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Using Experimental Archaeology to Answer the Unanswerable: A case study using Roman Dyeing

TitleUsing Experimental Archaeology to Answer the Unanswerable: A case study using Roman Dyeing
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHOPKINS, H.
Book TitleExperiencing Archaeology By Experiment
PublisherOxbow Books
Publication LanguageEnglish
ISBN Number978-1-84217-342-8

This paper introduces a new approach to understanding the dying industry in Pompeii. This study began with the construction of a full-scale replica dyeing apparatus, copied from remains in Pompeii, to establish the operating parameters of an apparatus. A determination of cycle time, fuel type and requirement was made. The skeletal data of Herculaneum was matched to a modern population and an ergonomic assessment of each dyeing apparatus was made. The replica was amended to allow exploration of the eff ects of a change in design and ventilation.
A computer simulation using Finite Element Analysis was undertaken. The design, cycle times and temperatures were taken from the excavated remains and experimental fi ndings. The FE Analysis allowed the determination of physical
changes in materials during heating, the mode of failure of the apparatus and the time span within which this occurred.
The approach and fi ndings of this study are both novel and new. The study took a theoretical problem through replicative experimental archaeology into Finite Element modelling. It allowed the problem to be understood and explored by those
from differing disciplines. While this study answers specifi c questions about the size of the dyeing industry, it may be used to illustrate the application of a technique to answer ‘unanswerable’ questions.