheep skins with a light skin collar. This was worn with the wool facing out. Under this cloak she wore a second skin cloak composed of 11 small dark lambskins. This was well worn and had 22 patches, one of which was not a repair but a pocket completely sewn into the cloak. This pocket contained a bone comb, a thin blue hair band, and a leather cord all of which were enclosed in a bladder suggesting possibly some type of talisman. Under these two cloaks she wore a plaid scarf wrapped around her neck and fastened under her left arm with a bird bone pin. (Figure 23) (National Museum of Denmark- The Woman of Huldremose)


Figure 20- Female images off of the Gundestrup Cauldron found in Denmark from 1st BCE presently at the National Museum in Denmark. (Lessing 09-01-03/ 7)

Another surviving example of a bog dress like top was found in the Loenne Hede burial located in Varde, Denmark. (Figure 27-29) This burial dates to the end of the first century AD. She was entered in a complete matching outfit which was dyed using woad blue and some other unidentified source of red. (Figure 28) Ida Demont from the University of Copenhagen has composed an informative article on The Poor People from Loenne Hede which includes information on this burial and other burial textiles of this period. She explains that the burial contained a blue top of 2/2 twill with a band of red and blue tubular selvedge at the collar. It has been suggested that this top was sewn as a rather short peplos as indicated by bronze pins holding the neckline together. A silver fibula was found on her chest which probably was used to pin the top and give it more shape. Her blue skirt was composed of the same twill with a blue and red waist band in tabby weave. This skirt was possibly manufactured as a wrap skirt which had a tablet woven band sewn down the front edge also of red and blue. (Figure 29) This was held together by a bronze needle. She wore what appeared to be a plaid tabby weave rectangular cloak composed of red and blue matching the other two garments. Her hair was wrapped in a dark brown undyed wool with stripes of alternating 2/2 twill and weft faced half basket weave. (Demont 86)


Figure 21- Huldremose Woman’s bog dress now housed at the National Museum of Denmark. 2nd century BC. (Archaeology Magazine Huldremose Woman)

We have already discussed the finds of Hohmichelle which included a chemise or leine whose elaborate remnants were discovered in the princess’ burial. (Figure 8) Another find in this style was discovered in one of sixth Romano-Gaulish graves from Les Martres de Veyre in France which possibly dates to the first of second century AD. (Figure 30-36) The extraordinary preservation of the garments and other organic items are attributed to the presence of natural carbonic acid gas in the soil of the area. Louisa Gidney B.A. Hons. From the Durham University has a wonderful argument for the use of leines, long tunics or ‘Gaullic Coats’ in her article The Romano-Gaulish Woman’s Garments from Les Martres de Veyre: A Possible Reconstruction. Based on the finds she suggested that this type of dress is a more realistic alternative for women living in areas of wet and boggy conditions then bog dresses. (Gidney 2010)


Figure 22- Huldremose skirt, cloaks and scarf presently housed at the National Museum of Denmark. (National Museum of Denmark ‘Kvinden fra Huldremose’)

The body in Tomb D had a wonderfully preserved example of a Leine. Aug Audollent in Les Tombes des Martres-de-Veyre gives the measurements for this tunic as 1.25m in height, and 1.7m across the arms with the sleeves measuring 40 centimeters long. Manufactured from one piece of cloth with a slit cut to accommodate the neck line. Sleeves were sewn into the body at slight angles and a center fold of tucked material was used to shorten the leine from possibly ankle length to just below the knee. (Figure 31) This fold shows that it widens at the sides and is short on the front and back. Some form of woven scarf or sash was found on the body which measured 4.3m in length which included the fringes and was 12cm wide. (Figure 32) It has not been suggested how this piece would have been worn. There is an alternating band of two other colors, possibly a brown and tan that appears either woven or embroidered into the piece close to the ends. In addition to these garments Tomb D had an unusual set of knee high hose or socks manufactured from 2/2 twill undyed wool and constructed from a tub of fabric sewn up the back of the leg and heel with a slight cut curve on the front to the ankle to accommodate a D shaped piece of fabric which wrapped around the toes and was seemed under the instep. (Figure 34) These were topped with a fringe and while no type of drawstring or garters were found, it is probable that they once had such to keep them up as suggested by missing treads in the weave under the fringe. In addition another set of what appears to be woven wool slippers are also attributed to this grave. (Figure 33) These are manufactured from a sole and a one piece upper cut to cross at the ankle for what we can only assume was some type of fastening but no evidence for any type of tie or buckle was found. The upper portions of these slippers appear unhemmed which leads one to believe that these pieces were unfinished. The final addition to her outfit included a finely made set of leather hob nail shoes. (Figure 35-36)


Figure 23- The Huldremose Woman’s scarf. (Glob 25A)


There is no evidence thus far to suggest that women wore trews, or brecae as there are called, like their men. Historical commentary notes Celtic women joining their men in battle and pants are an invention of necessity, especially for horse back riding for which the Romans would later adapt. We can assume that it is feasible that women might have worn tunics and trews in some cases and in some areas. Cassius Dio states of the great Icini warrior queen Boudicca, “She wore a tunic of diverse colours over which a thick mantle was fastened by a brooch.” (Ellis 153) In addition to the complete lack of surviving textiles we can also assume that had the women worn pants they undoubtedly would not be buried in them.

From the evidence found concerning the variety of women’s clothing from the Iron Age we can assume that several different types of clothing could be worn. Bog dresses and long tunic like leines are known to have existed. Alternative dress included possibly both tunics and short peplos like tops which could have been worn with known examples of wrap and tube like skirts or possibly pants. Rectangular and leather cloaks were worn with shawls and hair wraps. Leather shoes could have been worn with wool socks of some sort.


Figure 24- Huldremose Woman’s skirt. (National Museum of Denmark ‘Det ternede skørt fra Huldremosekvinden’)

It is even more difficult to document men’s attire during this period by an even larger lack of garment finds. Simplified warrior renderings on Celtic art may help to generate a better picture but sadly many Greek and Roman renderings are often void of any type of clothing. We can assume that trousers and tunics probably were the norm, but some art suggest the use of possibly longer tunics or leines. The best preserved set of clothing, previously noted, was that of the Thorsberg votive offerings. This unusual deposit consisted of trousers, tunic and a cloak of very fine manufacture. (Figure 37-39) The fitted trousers are remarkable for their footed legs and belt loops, two clothing designs seemingly modern. The design and type of cloth, Jorgensen suggests might be Germanic as it reflects similar cloth finds from rich graves in Scandinavia as Germanic men, which included the Danes, served as mercenaries in the Roman army. (Jorgensen 135-136) His tunic is made of two different weaves of cloth. The main body a solid color with fitted arms with what appears to be a 2/1 lozenge. These sleeves have slits probably to accommodate the hands when putting on the tunic as the sleeves appear rather tight. Heather Rose Jones notes that the side seems are finished by taking a stitch form the wrong side of the garment and then twisted the ends of the thread together to produce a tie. (Jones 2011) These ties are then knotted together to fasten the shirt. The blue and white plaid cloak or mantle is large, bordered in the previously mentioned tablet border on all four edges and adorn with fringe on two. (Figure 38)


Figure 25- Detail of double blanket stitch used on Huldremose Woman’s skirt. (photo unknown)

There are several comments by historical sources that also allude to men’s dress in Celtic society. Second century BC Greek Latin poet Lucilius states in Nonius De compendiosa doctrina 227.33 possibly the Celtiberians of Spain, “They were a beautiful sight with colorful cloaks and pants and huge torques on their necks”. Diodorus Siculus states in his work (5.30) of Gaulish clothing, “The clothing of the Gauls is striking. They wear long shirts dyed in various colors and pants which they call bracae. They also wear striped cloaks fastened at the neck, thick in winter and light in the summer. These are also decorated with patterns of tightly packed square…Some of them wear a gold or silver plaited belt around their long shirts.”


Figure 26- Reproductions of the Huldremose finds. (The Tolland Man ‘clothes worn by Huldremose woman’)

Our best source of documentation of men’s clothing is that found in art from the regions. Tight or fitted trews are often portrayed though there are some statues that represent pants of loose fitting as well. It has also been suggested, especially to art where pants are portrayed with stylized stripes, that they may be a form of tablet woven leg bindings that could have acted like socks and protected pants. A pair of leg wraps are dated to the Roman period and were found in Søgård Mose II at Viborg, Denmark. These were manufactured from a piece of cloth wrapped around the shin and attached by a cord which kept them from sliding down the leg. These have only been found in connection with men. (Figure 40)


Figure 27- Reproduction of the Loenne Hede costume. (Kelticos, Iron Age Card Weaving)

Tunics in most cases are long, at least past the rear when belted but often just above the knee. One statue, dated to the first century BCE in Neuvy-en-Sullias, France, features a man thought to be a priest wearing a long tunic like gown, probably a leine which hits below his knees. (Figure 41) It has three quarter length sleeves and is trimmed in possibly tablet border. A bronze scabbard dating from tomb 994 from Hallstatt features men ridding horse back. (Figure 42) The wear stripped tight fitting trews and possible sleeveless tunics in plaid . Another sword from Hallstatt dating to the 4th century BC shows the same type of fitted pants with stripes. Their shirts are unusual in which they portray possibly a side split tunic or possibly one longer in the back than front. This brings in mind the construction of the Thorsborg Tunic with its ties allowing for the opening of the sides. These appear to have sleeves and are belted. A famous Celtic bronze statute with glass paste eyes from Saint-Maur-en-Chaussee, Oise in France dates to the first century BC. (Figure 43) Once again the fitted trews are present with a short sleeve tunic. It appears that he may have a breast plate over his tunic, but it is hard to say for sure. One of the most quizzical suggestions of clothing for men is that found on the Gundestrup Cauldron thought to date to the 1st century BC discovered in a bog in Gundestrup, Denmark. (Figure 43-45) The warriors featured on the caldron wear both short and long sleeve tunics some of which appear tucked or short while others thigh length. These have a rather chevron or herringbone twill look to them, a fine detail embossed into the metal. Additionally pants and shorts feature this same design. It is very unusual to find any suggestion of shorts during this period, but their use would seem a necessity in warmer weather and in some work situations. It is argued that the cauldron may be an import or that Mediterranean smiths may have traveled to the area for work. While the religious theme of the work is very Celtic in nature, could this be a Greek piece? If so, this may cloud the possibility of shorts as a form of dress but I would argue for their necessity and probably their lack of use in the Mediterranean during this period. To sum up possible types of male costume we can surmise, based on both archaeological and artistic renderings, that rear to thigh length tunics with and with out sleeves and leines are likely. Rectangular cloaks, tight and loose fitting trews and possibly shorts in addition. Some type of legging bindings or socks could have been used.


Figure 28- remanents of the original Loenne Hede find. (National Museum of Denmark ‘Loenee Hede)

Shoes are one of the most documented garment finds of the Iron Age from locations through out Celtic empire. These survive in part because of the nature of leather. I won’t go into depth concerning specific finds though I must note that there is little to no documentation for boots regardless of the necessity or availability of boot like footwear in the Roman Empire. Only one suggestion noted by Alfred Haffner in his article The Princely Tombs of the Celts in the Middle Rhineland have I found concerning the Barrow burial 6, 475-250 BC, in the Bescheid area near Treveri in Germany. He states, “The leather boots had decorated bronze buttons and small iron fasteners”. (Haffner 188) When BBC produced “Surviving the Iron Age”, a reality TV series that placed 17 intrepid volunteers for six weeks into an Iron Age Welsh settlement. They discovered that the leather gillie or slippers, reproduced based on historical finds, were not suitable for the cold and muddy conditions of the area and they reverted to goulashes to keep their feet dry and stop trench foot. This brings one to reflect back on the wool sock and ‘slipper’ finds from Les Martres de Veyre. (Figures 33 and 34) In addition, one of the other tombs from this location produced a set of wedge shoes whose stacked wood soles only remain. (Figure 46) It is feasible that the design may have been fashion or possibly to raise one out of the mud or hot bath floors, a possible Roman design. An amazing set of socks were discovered in Aurine Alps, not far from Hallstatt along an Iron Age trade route pass, and have a radiocarbon date of between 8th and 5th centuries BC. (Figure 47) The under leggings were a tabby weave of soft, natural grey to brown goats’ hair. About 62 cm long and 16 cm wide with a circumference of more than 34 cms and slightly cone shaped with a flap that may have been tucked into the shoes.


Figure 29- Reproduction of the Vertical tablet border on the Loenne Hede skirt. (Brikvævning, Tablet Borders)

The second set of outer leggings were of a coarser goats hair of herringbone twill in similar colors to the first with a little brown red. About 55 cm long, 16 cm wide with a circumference of 34 cm. These have several patches and thin cords which secure the stocking to the heel and big toe. Inner slipper like shoes of thin wool 2/2 twill were manufactured from 10 separate pieces assembled together. Two patches were sewn into the inside of the slippers to strengthen the soles while another two patches were added to protect the pointed toe and heels. (Bichler 2005) The Romans stationed in Southern Scotland found the conditions inhospitable to their Mediterranean footwear. This is supported by a letter to a Roman soldier at Vindolanda, along Hadrian’s Wall in Southern Scotland for which it states, “have sent(?) you…pairs of socks from Sattua, two pairs of sandals and two pairs of underpants, two pairs of sandals….” (Tab. Vindol. II.346) Additionally, a bronze alloy handle from a razor in the form of a sandaled Roman foot with an obvious thick wool sock was found at this same location. (Figure 48) Indeed, just such a child’s sock was found at Vindolanda which is the only garment which survives in its entirety. (Figure 49) One Celtic answer we do know of that answers probably both warmth and comfort was that of a leather shoe stuffed with grass from Hallstatt. Almost all examples of Celtic shoes are manufactured rather as leather slippers. Many of these are designed using one piece of leather placed under the sole of the foot and folded, sewn, or gathered around the toes and heel incasing the foot. In some cases the leather has been cut much like Scottish Ghillies which produce a rather ornamental look. Other times they reflect Roman leather sandals for which undoubtedly at times reveal Roman influence.


Figure 30- Tunic and stockings from Les Martres de Veyre in France. (Gidney Fig 1)

Other types of garments should also be noted such as bags and hats. These are in rare form but do exist. A number of preserved hats have been found in Hallstatt. Two of these, one a child’s cap the other an adult cap found in the salt mines, resemble toboggans manufactured from lambskin. (Figure 51) Similar leather caps have been found in the Iron Age Tulland Bog burial which had ties (Figure 52) and in one of the burials from Les Martres de Veyre (Figure 53) another leather fitted cap was discovered. In addition Hallstatt has several beret style caps of brown and black sheep skin, with the fleece facing out. A rather odd shaped hat from the Hallstatt period is manufactured from sheep skin in a dome shape which leaves the fleece around the bottom edge. (Figure 54) The skin has been dyed blue with black wool trim. A fine example of the Celtic flair for hates was found in the Hochdorf Chiefian’s burial which featured the remains of a coolie like incised birch bark hat. (Figure 55) This style of hat is represented in a grave statue from Hirschlanden, near Stuttgart from the 5th Century BC which is a short distance from where the Hocdorf tomb was discovered. (Figure 56)


Figure 31- photo of the tunic from Martres de Veyre which shows the ‘fold’ or tuck in the garment. (Audollent fig 1)

Several different types of bags exist but the majority of these were discovered at Hallstatt others only remain in pieces and are only notable for the fact they once were probably bags of some sort. Included in these were several salt miners’ leather knapsacks from the salt mine at Halllstatt which date to the 10th-9th BC and measure 90 cm in length. (Figure 57) These were manufactured from cow hide with the knap facing out in conical shapes with flat bottoms. The upper lips of the bags were reinforced by weaving leather cording horizontally and two willow poles on either side of the bag. These had one strap which probably fit around the fore head or possibly across the chest for securing and a wooden rod handle attached to it for hauling. Another hauling sack from the mines which dates to the same period was manufactured from a complete sheep’s skin. (Figure 58) The last bag from this period is a lovely knap sack with a folding flap. (Figure 51)


Figure 32- Close up of belt sash on tunic found at Martres de Veyre. (Fuller figure 8)


Figure 33- wool slippers found at Martres de Veyre. (Fuller ‘Second century woolen slippers’)


Figure 34- One of the stockings from Martres de Veyre. (Fuller figure 11)


Figures 35 and 36- finely made hob nail shoes found in Martres de Veyre. (Fuller figures 13 and 14)


Figure 37- reproduction of the Thorsberg costume presently on exhibit at the National Museum of Denmark. (Photo unknown)


Figure 38- Thorsberg cloak reproduction presently housed at the National Museum of Denmark. (Kelticos, Thorsberg Cloak)


Figure 39The original Thorsberg trews and tunic from the National Museum of Denmark. (National Museum of Denmark ‘Thorsborg’)


Figure 40- Leg wraps from the Roman period found at Søgård Mose II at Viborg, Denmark from the Skive Museum, Denmark. (National Museum of Denmark ‘benviklers’)


Figure 41- Statue of a man wearing a ‘sagum’ or ‘lein’ from Neuvy-en-Sullias which is presently at the Musée Historique et Archeologique, Orleans, France. 1st BCE.

(Scholars Resource XIR-182595)


Figure 42- Hallstat bronze scabbard. Detail, from tomb 994, Hallstatt burial site, Austria. (Lessing 07-01-03/34)


Figure 43- Statue of a warrior deity, embossed sheet bronze, eyes of glass paste; from St.Maure en-Chaussee, Oise, France. (Lessing 06-02-02/61)



Figure 44 and 45 – Stylized male warriors from the Gundestrup Cauldron found in Denmark from 1st BCE presently at the National Museum in Denmark. (Lessing 09-01-03/2209-01-03/18)


Figure 46- Wedge shoes with wool fragments found at Martres de Veyre (Fuller Inventory 9878-23-36).


Figure 47- Socks found Aurine Alps, not far from Hallstatt. Presntly on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, Italy. (South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology ‘The clothing finds from Rieserferner’)


Figure 48- Bronze handle of a Roman razor found at Vindolanda, Hadrian’s Wall, Scotland. At the Roman Army Museum, Vindolanda. (BBC News razor picture)



Figure 49- A child’s sock found at Vindolanda, Handrian’s Wall, Scotland. Presently at the Roman Army Museum at Vindolanda. (Vindolanda Tablets on Line ‘A child’s woollen sock’)


Figure 50- Leather shoe made from one piece of leather, from the ancient saltmine at Hallstatt from 8th-3rd BCE. Presently at the National History Museum in Vienna, Austria. (Lessing 07-01-01/27)


Figure 51- Leather knap sack and Tobogan like cap from Hallstatt. 8 -3rd BCE. Presently at Hallstatt Museum. (Lessing 07-02-03/53)


Figure 52- Tollund man bog body with skin cap 220- 40BCE. Presently kept at the Silkeborg Museum, Denmark. (Science Photo Library E439/0015)


Figure 53- Cap from Les Martres de Veyre. (Photo Unknown)


Figure 54- Cap discovered at Hallstatt presently at the Museum of Natural History, Vienna. (National Museum of History ‘Leather Cap from Hallstatt’)


Figure 55- The Hochdorf Chieftain’s birch bark hat. (Photo unknown)


Figure 56- Celtic warrior statue found at Hirschlanden, Germany about 5 kms from the Hochdorf chieftian’s burial. (Barbarians on the Greek Periphery ‘Hirschlanden Warrior’)



Figure 57- Hallstatt Salt pack. On display at the Hallstatt Museum, Austria. (Lessing 07-01-01/22)


Figure 58- Sheep skin salt pack from Hallstatt presently displayed at the Hallstatt Museum, Austria. (Lessing 07-01-01/21)


the end

heather smith

SOURCE University of Alabama in Huntsville


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-at the Time of the Tollund Man. Last updated 2004.

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Wild, J.P. “Soft Finished Textiles in Roman Britain” The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 17, No. 1 (May, 1967), pp. 133-135.




About sooteris kyritsis

Job title: (f)PHELLOW OF SOPHIA Profession: RESEARCHER Company: ANTHROOPISMOS Favorite quote: "ITS TIME FOR KOSMOPOLITANS(=HELLINES) TO FLY IN SPACE." Interested in: Activity Partners, Friends Fashion: Classic Humor: Friendly Places lived: EN THE HIGHLANDS OF KOSMOS THROUGH THE DARKNESS OF AMENTHE
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