Period: Late Mesolithic-early Neolithic (c. 4000 BC)
Project title: Feeling Fragments of The Past: Plant Cordage Technologies as Fabrics - Understanding by Looking and Touching
Researcher: Linda Hurcombe, University of Exeter, England
Flax and wool for woven clothing were not available until the Neolithic – the later part of the stone age. Before this time and even afterwards other kinds of plant materials served to make fabrics and clothing. There is archaeological evidence to suggest that willow, lime and other tree bark fibres were used as well as surprising plants such as nettle and field rush. These materials might seem coarse, scratchy or even capable of giving us a sting but what were they really like? The project will use a variety of plant materials processed in a variety of ways to make samples of fabrics in these unusual materials. Not all such fabric was made using tabby weave so samples will be made using cordage technologies such as looping and weft-twining. By using the spinning, weaving and netting techniques that were tested in 2007 and 2008 reconstructions of Stone Age type textiles will be worn as clothes, to discover how it feels to wear clothes from a Stone Age Wardrobe.
The Researchers Conclusions:
The project investigates understanding of prehistoric fabrics of unfamiliar materials and technologies from both a research and presentation point of view. The research was able to show how the archaeological fragments would have performed when first made and also offer a chance for the visitors at The Land of Legends to touch and smell the replicas enhancing our understanding of these materials. The experiments focussed on providing small samples of several different fabrics made from nettles, willow bast, lime bast and juncus. Some were tabby woven while others used looping around the core or weft twining techniques. The samples were all based on prehistoric finds but with some variations so as to better understand the possibilities of these unfamiliar materials and technologies.
A short questionnaire in Danish and English was then devised to allow visitors to comment on how they understood the finds from just looking versus looking and touching. In conclusion - the answers obtained through the questionnaires clearly indicated an increased understanding of Stone Age textiles from the visitors.
Reference number HAF 07/09