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Exploring the Materiality of Prehistoric Cloth-types

TitleExploring the Materiality of Prehistoric Cloth-types
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHARRIS, S.
EditorCUNNINGHAM, P., J. HEEB, and R. P. PAARDEKOOPER
Book TitleExperiencing Archaeology By Experiment
CityOxford
PublisherOxbow Books
Pages81-102
Publication LanguageEnglish
ISBN Number978-1-84217-342-8
Abstract

On the rare occasions when we encounter prehistoric cloth, the preserved remains are usually fragmentary and decayed, therefore no longer retaining their original qualities. However, the materiality of cloth, including its structure and surfaces,
and sensual properties (colour, smell, flexibility and texture) are integral to the understanding of these artefacts as part of past human engagement. To investigate this subject, I have conducted experiments to explore the materiality of prehistoric
cloth as sensory experience. The focus of this work is the prehistoric cloth types from the Neolithic to Bronze Age in the Alpine region, including cloth made from flax, wool, tree bast, animal skins, fur, woven and twined cloth, netting and
knotless nett ing. The fi rst stage of the experiment was to obtain a range of cloth types that resembled prehistoric examples as closely as possible. The second stage of the experiment involved asking study participants to handle each of the cloth types, then to compare the diff erent cloth types and to describe their experience. In this paper I discuss the source and choice of the cloth types used in the experiment, the method and results of the handling experience and the contribution of this experiment to understanding prehistoric cloth types.

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