EBK Activity Sheets



Dark Age British Menswear
How do we know what it was like in the Dark Ages?

Mosaic from Gloucestershire showing a Romano-British man wearing his Birrus Britannicus

  • Archaeologists have dug up the graves of lots of British men. However, because they were Christians, they usually didn't have anything buried with them. They didn't need to take possessions with them to Heaven.
  • The British were still Romans even though the army had gone back to Europe. They wore simple Romano-British style clothes.
  • We know lots about these styles from Roman writing and carving, and even from pictures on mosaic floors (see picture).
  • Most usual were a short tunic, long or knee-length trousers (braccae) and a hooded cloak (birrus britannicus). Cloaks without hoods quickly became popular too.
  • Clothes were made of wool. Rich people might have been able to afford linen imported from Gaul (France).
  • Northern British poetry tells us how men wore chequed and striped cloaks, pinned with posh brooches.
  • These were the 'penannular brooches' that archaeologists have dug up at British settlements. Some were decorated with colourful enamel work. The British were experts at this.
  • Several men's arm rings have been dug up on Anglesey. They are made of silver and decorated with Celtic patterns. 
  • Archaeologists have found bone combs that show that, like the Saxons, the British kept their hair neat and tidy, as well as long.
  • Saxon-style jewelry, and probably clothing too, became popular with the British as trade with the Saxons grew.
  • Activity Sheet available.


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