Thursday, 25 April 2013

It is the time of year again!

Not only the time of year that presents me with tulips springing up in the garden and the cat's unbridled happiness at being able to go outside and enjoy the sun and the hunting of mice - it's the time of year when the season starts.

So I will be off to Freienfels tomorrow, which means no blogging for a few days. I will be back on the blogboat on Friday next week. Until then, have a good time - and maybe I'll see you in Freienfels!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Stuff that has happened.

First of all, the good news: The 14C-Dating of the Ribe mitten is fully financed, and the initiator is, accordingly, quite happy. Thanks to all of you who helped funding! If you have not helped funding yet and are sort of sad that the others did it without you: You can still pitch in, any extra money will be used for additional analysis of the piece. Ideas on further research are including the stitch type used, wool analysis, and yarn analysis. For the previously blogged English instructions on how to fund on the Danish site, click here.

The petition against the full cut of heritage conservation funding in one of Germany's federal states has led to some political discussion... but with no clear statements yet. You can read a short piece about that on Archaeologik (in German). The petition still lacks about 1.400 signatures to reach its goal, so if you have not signed yet, please do so and spread the word, there are still 30 days left to go. The text on the petition site itself is in German. If you need to get up to date on what it's about first, you can read my blogpost about it or go to the DGUF who initiated it; they have an English translation on their webpage.

And a last one - I have posted a link to the petition against food patenting before, but it seems as if there's more in the works: an EU law to make almost all traffic of non-industrially produced seeds illegal. When I first read about that, I thought it was a belated April Fool joke, but no, it looks like they really mean it. I found a link to the draft proposal here, and I'll keep my eyes open for protests against this. If you know more, please share in the comments!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


I grew up in a house without a microwave - mostly because nobody in my home felt like this would be necessary, but partly also because my gran, many years ago, had head surgery with an inset metal plate and was not allowed near working microwaves.

So my first contact with microwaves, apart from a few times of seeing them in use at a friend's house, was when I studied; and the most I used it was for warming up the milk for my coffee (I'm fond of coffee with lots of milk, and it's much nicer when said milk is warm).

Our kitchen later was more or less too small to conveniently fit a microwave in, so we never got one. I was thinking about getting one approximately, oh, once or twice a year or so, whenever it would have gotten in really handy... but now, I don't think I will ever want one.

Why? A young lady, several years ago, conducted an experiment with plants for her school science fair. Two plants were watered with pre-boiled (and then cooled-down) water, one boiled in a pot on the oven, one boiled in the microwave. This seems to have made a small tour of the Internets back in 2011, but I only stumbled across it these days.

There is also a lot of weird pseudo-scientific information tossed around regarding microwaves, with a goodly-sized bit of scaremongering. Things like microwaving your food will make you more receptive to thought-control. Reading the comments on some of these articles... they are quite hilarious quite often.

Anyway, there is an easy way to test whether the plant-death thing is true (provided you have a microwave): just do it for yourself. It's an experiment, it is meant to be reproduced for sake of outcome verification. Take two healthy plants, keep them in a similar place, water them both with normal water for a bit until they have acclimatised and you can be sure they are both well, and then start the test. (And if you do, please let me know what the outcome was!) Myself? I will add "is possibly not good for you" to my list of things that speak against getting a microwave. That, by the way, has other things on it like "no proper space for it", "will take up lots of space while only getting used rarely" and "means production of another appliance which is not very green". And then I'll go on like before, with my trusty oven and my set of pots and pans.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Home, sweet home.

Due to my internet access not going as planned, combined with a little forgetfulness, you are now getting a very, very late blog post for today.

I am back from the IRM where I spent the weekend together with Sabine, and though I can't say exactly why, it was really, utterly exhausting. Some of that might be due to the lack of oxygen in the rooms (as is often the case, you get the choice between freezing but fresh air and being warm and cozy, but having bad air). Some of it might also be due to a few weird encounters that left me standing there and wondering what that was about (or why).

In any case, I'm really glad to be back home and enjoy a quiet day tomorrow before we start the preparations for the next event - Freienfels.

Friday, 19 April 2013

English Language proficiency?

We're talking about something more exciting than learning normal, modern-day English here, of course. We're talking about... Middle English.

My grasp of that language is, well, middling at best, and reading Chaucer for any length much longer than a tweet is quite demanding on my brain. My excuse is, of course, that I am a) an archaeologist and b) English isn't even my native language.

If you would like to learn Middle English, there's a METRO for you. That is short for Middle English Teaching Resources Online and something like a virtual classroom where you can learn how to read (and read aloud) texts from Chaucer, the Wakefield Plays or the Gawain-Poet. And even if you are not planning to learn this slightly outdated language, you can enjoy a few audio snippets from their site.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

More radiocarbon stuff.

Just in case that you have now gotten totally hooked on that radiocarbon stuff, here are two more links:

First, a database listing 14C-dates from Slovakia, Czechia and neighbouring countries. There's about 860 dates in there already, with more to come, and the database can be downloaded as MS Access file.

If you ever come across uncalibrated radiocarbon dates given as "xxxx BP", it's not just a matter of doing the maths back from 1950 (the "present"). Radiocarbon content in the atmosphere did vary, and science is working on making even better calibration curves to get the dates correct. So instead of whipping out the calculator and getting a date with an offset, you can go here and have OxCal calibrate it for you.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Crowdfund some archaeology!

Crowdfunding has become a thing, and I am quite fond of the idea. It's innovative, it's nice, and it opens up a lot of opportunities for projects that would otherwise have no chance.

So it was only a question of time until some archaeological projects come up... and currently, there is one running to fund the 14C-dating process of a nalebinding mitten found in Scandinavia.

The story behind? Apparently, there's not much known about this mitten. The initiator of the crowdfunding got into contact with the museum, trying to find some more information, and the museum indicated they'd like to do a radiocarbon dating if they could get the funds.

Just in case you wish to refresh your knowledge about radiocarbon dating: Here's an explanation including details about preparation and calibration, courtesy of Oxford. And another info page, with a little poetical citing of scientists at the start. The thing I find most curious, by the way, is the convention of dating "before present" - which means 1950. This is somehow so fitting for archaeology!

Anyway, back to our Ribe mitten: Maria Lind Heel has initiated a crowdfunding project to collect funds for the dating. Radiocarbon dating is not the cheapest of things to do, so the project's goal are 6000 DKK, which translates into roughly 800 €. The page is on a Danish crowdfunding site which means it's all in Danish - but fear not, you can still chip in, since Anne Marie Decker already made English instructions:

The project will run for about another month, and is already a bit more than halfway, funding-wise. Yay for crowdfunding!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Do you read French?

If you read French and are looking for medieval embroidery examples, this forthcoming book might be of interest to you:

Sur, Francois. La chape de Saint-Louis-d'Anjou :
Trésor textile du XIIIe siècle de l'opus
anglicanum. Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine,
Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. Paris: Horizon,
avec l'Association des Amis de la basilique
Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de
Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, 2013. 28cm., pbk.,
112pp., 110 illus., most in color. ISBN: 9782757206898
Available June 2013 Shamansky

Summary: Investie du poids de l’histoire et de la renommée d’un personnage à la destinée hors du commun, la chape de saint Louis d’Anjou reçut l’onction d’un classement au titre des monuments historiques le 31 mai 1897. Ce tissu brodé aura eu les honneurs de cinq expositions de renom, entre 1867 à Paris, lors de l’Exposition Universelle, et 2012 quand il se confronta au parement d’autel des Cordeliers de Toulouse, antependium de semblable facture. Ménageant son aura de relique, elle a certes cessé d’être honorée en tant que telle, mais, par le truchement d’une vénérabilité de plus de sept siècles, elle y a graduellement surajouté la dimension de trésor d’histoire et d’art. Tout est paradoxe dans la vie de Louis d’Anjou. Fils de Charles II, comte de Provence et roi de Sicile, il a passé toute son adolescence en captivité. Dans les forteresses du roi d’Aragon. Il est étroitement surveillé par des gardiens sans grande humanité. Ayant recouvré la liberté à 21 ans, il entreprend aussitôt de répondre à sa vocation religieuse. A Montpellier, quelques jours après sa libération, il veut prendre l’habit des Frères Mineurs. Ce choix répond à son idéal. Comme les disciples de saint François, Louis entend vivre dans la pauvreté la plus complète. Il ne s’agit pas seulement de ne rien posséder, mais encore de vivre en mendiant et de parvenir à un détachement du monde qui fasse accéder aux plus hautes vertus, en allant de l’humilité à la plus fervente charité. Avec une ténacité étonnante pour son âge, il persiste et finit par obtenir du pape Boniface VIII une prise d’habit secrète. Quelques jours après, le 30 décembre 1296, il est sacré évêque de Toulouse par le pape lui-même. Ce compromis lui permet de prendre l’habit publiquement au début du mois de février suivant. Il est prince aux fleurs de lys, il est évêque, il est franciscain. Il vit cet incroyable paradoxe avec lucidité. Cette réponse permet d’expliquer comment un franciscain épris de pauvreté peut avoir dans son trousseau une chape qui est un trésor. Ce somptueux vêtement épiscopal, il ne l’a pas commandé lui-même, car il faut plusieurs années pour le réaliser. Or, Louis d’Anjou est décédé le 19 août 1297, moins de huit mois après sa consécration épiscopale. C’est un cadeau, don de ses parents ou de Boniface VIII. S’il l’a portée, c’est en public pour faire honneur au culte. Dessous, il avait gardé l’habit qu’il tenait de saint François. L’oeuvre d’art est restée, témoignant d’une sainteté qui va au- delà des apparences. L’apparition en Europe des premières chapes brodées de ce type fut une révélation. Les vêtements liturgiques ornés de broderies anglaises étaient réellement les plus beaux cadeaux que l’Angleterre pouvait offrir à un prélat : ils captaient la lumière et spiritualisaient les gestes de l’orateur. Les motifs de la chape font écho à la liturgie médiévale qui vénère la Vierge Marie. Les scènes bibliques ne sont pas seulement décoratives mais aussi destinées à créer une enveloppe spirituelle. Broder est un art qui consiste à réaliser à l’aiguille un motif ou une décoration sur une étoffe préalablement tissée. Sur son textile opaque, le brodeur traduit l’impression de lumière et d’éblouissement. Les broderies de l’opus anglicanum sont caractérisées par une ornementation rehaussée de perles, pierres précieuses ou semi-précieuses.
(h/t to MEDTC Discuss list, where info including summary were posted.)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Roman stuff found in London.

There has been stuff found in London - Roman stuff. In an excavation due to a construction project at Bloomberg Place, really amazing finds from Roman times have been made, including very well-preserved organic material.

You can read more about it in this BBC News thingie, or on the Museum of London archaeology site (where they have a pic of a shoe).

This is really, really wow - and even though I am usually not so enamoured with the Romans and their stuff, I am looking forward very much to what else will come out of that dig, and what all we can learn from it!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Netting pictures.

A good week ago, I received a comment/question on one of my netting posts regarding pictures of netting and the persons doing said technique (thanks Christina!).

As to who did netting - that is rather hard to answer. There is a bunch of netting finds from Sint-Truiden which might indicate it was done in a convent, but as usually, nothing is certain. There are not so many well-documented pictures of people doing netting either - which probably is partly due to it not actually being depicted, and partly to depictions being misinterpreted as another technique. I think I have seen netting labeled as "knitting" at least once.

That said, there are the usual sources to find pictures of netting ladies (it's mostly ladies, as far as I have seen yet). One good resource to turn to for a start, as always, is Larsdatter.

And then searching diverse picture and museum databases might yield things like this 15th century woman netting, actual nets like this one from Sint-Truiden, or pictures of nets used for fishing (very frequent due to the biblical stories around this) and hunting (like this one).

As usual, it is not too easy to find good pictures of someone doing the actual textile craft, and search terms "net" or "netting" will turn up lots of unhelpful pics as well. It may be worth a try to also look for "knitting" or "making garment" as well - there is a story about Jesus' tunic being seamless, and I know of at least one picture from the late Middle Ages where this garment is clearly made by netting.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Life hacks.

Life hacks are little things that make life easier - and the best ones make you go "duh, why did I never think of that" and then use that little thing and wonder how you ever managed without it.

And from time to time, lists with life hacks pop up on the internet - such as this one. Some of those I already knew (and use), some of them are quite American, and quite a few just do not apply to me because I do not have the need (I can separate eggs like a boss, without a squeezy bottle.) But they are fun to look at nevertheless, I think.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Food should not be patented.

We live in a world that has some really weird approaches to some things - such as thinking it would be possible to patent seeds. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Monsanto and its ilk are going for - which, if successful, would be restricting rights for farmers in ways that can only be deemed "not good".

The food, and with it the seed industry, have become something rather weird anyways. Food is shipped around half the world because it's cheaper to ship, process, package, and ship again than to just get it to a neighbouring facility and process it right in the country where it was grown. Or it gets weirdly imported: A good while ago, we tried to buy potatoes and onions in our local supermarket... only to find they offered onions from Egypt and potatoes from Egypt and somewhere else ridiculously far away. I'm living in Franconia, and typical crops here? Potatoes and onions. Really. So typical that folks living in Bamberg still have the nickname "Zwiefeltreter" (those that step onto onions - treading down the onion green a while before harvest was done to further improve crop quality). Why on earth would one want to import owls to Athens, or onions to Franconia? Oh, right - profit. How could I forget. (Fun fact aside: You know where we got those locally grown onions and potatoes? In the Turkish grocery shop. Take that, xenophobes!)

It's even similar for seeds for home gardening. I can totally get that not everyone is willing to grow and harvest their own seed material, and buying it is a viable alternative. But the stuff you can buy? These days, it's mostly F1-hybrids: plants that will not breed true, so even if you take seeds from them, you can end up with about anything. Which might be nice if you are experimentally inclined and like surprises, but not if you are going for a reliable crop of something with a taste you liked from the original produce.

Another weird story connected with the rights to using and distributing a certain variety of plant is the story around Linda. Linda caused an uproar back in the 2000s, because the protection on this variation ran out and the potato was to be taken out of agriculture. Taken out as in "it is not allowed to grow this potato anymore" - and Linda was one of the, if not the, most popular variety at that time. You can read the story here (there's links to two updates at the bottom of the article) or, in another version, here.

Long story short - this should not happen. It's weird, it's absurd, and it is cutting down on variety and possibilities to adapt crops to a region, as well as putting a burden, financially, on farmers. So please go and sign this petition for the European governments to close the loopholes that will still allow the big companies to patent crops and thus restrict access to them.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

There is never enough money for archaeology.

Yes, I know that this title is sort of a TYCO (Thank you, Captain Obvious) - there is never (or just very rarely) enough money for anything. But in this case, it could turn out to be dire.

Germany has a non-unified approach to cultural heritage management, as well as to handling the finances of archaeological excavations that become necessary due to construction works. Some are better from the archaeologists' point of view, some are not as good. All of them, however, tend to get a budget cut in times when resources are getting fewer.

Now Nordrhein-Westfalen, one of the federal states that make up Germany, is trying to cut funding for archaeology completely. You can read an English article about this here, nicely titled "Neanderthal birthplace kills archaeology funding".

There is a petition running against this, and you can sign the petition for a rollback of the change here (page in German only). Signing is done by stating your full name (Vollständiger Name), zip code and city (PLZ/Ort), street and street number (Straße/Hausnr.), email address and then clicking "Unterschreiben". If you check "Anonym unterschreiben", your name etc will not be shown, and if you need this how-to, you probably want to remove the checkmark at "Informationen ..." or you will receive German-language updates regarding this and similar petitions. Germany's archaeologists thank you for your support!

Edit: The society responsible for the petition has translated it into English - you can read the English version here.

Monday, 8 April 2013

More archaeology stuff.

There's a book out about experimental archaeology, titled "Experimentation and Interpretation, The Use of Experimental Archaeology in the Study of the Past", edited by Dana C. E. Millson. If you are interested in more details, there's a freely accessible review of the book on the EuroREA webpages. It does sound like an interesting volume to me.

Speaking of online journals, there is one called "Living Past". The editorial project that this (peer-reviewed, open-access) journal is part of also hosts a dissertation database and "Traces in Time", an ejournal focusing on prehistory and protohistory. The whole thing is an international programme initiated by an Italian group, so many of the dissertations are Italian (English Summaries are available, though).

Finally, there's a new archaeology blog called Can you dig it? Owner of the blog is Maney Publishing, and it's intended to host posts about books, exhibitions, conferences, and other archaeologically relevant topics, written by a number of contributors.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Books, proceedings, and other nice things

Firstly, the proceedings of the Textile Forum are coming along nicely - the proofs have been proof-read by our very diligent editor, and currently the cover is being tweaked. Soon, very soon our little Textile Forum will have something more to its name than the website and the conference!

Speaking of which - we will have a meeting for planning our next Forum this April, and after that we hope to be able to get the Call for Papers out. Our Forum date and focus topic is already settled upon: Decoration on Textiles - dye, print, embroidery and paint. For more information, as always, go to our Forum homepage.

Now on to more proceedings: There were two sessions titled "Dressing the Part: Textiles as Propaganda in the Middle Ages" in the College Art Association 98th Annual Conference that took place in Chicago, IL, in February 2010. Not only is the conference programme still available on their website, they are also offering an MP3-recording of the second session for download (it costs 25 USD). It's a pity they are not offering the first session, which would have been much more interesting for me.

And there is a volume coming out this summer:

Dimitrova, Kate ; Margaret Goehring (eds.).
 Dressing the Part: Textiles as Propaganda in the
Middle Ages. Turnhout: Brepols, (June 2013).
28cm., pbk., ca. 350pp., 32 color, 150 b&w illus,
210 x 275 mm. English text. ISBN-13 9782503536767 ISBN-10 250353676X
They are approximating the price at about 100 €, but it looks as if it's not really fixed yet. More info available via the publisher's website.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

NESAT Call for Papers is out!

The next NESAT conference will be organised by a dear friend of mine (whom I got to know because she organised a conference that I attended, way back when).

It will be the 12th NESAT conference, and it's going to take place in Hallstatt, Austria - the place of the lovely, wonderful, and absolutely spectacular Bronze Age and Iron Age textile finds from the salt mines.

And now, since the preliminary organisation has all been done, it is time for the Call for Papers to go out:

Dear Colleagues,
The NESAT XII symposium will be organized by the Natural History Museum Vienna on 21st till 24th of May 2014 in Hallstatt, Austria.
Abstract submission deadline:         May, 31, 2013

You find more conference details, including details about handing in abstracts, on the conference homepage, The page is both German and English, the conference also has these two official languages. And there's a picture of Hallstatt and one of the textile finds from there right on the front page - so it's worth a look in any case.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Free Access Month at Palgrave!

Palgrave Macmillan is offering free access to all its journals for the whole month of April. Their journal range includes "postmedieval" as the journal of interest for medievalists. Access is free for the current year as well as the last four years of the archives ("where the archives allow", they say on their info page).

The free access scheme requires setting up a trial account. The whole scheme seems to be geared towards librarians, but not limited to them. So sign up and enjoy postmedieval! (Or economics journals, if you feel so inclined.)

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Back to normal now...

I'm back home, there is no snow on the ground (though it's still cold), I had a wonderful time looking at old bits of textile and later getting together for Easter with my family, and now I arrive back to the usual stack of accumulated mails, more or less urgent things to take care of, and the normal batches of work.

With the tiny little added difficulty of a rather nasty sneaky cold. It crept in like a bad one a few days ago, then sort of settled on a level way below the one I would have expected from the early symptoms, but now it seems as if it remembered its resolutions and does a very efficient job of clogging my nose after all. Which is a total pity, because there is leftover cake, and it just makes no sense to eat lovely, yummy cake if you cannot taste a thing. (Especially not if there is cake handed to you from a friend because you expressed an interest in tasting it when said friend described his recipe.) So it's sage tea with honey for me instead, at least for now, and I very much hope to be back to cake-consumption status this afternoon.

Oh, and maybe some sunshine. That would be nice...