Monday, August 22, 2016

Bronze Age Textiles

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Bronze Age Textiles

imageMany of us have been following the Cambridge Archaeological Unit’s facebook page as they have been documenting their finds at Must Farm near Peterborough. The Bronze Age settlement has been nicknamed the Pompeii of the Fens and has revealed a well-provisioned community that was arguably wealthy for the time.
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Artefacts discovered at the site include decorative beads made from glass, jet and amber which are thought to have been imported from the Mediterranean or as far away as the Middle East.
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Clothes made from lime tree bark and woven textiles that may have been used as rugs or wall hangings have been recovered.
Bronze Age textiles from Britain are incredibly rare and those that do tend to survive are often in very poor condition. Pieces which are found are typically small and fragmentary, usually no larger than a fingernail. One particularly large fragment was discovered that had been folded and it emerged that it was made from plant fibres, most likely from lime trees. This was especially surprising as there is a fairly common assumption that most archaeological textiles would have been made using animal fibres, such as wool.
The extreme rarity of this kind of material in such good condition from the period means that the timber platform is a site of not just national, but international importance. However, it isn’t just the actual material which is important in understanding ideas of appearance, manufacture, usage and fastening. Associated finds such as bobbins, glass beads, drapes and mats are vital clues in answering these questions.
Perfectly preserved pieces of 3,000-year-old thread – one in a ball and another wrapped around a bobbin have been discovered.
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Both roughly a centimetre across, the fragments discovered are in excellent condition despite their age and archaeologists described the find as ‘amazing’. The thread was so well-preserved because it was made from a plant fibre, likely flax or nettle and the quality and fineness of the fibres was described as “just astonishing”.
This is thread spun from plant fibre found bundled together, ready to be woven into a fabric © CAU. Photo: Dave Webb
The team now have the difficult task of painstakingly cleaning the thread and attempting to discover its original colour, as the pigment has been removed by carbonization.
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The BBC’s documentary Britain’s Pompeii: A Village Lost in Time is available on iplayer until August 27th, 2016. If you live in a country where this will not play there is a shorter video AVAILABLE.

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