Ancient Wire

Woven wire chains of this type (Viking wire weaving, Viking knit, Viking chain knitting) were found at Birka (ca 800 - 900 AD) and also in the Roman, Greek and Byzantine civilizations (4th century BC to 1st century AD).  Chains such as this can be found with pendants, in multiple strands with adornments, for hanging items from diadems and earrings, for earrings themselves, on cloak pins and as trim. 

Also see What Should We Call This Type of Chain?

It is not always obvious from photographs exactly how a piece was constructed.  Here are some references for what I believe is Viking Wire Weaving / Viking Chain Knitting / Viking Knit.


Viking Warrior was a Woman
A warriors grave was found at Birka in the late 1800's and classified as a man due to the weapons and horses found in the grave.  Examination of the skeleton and DNA analysis has shown that this warrior was a woman. This woman was also buried with woven wire!

The image on historiska . se shows what seems to be a cone shape.  It was created with 7 starting loops forming columns that are inconsistently placed.  There are 8 rows of wire forming the loops.  Beginning with the second row, it is double weave.  These loops are formed right over left.  I am right handed and form my loops left over right.  Perhaps the maker was left handed?  According to Birka III, a granulated silver cone and some ovals of wire were also found.  

The wire weaving in the grave
The items in the Birka Grave Bj 581
A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics
An officer and a gentlewoman from the Viking army in Birka
Viking warrior found in Sweden was a woman, researchers confirm
Wikipedia Article

Haikko Silver Hoard, SW Finland.  The hoard was deposited in the last decades of the 12th century at the earliest.  The link that I had was from the National Board of Antiquities, The National Museum of Finland, but the link no longer works.


The Trewhiddle hoard was found with coins dating the deposition to around 872-5.  From Trewhiddle, Cornwall, England.  The Scourge (whip) might be the correct technique.


Erikstorp. Parish of Odeshog, Ostergotland.  Discovered in 1875.  This hoard contains among other things, a silver chain which may be the correct technique. 


Braided Gold Necklace - Roman, A.D. 165-256 - Syrian, Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos - This gold necklace was found in a private house in an earthenware jar that also contained a hoard of coins. It must have been a highly valued possession, for both its precious material and its exquisite workmanship. The intricate braided chain suspends a pendant that is composed of a circle with four pelta designs on either side. Minute beads of gold adorn the perimeter of the circle, and four tiny beads hang from the lowest point; this technique is known as "granulation" and appears in Greek jewelry as early as the second millennium BCE.  This object is not currently on view.  Note:  I am not positive about this one from only viewing the photo, however there are a couple places that look like they might be seams, and the chain has a spiral twist to it.


An artifact that could be a bone drawplate can be found here - second item down.


Tiurinlinna (Räisälä) hoard objects - National Museum of Finland


Marazov, Ivan, General Editor.  Ancient Gold: The Wealth of the Thracians Treasures from the Republic of Bulgaria  Harry N Abrams, Inc Publishers.  1997  ISBN 0-8109-1992-3.  

Page 117 Interlaced chain of twisted wire.  The chain has seams!


Rudolph, Wolf.  A Golden Legacy:  Ancient Jewelry from the Burton Y. Berry Collection at the Indiana University Art Museum.  Indiania University Art Museum, Bloomington, Indiana.  1995  ISBN 0-253-20913-7

On page 164 is #35. A Group of Jewelry. Eastern Mediterranean, Hellenistic, ca late third through first centuries BC.  "The necklace is composed of a long, very tightly knit, doubled loop-in-loop chain strung with beads and charm pendants."  It is a very pretty chain, but the photo is too small to see exactly how it is made.

On page 256 is #71 Set of Jewelry.  Eastern Mediterranean, late Roman Imperial, fourth century AC.   "Thirteen elements of quadruple loop-in-loop chain alternate with twelve octagonal tubular beads of light to medium grayish green glass of  varying lengths and thicknesses."  The chain segments appear to vary between about 2 and 2.5 cm.  The photo is too small to see exactly how it is made.

On page 309 is 96 Pectoral Cross with Chain and Medallion.  Anatolia? Byzantine, fourteenth century AC.  The chain is described as the multiple loop-in-loop type.  This one I think is probably not loop in loop.  There seem to be joins at regular intervals.  


Price, Judith.  Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry.  Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia.  2008.  ISBN 978-0-7624-3386-5.  

Page 97 - Gold Necklace with Medallion Pendant.  Byzantium, late 6th century CE.  


Rosenthal, Renate.  Jewelry of the Ancient World.  Lerner Publications Company, Minneapolis.  1974.  ISBN 0-8225-0830-3.  

Page 36 - A Roman necklace with a coin pendant.  The coin bears the image of the emperor Domitian, who ruled during the first century A.D.


Traces of the Central Asian Culture in the North.  Finnish-Soviet Joint Scientific Symposium Held in Hanasaari, Espoo.  14-21 January 1985.  (Memoires de la Societe finno-ougrienne)  Edited by Ildiko Lehtienen.  Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura, Helsinki 1986.  ISBN 951-940-02-7.  

Article - Jewellery or Technology Imported?  by Leena Tomantera.  An article about the necklace from the Hameelinna Linnaniemi treasure hoard.  My replica can be seen here:


Kivikoski, Ella.  Finland (Ancient peoples and places;vol.53) .  Frederick a. Praeger Publishers, New York, Washington, 1967.  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number:  66-11423.  

Plate 64 - necklace from a silver hoard found at Lamsa, Kuusamo, Northern Finland.  My replica can be seen here:


Geijer, Agnes.  Birka III, Die Textilfunde aus den Grabern.  Almqvist & Wiksells Boktryckeri-Aktiebolag, Uppsala 1938.  

This book is written in German.  

Graves 366, 557, 559, 581.  Hollow ovals, encased glass beads and flat trim.  My replicas of the hollow ovals and wire caged glass beads can be seen here:


ISKOS 4.  Suomen Muinaismuistoyhdistys Finska Fornminnesforeningen.  Helsinki 1984 Helsingfors.  Article - Braid, Weave and Foxtail by Leena Tomantera and Article - The Crucifix from Taskula, Maaria by Paula Purhonen.  ISBN 951-9056-67-X.  Leena Tomantera has done much research on this type of chain.  


What Life Was Like Among Druids and High Kings, Celtic Ireland AD 400 - 1200 by Time Life Books, Alexandria, 1998.  ISBN 978-0783554556.

The Tara Brooch - I have not been able to find a really good picture of the broken end of this chain.  This book has the best picture I have seen of it.  It appears that the chain was pulled to break it, and the diameter decreases at the broken end.  This would happen with a hollow tube, but not with something like loop in loop.  The Tara Brooch is housed in the National Museum of Ireland.  


Graham-Campbell, James.  The Viking-Age Gold and Silver of Scotland.  National Museums of Scotland, 1995.  ISBN 0948636 62 9.  

Shows a drawing of Trichonoply chain work as a series of U's and N's, instead of a series of cursive L's on page 31.  Figure 62 on page 156 and Plate 74 on page 252 show what could be Wire Weaving. This book references:

Wilson, D M and C E Blunt.  1961 The Trewhiddle hoard.  Archaeologia 98, 75-122.  The Trewhiddle hoard contains a scourge with a chain, that from photographs looks as if it could be Wire Weaving.  This article says that it "was manufactured using the Trichinoply technique (also known as tatting)... The chain is plaited on nails through a hole bored in a piece of wood."  If the chain is indeed made in this way it would produce a series of U's instead of a series of cursive L's.  This article says the chain on the Tara Brooch is made in the same way.    


Von Boehn, Max.  Ornaments.  Benjamin Blom, Inc, 1970.  

Page 155 shows a chain with a Man's Head.  I have seen this in several places and I think it is Wire Weaving.


Higgins, Reynold Alleyne.  Greek and Roman Jewellery.  London, Methuen 1961.  ISBN 0520036018.  

Page 142 shows the same necklace as above - Satyr's Head, from Caere about 500 BC.

Page 152 - part of a necklace from Tarquinii, 4th century BC.  

Page 186 - Necklace with Wheel Finials and Coin of Domitian as pendant from Egypt, 1st - 2nd century AD.  


Tait, Hugh, editor.  Jewelry 7000 years: An international history and illustrated survey from the collections of the British Museum.  Harry N Abrams Inc, New York, 1986.  ISBN 0-8109-1157-4.  

Item 191 Roman necklace with pendant 1st century AD.  

Item 222 Byzantine necklace from Egypt c 600 AD.  


Gerlach, Martin, editor.  Primitive and Folk Jewelry [over 1,900 illustrations].  Dover Publications, New York.  1971.  ISBN 0-486-22747-2.  

Roman woman's necklace from Egypt.  Multiple strands with coin pendants.  


Deppert-Lippitz, Barbara.  Ancient Gold Jewelry at the Dallas Museum of Art.  Dallas Museum of Art, 1996.  

Pages 78 & 79  are possible chains.  The one on page 79 shows a dent in the side of the chain, which should mean that the chain is hollow and not solid.  

Page 83 shows a loop in loop chain.  One of the loops can be seen on the left side where a neighboring loop has broken.  


Gregorietti, Guido.  Jewelry Through the Ages.  American Heritage, New York 1969.  

Page 59 Necklace of thick, tubular shaped chain meshwork with a head of Achelous, from Praeneste, Etruscan, 4th century BC.  Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia, Rome.  

Page 132 Gold Earring with three plaited chain pendants terminating in spherical stones, Byzantine.  Thyssen collection, Lugano.   Even though the description says braided, I think this is loop in loop.  


Hughes, Graham.  The Art of Jewelry, a Survey of Craft and Creation.  Gallery Books, New York 1972.  ISBN 0831704586.  

Page 45 - In this gold necklace with the head of Domitian.  "Very few jewelers today can make by hand such a chain."  

Page 203 A 1st century AD gold necklace found at Pompeii.  National Museum, Naples.





Wait! We have something for you...

Don't leave empty-handed! Simply enter your email below and we will send you a great discount on our products:

We hate spam as much as you do! Your details are never shared and you can unsubscribe at any time.