Monday, 23 May 2011

Tidings from Conferences.

ZM1First of all, I had a wonderful time at the conference on Friday - my paper went over very well, and all the other papers were uniformly interesting and well-presented. Plus I got to see a lot of old friends and colleagues again - and meet some new people.

And now, as promised last week, a bit of a report from NESAT...

The conference started off with an evening event, a lecture about - no, not textiles, but pile dwellings and their archaeology. Since pile dwellings are situated in watery areas, these settlements are often graced with textile and other organic remnants - so it was a topic close to textiles, yet not totally textile. The rest of the first evening was spent mingling and enjoying some wonderful food (a recurring topic during the following days), chatting with old acquaintances and meeting new faces.

The next day was the start of the conference proper, which took place in a building called "Salemer Pfleghof". That was a fantastic place to hold a conference - a nice, large room for the papers (and the book table), and right outside it a light, open space that could be opened up into a little courtyard to have the coffee breaks. And the papers... there were only fascinating papers.

The conference started out with some papers about methods and methodology - pictorial and written sources, of course strongly focused on textile topics, and documentation methods for in-situ-blocks (X-ray computer tomography) as well as techniques to identify fibres and dyes. Something that was utterly new to me was the possibility to get information about local or non-local provenance of fibres by doing Strontium-Isotope analysis, though this technique is still limited by contamination problems, low Sr content in fibres and of course the fact that similar Sr rations can occur in different places - so it is not possible to get true origins from this alone.

The next part of NESAT was focusing a little more on crafts, with a paper about crafts and creativity followed by a report about Gunnister Man and the reproduction of his clothes - 14 different garments made from 22 different fibres, painstakingly reproduced by Lena Hammarlund and Martin Ciszuk. (Oh, and if you need a well-dressed friend... Gunnister Man is on Facebook.) Another paper about a Migration Period textile find and one about basic research inside the framework of Dress ID rounded off the papers. And then the first day was already over, and almost magically, a lot of the NESAT gang met up again at the little café and restaurant next to the inofficial conference hotel - turned out that about half the participants were staying at the same spot. The weather was warm and nice enough to sit outside until everybody went to get some sleep, too.

The second day of the conference started with identification issues again - from XCT to analyse mineralised and carbonised neolithic textiles, fibre identification as an important part of analysis and quality evaluation to the use of proteins to identify animal species and even breeds. We heard something more about the use of Sr isotope analysis for provenance studies as well as about the use of light stable isotope analysis - carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen - to do a different kind of provenance analysis. Then some papers told us about finds - the utterly spectacular find of the Hammerum Woman from Denmark, where a complete 2nd/start of 3rd c AD garment was excavated out of an in-situ block; a paper about the re-examination of the Prachtmantel finds and their technique of production; and the puzzle of the garments of the "Lady of Cloonshannagh Bog" that were shredded by a modern peat-cutting machine. The afternoon was reserved for the poster presentation, and the early evening was garnished with wonderful food again, including delicious non-alcoholic cocktails (that was a surprise for all of us), and of course more talk. This evening also saw the ATN meeting.

Thursday was a shortened day, since this was also the excursion day; we heard about the use of pollen analysis to study the very well preserved organic remains of cave burials in Minorca with the aim of finding out about burial practices and rituals; pollen analysis on late medieval burials in Spain to discern practices from the first burial and the translocation and second burial from each other; and the rest of the papers this day were about finds and find analyis and partly also their interpretation.
Afternoon was reserved for the excursion; I went to Ludwigsburg to be fed with cake and be shown around the Fashion Exhibition, the conservation lab and the baroque gardens. It was a wonderful excursion, only much, much too short - we had some traffic problems on the way there which further shortened the time for the rather ambitious programme prepared for us by the conference organisers. The other conference participants went to Hochdorf and had a good look around the Keltenfürst museum there.

Then it was already the last day, starting off with a bang - the Lengberg finds of 15th century underwear, including bras. Other papers told us about high-quality wools and silks from Elbing, the discovery of a sheep washing installation in Wurt Hessens, hemp and linen in Talmud interpretations, the dyeing industry in Pompeii and finally tools and tool interpretation in two papers - one centering in Etruria, the other in Pannonia.
That ended the 11th NESAT - and there was an unofficial "concluding meeting" with more chatting and some scheming for the future that took place in the ice cream parlour, some more hanging out in the evening and the gradual departure of all the participants.

It was a glorious NESAT, and I'm already looking forward to the next one...

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