Trelleborg weave

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Trelleborg weave, often called "trollen weave" by reenactors, appears to be a reenactorism.

A wheel device with slots cut around the edges and thought to be used for braid making is often alleged to have been found at Trelleborg, Birka, Heddeby, or another site.

Much research and discussions with museums and archaeology departments in the UK and Scandinavia so far have failed to produce any evidence of such a find.

Jennifer Bray, Shelagh Lewins and David Constantine have investigated the evidence for trollen braiding, with contributions from Russell Scott. A summary of their findings is available at [|]

It is almost impossible to prove that something did not exist, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and it is always possible that new evidence will come to light. However by reasonable standards of evidence from what we have been able to discover “trollen” braiding was not a Viking craft.

  • We have found no medieval accounts of “trollen” braiding, although there are written accounts of other textile techniques.
  • We have found no medieval pictures of “trollen” braiding although there are many pictures of other textile techniques in medieval manuscripts, paintings and wall paintings.
  • We have found no evidence that “trollen” braiding is a long standing traditional technique in Scandinavia or Britain.
  • We have found no medieval period archaeological evidence of notched disks suitable for “trollen” braiding although other textile tools survive.
  • We have been unable to find any mention of “trollen” braiding as a medieval technique in the published peer reviewed literature on medieval archaeology.
  • Experts on early medieval Northern European textile archaeology do not know of any evidence for trollen braiding.
  • We have found no braids in the medieval archaeological record that are not easier to make in other braiding techniques.
  • The “trollen” disks and the technique for using them match a Japanese braiding technique called kumihumo. This suggests that the “trollen” disk’s origins lie in Japan rather than medieval Europe.
  • The objects that have been put forward as evidence for “trollen” braiding do not have slots to hold threads in place so they do not resemble the slotted disks used in LHE and are not as well suited for braid making as the slotted disks. Furthermore, there are alternative more plausible explanations for the original use of the objects that have been put forward as evidence for “trollen” braiding:

The Trelleborg wheel

A disk from Trelleborg at Slagelse museum has been cited as a possible "trollen" disk partly because it is an exhibit of textile tools. It was identified by the archaeologist who first described it as a spindle whorl and it is displayed in the museum next to spindle whorls. Its location in a textile exhibit does not imply that museum staff thought it was a braiding tool.

  • An alternative interpretation of the Trelleborg disk is that it could be a container lid as it closely matches lids found further north.
  • Another potential candidate for a trollen braiding disk is a partial disk from Uunatoq fjord in Greenland with shallow notches. This has been conclusively identified as a navigational tool.

Trelleborg or "trollen" braiding in the Vikings Society

Despite extensive research and consultation we have been unable to find any credible evidence that the Vikings used slotted disks to make braid in the technique commonly known as “trollen” braid. Therefore we believe it is inappropriate to practice this craft in the Vikings living history encampments.

It therefore seems that this is a made up method of producing a round braid. Although it is easy to do, it is not authentic. Although it is popular as a starter craft for the LHE, you're better off trying your hand at lucet or spinning.

Since it would need careful examination from an expert to determine how the finished braid had been made, existing examples of "trollen" braid may continue to be used. When explaining them to the public, members of the Society should be aware of the alternative types of braiding known from the period we cover.

  • Members of the Vikings Society should not use "trollen" braid techniques.
  • Existing examples of "trollen" braid do not need to be removed or replaced.

Credits: with thanks to Jennifer Bray, Shelagh Lewins and Dave Constantine.