Fur and Skin Trade in Viking and Medieval Denmark: A Biomolecular Investigation of Archaeological Fur, Skin, and Leather from Denmark and Its Contribution to the Understanding of the Viking and Medieval Fur and Skin Trade

Written sources from the 10th-16th centuries describe fur as a central commodity in Viking and medieval towns. This project aims to species-identify Viking and medieval fur and skin materials using proteomic methods on samples taken from extant clothing of the era. The data will contribute to current debates about trade of fur and animal skins and the demand for them.

Archaeological fur and skin materials will be sampled, and the relevant animal species identified using newly-developed proteomic methods: PMF and MS-based peptide sequencing. The findings will shed light on the raw materials required for leather clothing and their provenance in the Viking and Medieval period. The data will be considered using Actor Network Theory (ANT) and concepts of materiality to hypothesise why the skin and fur of specific species were chosen to make garments.

By investigating how the relationship between leather, fur and people contributed to the formation of new social and cultural values in the earliest Danish towns, this project provides perspectives for understanding and interpreting perceptions of raw materials, sources of supply, stimulators of demand and the mechanisms by which they interrelate.

PI: Assistant professor Luise Ørsted Brandt