Definition

So called posaments or posament work are braids or knots made from metal used to adorn textiles. Posaments are braided free hand from wires and afterwards sewn to a cloth. This differentiates posaments from embroidery, which is worked directly into the textile.

The name "Posament"

Passementerie or passementarie (in French, passements) is the art of making elaborate trimmings or edgings of applied braid, gold or silver cord, embroidery, colored silk, or beads for clothing or furnishings.

Geijer used the name in Birka III because the knots and braids from Birka are similar in type and usage to the later Passementerie. Because of the German text in Birka III the German word "Posament" is now also used internationally for the viking age finds.

Origin and finds

The greatest number of posaments was found in the graves of Birka (Sweden). There are 44 graves containing one or more different types of posament work. Right next to Birka there are finds from a grave in Huddinge (near Stockholm) and posaments from the graves of Valsgärde (Uppsala). Another Swedish find is from a grave in Alvesta.

In Norway there is a posament find from Vangsnes. Another one from Rolvsöy is mentioned in Birka III but described as lost.

Two of the graves in Hedeby (Germany) contained a single posament knot each.

A grave from Beloretschensk (Russia) contained a great number of posament knots. The find is dated to the 15th century and therefor a lot younger than the other posaments. A picture of a collar from Suzdal shows a posament but I don't know anything more about it.

Material

The base material for all posaments is wire made from silver or gold.

The wire is either directly used to braid posaments or first wound around a silk thread. This wound wire is called spiral wire or spiral thread.

In one case a posament was braided from two twisted wires (P25).

Gold wire was most often used as simple wire where as silver was used as spiral wire. But there are a few examples for spiral gold and posaments from plain silver wire.

Posament-Types

Geijer differentiates 27 different types of posaments in Birka III, ranging from P1 to P27. Some of them are further divided into sub groups. These types differ in material and braid type.

The classification does not always seem to be logical. The posament braids P5 and P6 for example are braided identically but differ in material (one is made from silver, the other from gold). The sliding knot P23 however is a single type for both the silver and gold version.

Posament types which are not found in Birka do not have a classification name from Geijer. Those are the knots from Huddinge and Beloretschensk and the collar from Suzdal.

Posaments can be put in two different groups: longer braids can be called posament braids, the smaller types can be called posament knots.

Usage

Posaments were used as appliqué on textiles. Most of the pieces could be interpreted as adornment to garments. But it could also be possible that they were used for example on bags. Because of the fragmentary textile finds and the uncertain position in the graves it is for most of the posaments not possible to tell their exact usage on the garment.

Some posaments were found directly on or around the skull of the buried person. It is quite clear that those were used as adornment for a hat or a cap of some sort.