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Inspiration #17, Balto-Finnic warrior


I don’t see any point in owning a nice costume that you can’t defend in front of others.

Edvards Puciriuss

In this part of the inspiration, I’d like to introduce Edvards Pucirius, a well-known Latvian reenactor and craftsman living in Tallinn, Estonia. It was actually Edvards’s photos (in the gallery below), that inspired me to write this series, but Edvards was really busy and didn’t have time to talk about his costume for a long time. After few evening conversations and several months of waiting, I managed to gather an incredible body of information and wrote the longest inspiration about Edwards, his costume, Latvian-Estonian science and reenactment. That is why I consider this inspiration to be the most exclusive of them all.

Edvards Puciriuss is known as a manufacturer of weapons, armour and jewellery. He’s also a reenactor, focusing on several periods (early Middle Ages, 14th century and the Vendel period). Edvards is an active reenactor since 1996, apart from Estonian and Latvian festivals, he has also visited festivals in Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Hungary and Belarus. Replicas made by him are worn by reenactors in Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Norway and the United Kingdom. He is one of the organizers of the Kiruvere Muinaslaager festival. At this moment, he and his colleagues are making a Viking ship using authentic historical technologies – they make planks by splitting logs and smoothing them with axes; they make their own tar and ropes. In Edvards’s opinion it is not only the result of the reconstruction that is important, but also the production process itself. For at least fifteen years he has been collaborating with experts, such as Marika Mägi, whose work he recommends. He has also been involved in a number of reconstructions for museums. Right now he is making a part of the metal components for a reconstruction of the Estonian find “Kukruse memm”. Thanks to his contacts in the academic world, he has access to findings that he can photograph and document for his own use.

As Edvards began to talk about what he was reconstructing, there were two things I realized – first, that he knows the area and period in great detail, and second, he assumed that most people are unfamiliar with geography of Estonia and Latvia, burial rituals, and material culture. Edvards’s equipment is based on finds from western Estonia (Läänemaa county) and Ösel island (Saaremaa). These two areas are very close in terms of geographical location and archaeological finds. Another similar area is the potamon (the lowest part) of the Daugava River in Latvia, an area inhabited by Daugava Livonians. However, the funeral rituals of the two areas differed. In western Estonia and the island of Ösel, there are mass cremation graves, among which it is difficult to find graves of individuals. The objects found in these graves are mostly destroyed or fragmented and without many details. In this area, for example, a few blades and almost no complete swords were found, while we can find plenty of hilts, warheads and crossguards. It’s the same with textiles or other organic materials. Basically, only ceramics and iron objects have been preserved. In the area of ​​ Daugava Livonians, the individual graves are more common and objects in them are better preserved, including textiles, leather etc. Also, a lot of information can be acquired from how the individual objects in specific graves are placed.

Ethnic groups with areas within the northern part of the Baltic region. Taken from: Mägi 2002: 16, Fig. 1.

Edvards explains that his costume is based mainly on finds from western Estonia and the island of Ösel, but he also uses parallels from the Daugava Livonian region and seeks analogies from graves in surrounding areas where similar objects were used – in northern Curonia, Gauja Livonians and also in Gotland and central Sweden. In his opinion, this reconstruction, which is very complex due to fragmentary findings, requires analogous findings in neighbouring countries to understand what the object might have originally looked like; in practice this means looking at a number of similar objects and understanding their typology and development. The results of his reconstruction are often not replicas, because the original objects are not preserved well. He also applies this approach to textiles based on findings from the surrounding areas, in particular the Livonian and Latgalian finds from Latvia.

While creating this inspiration, Edvards told me that his goal is to show that the reconstruction of costumes from different parts of the Baltic countries can be quite different. In Latvia, there are areas where inhumation graves are pretty common, and the reconstruction is relatively simple. In such case, it’s more about the craftsmen from whom the reenactors order replicas and the amount of money they are willing to spend. In other areas of the Baltic, the situation is diametrically different and reenactors need to combine various sources and knowledge and go into great detail for quality reconstruction. The result of this reconstruction can be always questioned, as there is not enough material to create replicas, but a different approach in a given cultural circle is not possible.

Edwards also tries to include a less-known or less-used objects in his reconstruction, i.e. objects, that were commonly used in the past but aren’t seen in reenactment as much. In Estonia, it can be for example jewellery, which is described as Scandinavian, and yet it is more common in Estonia than in Scandinavia. As an illustrative example of his approach, Edvards wears wide trousers only because no one wears them at Estonian festivals, but if he went to a Scandinavian festival, he would wear tight trousers (because wide trousers are now popular in the Scandinavian reenactment). His goal is to show the range of used objects, as opposed to the common approach of copying objects.

The costume, which we will describe below, can be set in the first half of the 11th century. Edvards says that it is by no means perfect and he’ll always be changing it a bit, because he gets rid of old items and makes new ones. This applies in particular to weaponry that is constantly wearing out.

As for textiles, Edward says he doesn’t feel like an expert, so he follows the advice of people who deal with it more. There are quite a few textile finds, especially in Livonian and Latgalian tombs from Latvia, but most of them are tablet-woven or just small fragments and they don’t give us much information (the well-preserved ones can give us some information about the weave) Edvards is not sure how much the whole garments reconstructions by Anna Zariņa and other researchers can be trusted, because they are rather only possible interpretations. Plus, the literature commenting on these reconstructions was written during the Soviet era, and the authors certainly did not have access to all the materials they could use for comparison.

Edvards’ civilian costume consists of a woollen cap, a linen shirt, two woollen tunics, a woollen cloak, wide woollen trousers (Edvards added, that he is finishing his linen trousers for warmer weather), woollen leg-wraps fixed with a leather strap or string, woolen gloves and nålbinded socks. All textiles except the trousers are hand-woven. Clothing is hand-sewn, machine sewing is prohibited at Latvian and Estonian festivals. The wool is dyed with natural dyes and the linen is bleached. Edvards says, that hand weaving and natural dyeing are quite common in Latvian reenactment. Edvards tries to get rid of tablet-woven hems (you can see it only on his old green tunic and cap), because in his opinion they are overused in historical reconstruction.

On his feet we can notice leather shoes. Edvards says that he’s not really satisfied with them because they are old, of poor quality and are based on findings from Riga that date to 13th century. That’s why he’s intending to make a new pair.

The tunics are belted with a belt cast by Edward’s friend, craftsman Indrek Jets, who recently wrote his dissertation about Scandinavian animal motifs in Estonian art (“Lahingu maod. Skandinaavia 9. – 11. Sajandi kunstistiilid Eesti arheoloogilistel leidudel“) and is considered the greatest expert in Scandinavian art in Estonia. Edvards says, that the belt is not finished; it will be modified for his new sword – the leather body of the belt will be replaced by a combination of leather and birch bark, which is common in findings (but a belt made only out of leather is not archaeologically wrong) but not as common among reenactors. The modified belt will also have more plaquettes and dividers. Edwards says that reconstructing belts based on the findings is problematic, because the organic parts have not been preserved in cremation graves and the number of buckles and end tips in individual graves varies, as do the types of metal components. Thus, we cannot call Edward’s belt a replica of a specific find, although the metal components are copies of the originals.

Finds from Randvere. Taken from Mägi 2002: Pl. 30: 20, 22, 24.

There are two types of plaquettes on his belt. The first type are heart-shaped plaquettes, which are apparently of Eastern origin, but can also be found in large numbers in the area that Edvards is reconstructing. These are replicas of the finds from Randvere and are made of silver, as are the originals, although most of the other finds are made of bronze. The second type of plaquettes is based on finds from the Viltina, which are decorated with wild Urnes-style decor. Edvards says that he has not seen similar plaquettes anywhere else, but that he has heard of a similar unpublished find from Latvia. The belt dividers (rings) are based on the findings from Harmi.

The belt buckle is the same type that was found in Estonia (Harju-Madise Linnakselt; AI 6961: 69), Latvia (Salaspils Laukskola, Kuldigast) and Gotland. Used animal head motifs on buckles have been found on many finds from Estonia and Latvia. The end tip of the belt has the shape of an animal head with an axe-shaped end. It is a replica based on findings from Linnamäe (AM 491: 588), Laukna (AI 3710: 9) and Ehmja (AM 554: 707), although in most of the finds the eyelets have a teardrop shape rather than circular. Similar fish-shaped belt end tips are quite common and can be found in the Randvere II complex on the island of Ösel.

On the belt, there are a pouch and a knife, made of three-layer steel. It is not based on any specific find, nor is the handle and sheath, which are decorated in the style of Urnes, often used in swords and spears. The sheath fittings are based on finds from Maidla (AM 839: 114) and several sites from Gotland. Similar fittings have been found in the Kullamaa and Ehmja localities (AM 554: 689).

The brooch from Piila III. Taken from Mägi 2002: Pl. 20: 5.

His cloak is fastened with a large brooch with poppyhead-shaped ends. This particular one is based on a find from the island of Ösel, Piila locality. It is a common type of brooch, although most original pieces are smaller. The needles were not preserved in the Piila brooch, so Edward had to study this type of brooch and understand the typology to find out the sad truth that simple needles without decoration are the most common.

A smaller brooch for fastening Edvards’s white tunic, is based on a find from the island of Ösel. 4/5 of the same brooches were found in Estonia, 6 in Latvia (eg in Salaspils Laukskola) and at least three in Lithuania. They are also common in Gotland, where the earlier type of these brooches is more common. The brooches are decorated with faces that also often appear on women’s decorative buckles. Researcher Guntis Zemītis thinks that this type of brooch was an attribute of boys in Latvian graves, but Edvards doubts his theory because it is based only on three graves.

In the photos we can notice that the sleeves of his tunics are tied with a strap decorated with bronze. These straps occasionally appear in the graves of Latgalian men, but Edward has some doubts about his reconstruction and does not wear them on the regular basis. However, they are very practical because they tighten the sleeves. In the area that Edvards is reconstructing, men’s bracelets are not common (unlike rest of the Baltic area) and therefore are not suitable for his reconstruction.

The battle version of his costume consists of a combat knife (sax), a two-handed M-type axe, a spear, javelins, a shield, a helmet and a mail. Edvards says that many parts of his gear are yet to be made – for example two swords, five axes and two shields.

Combat knives were very popular in Latvia and Estonia. In Latvia they are often found with richly decorated sheaths, while in Estonia metal fittings are rare and usually, only blades are found. The handles are usually wooden, but several finds have handles made of decorated deer antler. Some handles are wrapped in bronze wire and have bronze-decorated straps for pulling them out of the sheath. The blades are very thick and are usually made of several layers of steel, usually 5 -13. The number of layers is usually visible on the back of the blade.

The long knife from Laadjala. Taken from Tvauri 2012: 188, Fig. 156.

Edwards’s combat knife is inspired by three different finds – one of them was an inspiration for the blade and two served as scabbard templates. As Edvards points out, there aren’t any complete pieces preserved, so an accurate copy cannot be made. The blade is based on a finding from Estonian “battlefield” of Kaarma (which is probably not a battlefield, but a destroyed burial ground). The blade of Kaarma is one of the longest in Estonia; the rest of the findings is slightly smaller. Larger blades are common in Latvia. Edvards says that he recently noticed a small decoration on the blade, so he will probably make a new knife, which will be made of different kinds of steel, to highlight the contrast between the layers, although he is not sure if it is the authentic method. The decoration of the sheath is based on a finding from Laadjala, Estonia. The original find was only fragmentary, so Edvards copied the preserved details and combined them with the complete ironwork found in Salaspils Laukskola site, Latvia. Edvards is quite sure, that his knife is authentic. He also said, that there are several options for attaching the sheath to the belt.

Edvards owns several axes, but in the pictures you can see only his Petersen type M axe. This type of two-handed axes was relatively common in the Baltics, especially in Curonia (see for example: Vytautas Kazakevičius, „Topory bojowe typu M. Chronologia i pochodzenia na źiemiach Bałtów“). With more than 250 finds were found in Latvia and in Curonia, these axes were the most common weapons in the period of 11tr-14th century.

Edvards is going to make a Petersen type M spear, which is quite frequent in this area. He recommends the book “Tension and Tradition: A study of Late Iron Age Spearheads Around the Baltic Sea” by Kristina Creutz, which deals with this type of spears. The only problem with this type of spear is silver plating, because almost no one can reconstruct it and which is also very important, because most of the decorated hilts, spears and riding equipment are decorated with this technique. Edvards wants to avoid modern galvanization, even though the result is visually similar.

Kirpičnikov boss types: I, II, III, IV. Taken from Kirpičnikov 1971: Рис. 10.

As for shields, only shields made of planks have been used at Baltic festivals for several years. Edvards used radially chipped planks on his old shield and covered it with rawhide. The shield was surprisingly thin (6-8 mm), light and lasted about 7 years. Other shields that are yet to be made will also be made of chipped boards. Edvards uses spruce, as in the case of shield found in the Tīra swamp in Latvia. There was no padding between the board and the leather upholstery, unlike the Tīra find, which was stuffed with grass. The bosses are made from one piece of material. Circular shields were used with spherical bosses with “necks” (Kirpičnikov’s type I), while convex and almond-shaped shields were used with Kirpičnikov’s types III and IV. These types of bosses appear very scarcely in the area that Edvards is reconstructing and probably come from almond-shaped shields, some of which had a horizontally placed handgrip. It’s a strange design, but the finds really back it up, and Edvards is making a replica to experiment with this shield design.

Edvardsovy rekonstrukce.

There are 6 finds of helmets from Latvia and Lithuania, but they are dated to 12th and 13th centuries (5 finds from Curonia and one from Žemaitija, all of the same type and possibly made by the same blacksmith). There have been attempts to date them to 11th century, but Edwards thinks it is very unlikely. There are tombstones in western Estonia that depict local leaders with helmets, but these too, date to 12th and 13th centuries. All these helmets are conical, a shape that has been common since the 11th century. Edward chose a one-piece conical helmet, without a center piece. The thickness at the front is 3.5-4 mm, and 1.5-2 mm at the back. Edvards would like to add the center piece, but since he intends to make a replica of the helmet from Birka, there probably won’t be any time left to upgrade his conical helmet. The aventail on his helmet is based on small pieces of mail found on the island of Ösel. Occasionally, these pieces were buried in graves as amulets. The rings and rivets of the mesh correspond to the findings, but the way they are attached to the helmet is purely Edward’s inventiveness.

The helmet.

His mail is imported from India and its mesh is a combination of solid flat rings and rings riveted with wedges. Edvards admits that this is a younger method that is not suitable for the 11th century northern Europe. The only similar mail from the 11th century was found in northern Russia and consists of only a few rings. Edvards bought the armor for a very good price, it was intended for reconstruction of the 14th century and he admits that it is not the most suitable one, although it has very good qualities – it weighs about 7 kilos and distributes hit power perfectly.

Edwards wears only two woolen tunics under his mail. He used to wear a thin gambeson, but since it’s not historically authentic, he got rid of it. Edwards is quite happy with his tunic; their only disadvantage is that they drench with sweat easily, so he might make a simple padding, made out of two woolen tunics, sewn together at the seams.

As for the swords Edwards intends to make, the first one will be a mix of several findings, as there basically aren’t any complete swords finds. The first sword will have a pommel cast in bronze, which is a reconstruction of a find from West Maidla in West Estonia and is decorated in the Ringerike style (the closest analogy is a spear from Budapest). This pommel was cast by Indrek Jets, who created a cross guard decorated in the same style, although the original finding didn’t have a cross guard. The blade will be a sharp replica of a find with a damask inscription ULFBERHT (see Moilanen 2009), which was found on the island of Ösel. The second sword Edvards is planning to make will be a blunt Z-type combat sword, with a silver-inlaid hilt, which will also be a replica of another Maidla find.

For the armaments, this would probably do. Edvards also says that there are not many armor finds in the area he is reconstructing. Besides some fragments of mail armor and helmets from 12th and 13th centuries, there was discovered one lamellar armor finding (13th or 14th century). Some fighters at Latvian festivals use leather armbands, which are, forbidden and must be hidden under armor. Due to full contact fights, leather gloves are allowed. Edward’s gloves are reinforced with metal plates (not visible so as not to interfere with their authentic appearance) and work perfectly, unlike other gloves in which he had broken fingers several times. Those who would like to know what the fights in Estonia look like, can visit these links: 1, 2.

The look of the Estonian Historical Festival – Kiruvere Muinaslaager.

This describes the basic structure of Edvards’s costume. He also mentioned that he owns a lot of pottery, furniture and utensils for cooking and eating, which is based on both local finds and Scandinavian oranalogies. In the gallery below you can notice a cauldron based on a find from the Estonian Raatvere (so far the only period cauldron from Estonia), and pottery made based on West Estonian finds (the pottery depicted is not Edwards’s, but Edwards owns a very similar one).

Edvards also briefly commented on the condition of Estonian and Latvian reenactment. The quality of reenactment groups in Latvia varies and in Estonia, the quality varies even more. The level of interest, approach and craftsmanship varies greatly between groups and people. In Estonia, there are groups and people who put more time into their research and reconstruction of local objects, although there are also groups that have more general ideas and resemble Viking groups in the west, wearing leather armor, colorful clothes, wide trousers, leather hats, lots of embroidery, eastern sabers and English jewelry. Besides that, there’s also a Russian minority that has its own interests and does not examine local findings because they don’t speak Estonian/Latvian. Even in the Estonian reenactment there are people, whose equipment is not historically accurate, and yet the owner claims that he’s engaged in a historical reconstruction (see the picture at the top right).

The gallery of Edvards’s photos is below. Their authors are: Gerda Buša, Gatis Indrēvics, Juris Necajevs, Edvards Puciriuss, Ugunszīme Group.

I thank Edvards Puciriuss for his time and for his answers on my inquisitive questions. The Forlǫg Project wishes Edvards good luck and interesting moments in his future reenactment career. Here we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.

Used and recommended literature

Creutz, Kristina (2003). Tension and Tradition: A Study of Late Iron Age Spearheads Around the Baltic Sea, Stockholm.

Jets, Indrek (2012). Scandinavian late Viking Age art styles as a part of the visual display of warriors in 11th century Estonia. In: Estonian Journal of Archaeology, 2012, 16/2, 118–139. Online.

Jets, Indrek (2013). Lahingu maod. Skandinaavia 9.–11. sajandi kunstistiilid Eesti arheoloogilistel leidudel, Tallinn. Online.

Kazakevičius, Vytautas (1996). Topory bojowe typu M. Chronologia i pochodzenia na źiemiach Bałtów. In: Słowiańszczyzna w Europie średniowiecznej, Wrocław: 233–241.

Kirpičnikov, Anatolij N. (1971). Древнерусское оружие. Вып. 3. Доспех, комплекс боевых средств IX—XIII вв, Moskva.

Mägi, Marika (2002). At the Crossroads of Space and Time. Graves, Changing Society and Ideology on Saaremaa (Osel), 9th–13th centuries AD, Tallinn. Online.

Moilanen, Mikko (2009). On the manufacture of iron inlays on sword blades: an experimental study. Fennoscandia archaeologica XXVI: 23–38. Online.

Nerman, Birger (1929). Die Verbindungen zwischen Skandinavien und dem Ostbaltikum in der jüngeren Eisenzeit, Stockholm.

Thunmark-Nylén, Lena (1998). Die Wikingerzeit Gotlands II : Typentafeln, Stockholm.

Tõnisson, Evald (1974). Die Gauja-Liven und ihre materielle Kultur (11. Jh.-Anfang 13. Jhs.), Tallinn.

Tvauri, Andres (2012). The Migration Period, Pre-Viking Age, and Viking Age in Estonia, Tartu. Online.

Zariņa, Anna (1970). Seno latgaļu apģērbs 7.–13. gs, Riga.

Zariņa, Anna (2006). Salaspils Laukskola kapulauks 10.–13.gadsimts, Riga.

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