Clothing and ornaments of ancient Semigallians
Semigallians, as one of the wealthiest Baltic nations, wore beautiful silver, bronze and, in separate cases, also from golden jewelry. Their material culture contains a great diversity of types and forms of these decorations, which have a considerable proportion of silver in them.
Traditionally, the usage of pinafore dress type attire was characteristic of Semigallian women, who wore them together with chains and decorative pins. Men wore single pins, while women wore pairs, which related to chains. Numerous types of them are known, such as pins with conical, triangular, cruciform, ring-form and profiled heads. Semigallian women also wore beautiful bronze coronets, splitters of which were often decorated with silver plating.
Beautiful arbalest fibulas are known already from the 5th-7th centuries. Those were made from silver and, in separate cases, gilded, just like the ones from Jaunsvirlauka and Tērvete. They were normally worn by men, and later – also by women. Nowadays we know owl-shaped or massive horseshoe fibulas with plain pressed cross-ribbed ends, as well as spiraled ends or ends in the form of poppy flowers, animal heads and whales. Also, plate fibulas are pointed out as specific kinds of Semigallian jewelry.
Bronze or silver neck rings were also of high value. They were of different types – with thick, facet, loop, hook, saddle, crutch and hooked ends. Starting from the 10th century, neck rings have been work only by women, while from the 11th century, several rings were put together, and thus, a unique Semigallian type of jewelry was created.
A lot of bracelets derive from the 3rd century. Lighter forms were worn by women, heavier ones – by men. Here the ones with cabling, segment or triangular sections, as well as with ends in the form of animal heads, should be especially pointed out. In the 9th-12th centuries Semigallian warriors wore bracelets on their right hands.
Semigallian especially valued bronze spiral rings and the rings with overlapping concurrent ends. After the 10th century appear bronze and silver rings with cabling, toreutic or thickened top part. One of the most known Latvian legends of the modern times is connected with a silver ring with cabling, overlapping concurrent ends, and which belonged to Semigallia’s ruler Namejs.
Semigallians used metal sleeve spear ends, but in the 9th century metal tang spear ends with willow-leaf blade plates became especially spread. Initially, metal celt hatchets were in use, which in the 8th century were replaced by narrow-blade hatchets. Broad-blade hatchets were introduced in the 10th century. Battle knives of different types were also widely spread, however, not very many swords are known – these appear by the 9th century. In the 10th-12th centuries Semigallian started using locally manufactured single-bladed swords, which development relates to battles knives along with the development of double-bladed swords. Drinking horns and horse bits are also found in Semigallians burials, while in one burial from Mežotne a metal ice pick was also found.
The following tools were used by the women of the Iron Age – metal mattocks, sickle-like knives (or, bush-knives), awls and spindle whorls. In Western Semigallia harvests were collected with scythes, while in Eastern Semigallia – with sickles.
Semigallians were known as wealthy and skillful craftsmen. Trade with other Northern nations affected their growth – sparkling silver-plated and gold-plated bronze rings, bracelets and fibulas serve as evidence of that. Semigallians were also outstanding smiths and could be proud of their sharp and durable swords. In the wooden castle of Tērvete is possible to see the biggest exposition of swords in Latvia, as well as to get acquainted with a unique ancient technique of metal object silver-plating, which was mastered by ancient Semigalians.