Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Mitten is Found



In 1918, Frithiof Svennson, a farmer from the Åsle Tå community near Falkoping, Sweden, was digging for peat moss in the Åsle Mose (bog) when about half a meter down he came across an incredible find. (Arbman, 67) He found what he believed to be a very old mitten.  He took it home and stored it in a drawer only to be taken out when visitors came by to see it.  In 1933 the Riksantikvarien, the National Heritage Board of Sweden, purchased the item for 300 kronor (approximately $50 US).  It was then given to the Statens Historiska Museet, the State History Museum, where it has since been housed. (Franzen)
Figure 1.  Photo from Asle Tå Upplevelsemuseum website (http://www.asleta.se/en/kategori/19/asle-mitten.html)
        The mitten found is a left-handed mitten made from handspun wool in naalbinding technique.  It measures 27 CM long and at its widest point is 17.5 cm (at the cuff).  At the wrist its width measures 11.5 cm, while below the thumb it is 11 cm, and above the thumb it is 9.5 cm. (Briansdottir 5)
        Originally the mitten was thought to have dated to between 300 and 400 AD based on analysis of the pollen found on the mitten and in the surrounding dirt.  Comparative analysis of a fire starting stone found in the bog earlier also seemed to confirm this. (Arbman 68)
        In the 1990’s several items were chosen from the exhibits at the Statens Historiska Museet for dating using the newer Carbon 14 dating technique. (Nockert 109)  Among those items was the Åsle mitten.  Of the items tested the mitten was the only item that had a differing set of results from the original pollen analysis.  The analysis showed that the mitten was from somewhere between 1510 and 1640, about 1000 years later than originally thought. (Nockert 67)
        The location of the mitten might provide some information as to the type of person that could have used it.  Tå communities were once inhabited mainly by the landless poor and elderly. (Claesson, Asleta.se)  This would indicate that those inhabiting the community also farmed and performed manual labor.  The mitten therefore might have belonged to a laborer or elder rather than an upper or middle class citizen. 
        Another clue is the type of wool used.  The wool is described as coarse wool.  This would not be wool used by upper or middle class but rather by poorer people.  During the evaluation of the mitten it was determined that it was made and then turned inside out as the interior surface had a gripping quality. The fact that the mitten is turned “inside out” once finished to place the gripping side out might also suggest a laborer.
        The smaller size of the mitten also indicates that it was possibly for a man with small hands, a woman, or an older child.

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