A recent thread on a Regia newsgroup concerned questions about baskets—specifically types—of the Viking age. In it, there were plenty of extrapolations, suggestions and suppositions. Almost no hard evidence, that is, extant baskets of the time.
On one hand, we know they had baskets. There are fragments of basketry, and “The history of weaving containers with plant fibers likely goes back to the start of mankind. Unfortunately, plant fibers often have a hard time surviving in the soil that long or even as far back to the late 8th Century at the start of the Viking Age.” A ten-thousand year old basket miraculously survived—and it is not significantly different from those of later ages—was found is Israel, and we are told ““Organic materials usually do not have the ability to survive for such long periods,” Dr. Naama Sukenik from the IAA’s Organic Material Department told The Jerusalem Post. “However, the special climatic condition of the Judean Desert, its dry weather, have allowed for dozens of artifacts to last for centuries and millennia.”
There are a few extant samples of baskets from our periods, We know from extant baskets thAt they were both round and square, sometimes with solid bases and tops, made out of willow and other natural substances. We are not certain if they were painted, and we can only make conjectures about whaT they contained, since none have been found with a a content. A few logical extrapolations can be made by examining later baskets and noting that they did not significantly change, but that is closer to experimental archaeology than to anything else. Ironically, the basket weaving techniques founds in extant ancient Roman basketry, in later basketry and even in North American basketry—such as the several basket fragments ound in Binderbost in Washington State do not differ thAt much despite the time and geographic differences.
Here are a few of the baskets that we know existed.
Fragments are known to exist from Oseberg, though there is a tendency to mistake these are being from Gokstad, and these fragments are even often included with pieces of the Gokstad back pack..
The so-called Gokstad back-pack is generally acknowledges to be a basket, though no samples of the basket weaving is available. We are left with the solid wooden top and bottom, and holes for the strakes to be inserted. Weaving a basket around these strakes is logical and easily done, but there are no existing, real samples. In fact, some writers insist that no basket weaving was used at all, and the pack was enclosed by leather. In fact, plenty has been extrapolated, but very little has been proven.
A rectangular wicker basket top has been found in Coppergate. It has been suggested that it ws a pigeon coop basket.
Many of the woven baskets we have come from fishing baskets. They were submerged in mud that helped to present them!
Finding extant samples are difficult, even though many authors love to lecture us that they have been found, though without any documentation or provenance. It is like the subject of tattoos in ma ways; though statements and claims are frequent, solid evidence is sadly lacking. If you have any other sources of photos or descriptions other than those listed here, please let me know.