NBIA Colloquium by Marie Louise Nosch – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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NBIA Colloquium by Marie Louise Nosch

(Centre for Textile Research, U. of Copenhagen)

What ancient textiles tell us about cultures

Textiles are a key to the understanding of cultures and human life. In Denmark we are fortunate to have one the world's best collections of 2000-3000 year old textiles from graves and burials in bogs and in oak coffins.

They are unique archaeological material. Today, with a range of new analytical tools from the sciences, new information can be gained. Their age is determined with C14; fibres are examined in fibre analysis and DNA analysis; dyes and pigmentation in chemical analyses; and as a new tool, Sr isotope analyses can give data about provenance. We have applied these analyses and new understanding of the past is now possible.

In the Mediterranean area, no textiles from antiquity are preserved. However, there we have rich documentation in the form of ancient texts about textile workers, textile types, trade, fashions, salaries for textile workers and rations for children working in the workshops. Likewise, in these areas we have many textile tools. Together they give a new picture of how people in antiquity used textiles -- as clothing, as housing in tents, and as a currency in premonetary societies. We can follow textile terms such as the word for `shirt' from one language to another and in this way trace how textiles travelled and were traded.

Refreshments will be available in the NBIA lounge after the colloquium.