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Karina Grömer

The Art of Prehistoric
Textile Making

natural history
museum vienna

The development of craft traditions
and clothing in Central Europe
Copies of this book can be ordered from:
Verlag Naturhistorisches Museum Wien
Price: 35 Euro excl. shipping

The Art of Prehistoric
Textile Making
The development of craft traditions
and clothing in Central Europe

Karina Grömer
with contributions of
Regina Hofmann-de Keijzer (Dyeing)
Helga Rösel-Mautendorfer (Sewing and tailoring)

Veröffentlichungen der Prähistorischen Abteilung (VPA) 5
Natural History Museum Vienna, 2016

Karina Grömer
Natural History Museum Vienna
Prähistorische Abteilung
Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Regina Hofmann-de Keijzer
Universität of Applied Arts Vienna
Department Archaeometry
Salzgries 14/1, 1013 Vienna, Austria
Helga Rösel-Mautendorfer
Independent researcher, Altlengbach, Austria
© 2016 Natural History Museum Vienna
All rights reserved.
Except where otherwise noted, all figures are the work of the authors. Any deficiencies that remain are the sole responsibility of the respective authors or of
the editor.
Andreas Kroh
Natural History Museum Vienna
Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Tel.: +43 (1) 521 77 / 576
Fax: +43 (1) 521 77 / 459
Translation: Katharina Rebay-Salisbury and Roderick Salisbury
Proof reading: Susanna Harris, Katrin Kania, Andreas Kroh and John-Peter Wild
Cover: Andreas Kroh, Alice Schumacher
Layout: Gerhard Withalm, Baden
Printed by Ueberreuter Print & Packaging GmbH, Korneuburg
ISSN 2077-3943
ISBN 978-3-902421-94-4
Research partially results from: Austrian Science Fund (FWF): L 431-G02

Published with support from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): PUB 127-G19


The Prehistoric Art of
Textile Making
The development of craft traditions and
clothing in Central Europe




A Introduction

1 Central Europe before the Romans
5 1.1 Stone Age
10 1.2 Bronze Age
14 1.3 Iron Age
2 Textile preservation
23 2.1 Preservation by metal corrosion products
24 2.2 Preservation by salt
26 2.3 Preservation within waterlogged contexts
27 2.4 Preservation by ice
28 2.5 Bogs
28 2.6 Oak coffins
30 2.7 Carbonisation
30 2.8 Imprints on ceramics
3 Defining textiles


B Craft techniques: from fibre to fabric

1 Raw Materials
42 1.1 Plant Fibres
54 1.2 Animal fibres
2 Preparatory work
63 2.1 Preparation of flax
65 2.2 Preparation of wool
72 2.3 Archaeological finds of tools for fibre preparation
3 Yarn manufacture: spinning
78 3.1 Different spinning techniques with the hand spindle
81 3.2 Archaeological finds of spinning tools
85 3.3 Weights of spindle whorls and associated yarn qualities

4 Weaving techniques
93 4.1 Band weaves: narrow repp bands
96 4.2 Broad bands in different weave types
101 4.3 Tablet weaving
107 4.4 Textiles from the warp-weighted loom
139 4.5 Other types of looms
140 5 Dyeing (Regina Hofmann-de Keijzer)
141 5.1 Prehistoric people discover colourants and

dyeing processes
144 5.2 Scientific investigations of textile dyes
147 5.3 Archaeological evidence of organic colourants
163 5.4 Textile dyeing in the Bronze and Iron Ages
169 6 Patterns and designs
171 6.1 Weaving decoration: structure and spin patterns
173 6.2 Weaving ornaments: colour patterns
185 6.3 Floating threads in warp or weft
198 6.5 Patterning with needle and thread
205 6.6. Painting on fabrics
208 7 Finishing of fabrics
209 7.1 Finishing wool fabrics
212 7.2 Finishing linen fabrics
214 7.3. Washing and Dyeing
216 8 Sewing and tailoring (Helga Rösel-Mautendorfer)
217 8.1 Tools
218 8.2 Types of stitches in prehistory
223 8.3 Seam and hem types in prehistory
230 8.4 Examples of prehistoric dressmaking patterns
236 8.5 Prehistoric pictorial sources of seams and hems
239 8.6 Patches and repairs

241 C Textile craft in prehistory
243 1 Levels of production: household, specialised and

mass production
247 1.1 Household production
248 1.2 Household industry
252 1.3 Attached specialist production
256 1.4 Workshop production and large-scale industry for trade
262 2 The sociology of textile crafts
265 2.1 Consumers – people using textiles
268 2.2 Producers – people involved in textile handcraft
275 2.3 Textile craft organisation – division of labour?


3 Sites of production

291 D From clothes to household textiles:
fabric use in prehistory




1 Clothes
2 Textiles in funerary practice
3 Soft furnishings: wall hangings, cushions and
similar items
5 Recycling: binding material, bandages, packaging
material, caulking material
6 Technical use and utilitarian textiles: scabbards,
belt linings, interlinings
7 Conclusion

319 E Clothing in Central European Prehistory
321 1 Sources for the history of pre-Roman costume
321 1.1 Complete garments
324 1.2 Textiles in graves
326 1.3 Clothing accessories and jewellery from graves
329 1.4 Pictorial sources
332 1.5 Written Sources
333 2 Clothing through the ages
334 3 Neolithic
335 3.1 The first farmers in the Early and Middle Neolithic
339 3.2 Late Neolithic – Copper Age
352 3.3 Neolithic clothing: conclusion
353 4 Bronze Age
355 4.1 Garments of the Nordic Bronze Age
360 4.2 Evidence for Bronze Age clothing in Central Europe
371 4.3 Bronze Age head coverings and shoes
373 4.4 Interpretation of Bronze Age sources in terms of

costume history
379 5 Iron Age
379 5.1 Complete Iron Age garments from Northern Europe
385 5.2 Evidence for Early Iron Age clothing in Central Europe
398 5.3 Representations of clothing on situlae
403 5.4 Evidence for Late Iron Age clothing in Central Europe
414 5.5 Iron Age head coverings and shoes
420 5.6 Interpretation of Iron Age sources in terms of

costume history

428 6 The meaning of clothes and jewellery
429 6.1 Attraction and chastity
431 6.2 Protection of the body
434 6.3 Psychological effects of clothing
435 6.4 Gendered design
438 6.5 Social function – vestimentary codes
443 6.6 The value of clothing
445 7 Pre-Roman clothing history: conclusions

449 F Summary
455 G Appendix
456 Glossary of archaeological and textile terms
461 Figure captions
468 Sources for dyestuff analyses
469 Antique sources
471 Bibliography
524 Index


The book „The Prehistoric Art of Textile Making – The development of craft traditions and clothing in Central Europe“ is aimed
at historians, archaeologists and anyone interested in the history
of costumes and crafts. It was written from the perspective of a
prehistoric archaeologist to illuminate Central European history
before written records. To facilitate access for the broad, scientifically interested public, basic concepts and methods of prehistoric archaeology are briefly explained if they are relevant to understanding the content of this book. A subject-specific glossary
of archaeological and textile technological terms is included as
Textile crafts, especially spinning and weaving, were interpreted
metaphorically in Classical Antiquity. The Fates (parcae in Ancient Rome, moirai in Ancient Greece), three wise women, span
and cut off the thread of life. Symbolically, they controlled the
life of every mortal from birth to death. This appreciation of textile crafts expressed in linguistic and mythological symbolism is
no longer apparent in the modern world of mass production and
global economy. Interestingly, however, textile crafts and above
all weaving have contributed significantly to the general development of technology. Looms, invented in the Neolithic period,
were the first machines in human history as they mechanized
production processes. Automation by punch cards and binary
code – crucial for the development of modern computing – were
first applied in weaving. Joseph-Marie Jaquard* (1752 to 1834)
built punch cards into an Austrian model loom which contained
information about the pattern to be woven. These were scanned
by needles, whereby a hole meant the thread was to be lifted
and no hole meant the thread was to be lowered. Through the
punch cards – data storage in modern terms – the Jacquard loom
was the first machine that could be programmed as needed to
achieve patterns of any complexity.
The roots of our history – and thus the history of textile crafts –
lie in the darkness of prehistory far before the Romans. Essential
textile techniques that still accompany us as textile customers
today were already developed in the Stone and Bronze Ages.

Through the combination of different, sometimes inconspicuous
sources and the application of modern scientific methods, prehistoric archaeology succeeds in painting a vivid picture of the
development of textile crafts over time.
At the beginning the book describes the individual steps of textile production and their tangible archaeological traces, addressing complex issues of craft sociology – the craftspeople behind
the textiles as well as the places of production. It further evaluates whether crafts were conducted in the framework of domestic production or if organized forms of production such as
specialization and mass production already occurred in Central
Europe in pre-Roman times. The book concludes with a chapter
about the history of clothing before the Romans. Clothing is a
characteristic feature of any culture. By combining insights from
image sources, burial finds and textile remains, an attempt is
made to investigate the phenomenon of clothing from the Stone
to the Iron Age. This time span is very long indeed – it is therefore impossible to draw a complete picture of all developments
of clothing in prehistory. Individual garment shapes, however,
can already be reconstructed for this early period. Many aspects of prehistoric clothing can be accessed by archaeological
remains and further interpretations about the social function of
clothing are possible.
The German version of this book (Prähistorische Textilkunst
in Mitteleuropa – Geschichte des Handwerks vor den Römern,
2010) was written in the context of a research project based at
the Natural History Museum in Vienna; its focus is therefore
Austria and its neighbouring countries. The research project was
part of the international textile research framework “DressID –
Clothing and Identities. New Perspectives on Textiles in the Roman Empire”, funded by the EU Culture Programme and conducted under the direction of the Curt-Engelhorn-Foundation
of the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums Mannheim between 2007 and
2012. Research on the prehistoric dying techniques was carried
out within the FWF-Project Dyeing techniques of the prehistoric
textiles from the salt mine of Hallstatt – analysis, experiments
and inspiration for contemporary application. (FWF-Project L
431-G02; 2008-2012).


Pages 1-22 are not
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decomposition4. Different preservation conditions (oak coffins,
wetland settlements, organics corroded onto metals, salt mines
and glaciers) also represent various circumstances of deposition. Not only is the number of preserved textiles from Central
European prehistory small, but it also represents a highly selective range of different contexts. Several of these special contexts
of preservation are discussed below.

2.1 Preservation by metal corrosion products
During the Bronze and Iron Ages, numerous metal objects placed
in graves as equipment for the afterlife provide an opportunity
for textiles to be preserved. If textiles were deposited together
with bronze and iron objects (for example as components of
clothing in graves), metal corrosion at the contact points of the
copper or ferrous metals and the adjacent textiles may lead to
the emergence of a durable combination of materials (Fig. 9).
Under wet conditions the soluble metal salts penetrate the textile material and replace organic matter. During the duration of
deposition in the soil a chemical combination of materials takes
place, wherein the textile component becomes degraded. This
process, referred to as mineralization, can lead to a complete

Fig. 9. Textiles attached
on a bronze arm ring
from the Roman
cemetery of MauternBurggartengasse,


Cf. Farke 1986. – Gillis and Nosch 2007. – Wild 1988, 7–12.


r­ eplacement of the organic material5. When textiles are in contact with iron artefacts when they rust, the sulphides leaching
out of the metal gradually invade the adjacent patches of textile,
replacing the fibres or causing a negative imprint to be formed
around them.
The transition from the conservation of organic materials by
metal salts to complete mineralization of the fabrics until only
imprints remain is a fluid process. From the finds of Hochdorf,
Johanna Banck-Burgess6 was able to reconstruct the decomposition processes that lead to a change in the appearance of textiles. Thus, the fibre substance can degrade, the yarn thickness
thins out and the surfaces may turn ‘soapy’, so that the textile
structure is barely noticeable. In some cases when the fabrics
have been completely replaced by the metal oxides, the weave
structure and even the fibres are still recoverable as an imprint.
The metal oxides can cause an increase of volume of the threads;
through the growth of the fibre structure the textile may also appear densely compressed and unnaturally compact.
Textiles preserved in graves by metal corrosion are usually more
than unsightly, because typically the original colouring is lost in
this process. Furthermore, the remains are very fragmented, often limited to only of a few square millimetres and can therefore
all too easily be overlooked during the excavation and restoration of the finds. Despite these limitations, textile residues obtained by metal corrosion are an important source for research,
because of their clearly defined position in regard to the body of
a buried person7.

2.2 Preservation by salt
In the prehistoric sites of the Austrian salt mines8 of Hallstatt and
Dürrnberg near Hallein, preservation conditions unique in the
whole of prehistoric Europe prevail. Salts may contribute to the
preservation of fibres because they are toxic to ­microorganisms
Cf. Chen et al. 1998. – Mitschke 2001, 29. – Wild 1988, 8 – 11.
Banck-Burgess 1999, 93, pl. 1 and 2.
E.g. Bender Jørgensen 1992. – Rast-Eicher 2008.
Hallstatt: Grömer et al. 2013. – Dürrnberg: Stöllner 2005.


Fig. 10. ‘Heidengebirge’
(layers containing
objects from ancient
mining activities) with
textiles from the salt
mine in Hallstatt,
Austria, Early Iron Age.

such as bacteria. In a salty environment, single-celled ­bacteria
dry out and die9. This prevents the decomposition process of
organic materials due to bacterial activity.
The high pressure of the mountain closes the man-made cavities in the amorphous, soft geological material after the shortest possible time, so that the prehistoric remains, the so-called
‘heathen’s rock’ (Heidengebirge) becomes hermetically sealed
(Fig. 10). Through this air-tight embedding in the salt rock, no
oxidative degradation processes can take place and microbiological degradation is strongly reduced. The high humidity in
the mountain prevents the drying out of fibres10. The natural
degradation processes are slowed by the constant and low temperatures in the salt mines. The textiles are therefore preserved
so well in their organic matter that they are still elastic and supple when recovered. Salt preserves any organic material, both of
plant and animal origin, without limitation. In contrast to lakeside settlements, bogs or oak coffins, sites with salt preservation
thus do not show biases in regard to raw material origin.



Gengler 2005. – Van der Sanden 1996, 12.
See Gengler 2005, 28: chapter, 37: chapter 3.3.1.


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Fig. 86. Experimental dyeing with dye plants for yellow, performed by Anna Hartl,
BOKU Vienna. a Yarrow, Achillea millefolium. b Dyer's broom, Genista tinctoria.
c Scentless chamomile, Tripleurospermum inodorum, 1 wool dyed with plants, 2
flowering plants, 3 plant parts collected for dyeing.

to another plant that has been used alone or together with
weld. In addition to weld, other plants can be sources for ‘luteolin-type’-dyeings, for example saw-wort (Serratula tinctoria,
Asteraceae) and dyer's broom (Genista tinctoria, Fabaceae, Fig.
86.b)311. Dyer's broom can only be identified as source for textile dyeing if genistein, a typical minor compound, is detected
next to luteolin and apigenin, but in prehistoric textiles, it can
Cardon 2007, 171, 178, 180. – Hofenk de Graaff 2004, 215.



be missing due to degradation. HPLC analysis of wool experimentally dyed with yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Asteraceae,
see Fig. 86.a) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae)
showed luteolin and apigenin, sometimes in the same ratio
as in weld-dyeings312. Source for the ‘apigenin-type’ dyeings
could be the scentless chamomile (Tripleurospermum inodorum,
Asteraceae, see Fig. 86.c) which yield dyeings with the apigenin-equivalent detected as the main dye in Hallstatt textiles313.
The yellow flavonol quercetin is detected in fragments from
Iron Age Denmark and Norway314. The detection of ­quercetin

Fig. 87. The detection
of the red dye purpurin
in this Bronze Age
textile from Hallstatt
(HallTex 205) indicates
that rhizomes of
Rubiaceae species,
presumably bedstraw
species (Asperula spp.
Galium spp.), were
used for dyeing.

Hofmann-de Keijzer et al. 2013, 153.


Hartl 2012. – Hofmann-de Keijzer et al. 2013, 153.


Vanden Berghe, Gleba and Mannering 2009, 1916–1917. – The detection of quercetin in
some Iron Age Hallstatt textiles mentioned in earlier publications cannot be upheld in the light
of recent interpretations, see Hofmann-de Keijzer et al. 2013, 153.


Fig. 88. Experimental dyeing with dye plants for red, performed by Anna Hartl, BOKU
Vienna. a Dyer's woodruff, Asperula tinctoria; b Wood Bedstraw, Galium sylvaticum,
c Lady's Bedstraw, Galium verum, 1 wool dyed with rhizomes, 2 flowering plants,
3 rhizomes collected for dyeing.

­ ithout any minor compound is of no use when the aim is
to identify the dye plant, since quercetin occurs in 60% of all
plants315. The detection of the yellow flavonol rhamnetin in textiles from Danish peat bogs and of a rhamnetin-equivalent in
Iron Age textiles from Hallstatt points to the use of buckthorn
species (Rhamnus sp., Rhamnaceae) in the Iron Age316.

Whiting 1981.


Hofmann-de Keijzer et al. 2013, 154. – Vanden Berghe, Gleba and Mannering 2009, 1916.



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Patterned tablet weaves

Fig. 101. Structure
pattern from Cloak 2
from Verucchio in Italy,
Early Iron Age.

Tablet weaving is a traditional handcraft to make
patterned bands. Great creativity is inherent in the
craft, which manifests itself
in the many possibilities of
the pattern design. Essential for the design motif are
the choice of colours for the
warp, but also the way the
tablets are placed and the
direction of rotation during
weaving. The creative use of
this technology allows the
design of various decorative
motifs. Simple tablet woven
patterns are, for instance,
stripes. They arise when for
each tablet a different colour
of the warp threads is used.
By continuous rotation of
the tablets, a structure of
different coloured ‘strings’ arises arranged next to each other.
This simple principle of decoration first appears at the end of
the Middle Bronze Age in Europe, as a new find from Hallstatt
testifies376 (Fig. 53). Striped design is further found in early Iron
Age bands from Hallstatt as well as from the ‘Prachtmäntel’ of
the Nordic Iron Age377.
Structural patterning is also a possible decorative principle inherent in tablet weaving. Cloak 2 from Verucchio in Italy has
a wide tablet woven border with a triangular pattern, formed
by changing the turning direction of the tablets. In addition,
it has stripes formed by tablets turned in opposite directions
(Fig. 101)378.

Grömer 2013, 87.


Schlabow 1976, e.g. fig. 119, Thorsberg. – Möller-Wiering and Subbert 2012, fig. 6.7.


Ræder Knudsen 2012, fig. 11.2–11.5. – von Eles 2002, tav. XXI/1, XXII.



Fig. 102. Complex tablet weaves from Hallstatt and Dürrnberg, Iron Age.

Fig. 103. Tablet
weaving: producing
complex patterns by
turning individual
tablets back and forth.

Similarly, there are colour patterns that have been woven in a
complex manner. From the Iron Age onwards, the production
of complex motifs in tablet weaving technique was mastered379.
Prominent examples380 can be found in the Hallstatt period elite
grave from Hochdorf and in the salt mines of Hallstatt or Dürrnberg. In most of the tablet weaves from other sites, including
the patterned one from Apremont in France, the original colour
has unfortunately not survived. Only the binding structure can
be reconstructed from these pieces. The recognisable changes
in the rotation patterns were most likely not only structural
patterns with uni-coloured yarns, but included coloured warp
threads to form a colourful pattern lost to us today.
The motifs of patterned tablet weaves from the Iron Age salt
mines in Hallstatt381 (Fig. 102) include meanders, filled triangles
and diamonds, which are repeated in sections. The patterns come

Pattern techniques from prehistoric Central Europe with catalogue: Grömer and Stöllner 2011.


Hochdorf and Apremont: Banck-Burgess 1999, 70, fig. 40–41. – Ræder Knudsen 1999.
– Hallstatt: Grömer 2013, 87. – Dürrnberg: Grömer and Stöllner 2011, 109–111. – Ræder
Knudsen and Grömer 2012.


For detailed descriptions of the reconstructions of the tablet weaves see Grömer 2005a.



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Fig. 129. Different
types of stitches used
in prehistory, with
examples from the
salt mines in Hallstatt,
Bronze and Iron Age.



stitch type is used as a decorative stitch in the Early Iron Age.
A textile find from Hallstatt shows a row of running stitches
in a contrasting colour to the fabric as an ornament worked
parallel to the actual seam (Fig. 129).476 An extraordinary find
in terms of the sewing technique is the embroidered La Tène

Hundt 1960, 139–142. – Grömer and Rösel-Mautendorfer 2013, 354–356.

8.4 Examples of prehistoric dressmaking patterns
Information on dressmaking patterns and cutting techniques
in prehistoric times can be inferred from a few preserved garments. Some of them exhibit considerable skill and refinement.
The Copper Age Iceman from the Tyrolean Alps514 (see pages
341 – 347) had garments with interesting sewing details, but also
interesting cutting and design details. All items of his clothing,
including the leggings and the fur cap, were sewn together with
overcast stitches.
The upper body wear, a kind of jacket, was composed of rectangular pieces of goatskin. The assembling of the clothing using
strips of different coloured materials is visually striking. The selection of animal skin strips of colours ranging from bright to
dark makes this jacket a very decorative piece of clothing. To
what degree sewing the jacket from narrow pieces of fur might
have been an advantage for fitting the garment to the body can
no longer be evaluated today. An indication that the joining of
strips had an impact on the fit can be observed on the Iceman's
loincloth, which is approximately 1 m long. It is put together of
tailored, slightly fitted, cut goat leather strips, again assembled
with overcast stitches. With this sewing technique, the loincloth
fits better to the body shape than if cut from a whole piece.
Sensational discoveries from the Nordic Early Bronze Age
(15th – 13th centuries BC) come from Muldbjerg, Trindhøj, Borum
Eshøj, Skrydstrup and Egtved in Jutland/Denmark. Complete
clothing was found in oak coffins from these sites.515 Both men's
and women's garments often have multiple seams. While the
men's wrap around garments are mostly composed of multiple
pieces that had been cut, the centrepiece of the women's blouses
are made from a single piece of fabric (Fig. 191). Sewing and cutting techniques of these pieces of upper body wear is very interesting. The shape stands out from the wrapped and belted garments, such as the men's coats from Trindhøj and Muldbjerg

Egg and Goedecker-Ciolek 2009, 73–88. – Spindler 1995.


Hald 1950; 1980, 67–69 (men's coats), 67–69, 95–97 (women's skirts), 92 (blouse). –
Mannering, Gleba and Bloch Hansen 2012, 96–102. – Nienholdt 1961, 1.



or the women's skirts from Borum Eshøj or Skrydstrup. Analysis showed that the Bronze Age blouses from Borum Eshøj and
Skrydstrup were tailored specifically to ensure a certain fit. The
approximately rectangular material of the female blouse was cut
crosswise from both sides in the lower third, then folded towards
the middle and sewn together. The remaining material was folded
down and sewn together with the lower fabric tube. Some of these
blouses have been extended with additional fabric strips. The top
fold was cut in horizontally for the neck opening (Fig. 191). The
seams were worked with overcast stitches, wherein the fabric layers were overlaid without neatening and stitched together. Due to
the structure of the fabric the seams were durable and functional.
This kind of processing may indicate that this type of clothing
was originally made ​​of leather, fur or felt. In contrast to textiles,
these materials do not fray and therefore do not need to be neat-

Fig. 133.
Reconstruction of the
Thorsberg trousers by
Katrin Kania. Although
astonishingly tight,
the trousers allow full
mobility for the wearer.


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probably belonged to a veil or other textile head cover attached
to the headgear.

Middle Bronze Age

Fig. 199. Franzhausen,
Austria: Early Bronze
Age Grave 110 with
bronze objects and
reconstruction. Model:
Susanne Mayrhofer.

An in-depth analysis of jewellery and metal dress accessories
from the Middle Bronze Age Tumulus Culture in Central Europe, that is found across Hungary, Bohemia, Austria and Southern Germany779, observed a trans-regional pattern of costume, in
which women are regularly equipped with two large pins in the
shoulder/chest area (Fig. 201); it is rare that only one pin is encountered in women’s graves. The question is whether different
numbers of pins reflect a different style of clothing (different cut,
different silhouette) or whether a similar garment was simply
put together in another way.
Sørensen 1997. – Wels-Weyrauch 1978, 1994. – Wiegel 1994, 165–218.



Fig. 200. Franzhausen,
Austria: Excavation context of Grave 110 with
elaborate headdress.


Some wealthy Middle Bronze Age female burials include massive sheet bronze spirals (Beinberge) that covered half the lower
legs. Bronze rings worn on both upper and lower arms are also
often found in the graves. The small, perforated decorative trim
pieces (tutuli) are exclusively found in the pelvic area of female
burials. The leather scraps sometimes found on their back indicate they were attached to some carrier material. There are
also wide sheet bronze belts. Rich jewellery on neck and chest in
female graves may sometimes appear outstanding (wheel pen-

dants or spiked disks Fig. 202, heart shaped pendants Fig. 208),
for example the massive spiked disks found in a grave in Winklarn, Lower Austria780.
In isolated cases, a special headdress can be reconstructed from
the metal constituents of Middle Bronze Age burials. Sometimes small fabric remnants are found which indicate a veil that
was fastened with small bronze pins; at times a bonnet or cap is
assumed. A representative headdress was, for example, found
in one of the largest Middle Bronze Age necropoles of Central
Europe, Pitten in Lower Austria781. For the women, most richly
adorned with bronze items and buried within this necropolis,
a prominent position in society can probably be assumed. Two
graves of 30 to 35-year-old women are at the top of the social
pyramid, each carrying a magnificent diadem with neck plate.
The ornamentation on these outstanding objects with bow and
­spiral decoration is an allusion to ancient Mycenaean art, which
was formative for the European craft style of the middle 2nd millennium BC.

Fig. 201. Middle Bronze
Age dress fittings and
jewellery from woman’s graves in Southern
­Germany and Austria.

Grömer, Rösel-Mautendorfer and Bender Jørgensen 2013, 222–224.


Urban 2000, 180–184, with figures.



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for ornaments; for they not only wear golden ornaments – both chains
round their necks and bracelets round their arms and wrists – but their
dignitaries wear garments that are dyed in colours and sprinkled with
This small selection of ancient texts show a clear picture: they
describe, for the most part, elements of clothing that emphasise
the ‘otherness’ of northern barbarians in contrast to the civilized
(= Roman) world. The most prominent garments for which the
name is thus known are the trousers called ‘bracae’ and the cloak
held by a fibula called a ‘sagum’. Both were later incorporated
into the attire of Romans, especially in the military, as the expansion of the Roman Empire to the north demanded suitable
clothing for the local climate863.

5.5 Iron Age head coverings and shoes
Head coverings
Anthropomorphic figures on pottery do not add a lot to our
knowledge about head coverings, because they are very schematic. Especially differentiated is the headgear as shown on the
works of situla art864 (Fig. 221 and 230), if people are not shown
bare-headed and/or bald. Women are usually depicted with
veils of different lengths. Warriors – men armed with swords
and shields wear helmets of types known from contemporary
finds in the same area. E.g. it is possible to compare helmets from
Magdalenska Gora or Brezje in Slovenia (type ‘Doppelkammhelm’
and Negau, 6th century BC) with depictions on the belt sheet
from Vače865. Non-armed persons usually have hats of various
kinds. The situla from Kuffarn shows a flat, wide-brimmed hat
for a socially high-ranking person. The majority of the men on
the situla art, however, are depicted with a hemispheric cap or
a beret. Phrygian caps, soft conical caps with the top pulled forward, are also common in the eastern Alpine region.
For men’s clothing, see Croom 2002, 31–59; – Speidel 2012.


Lucke and Frey 1962. – Turk 2005.


Kern et al. 2009b, 13 and 21.



It is very interesting that we have contemporary finds from the
salt mines in Austria (Fig. 230), especially of the headgear, which
are all made ​​of leather or fur866. So far, the flat cap, the beret and
the Phrygian cap have been found in Hallstatt, the hemispherical (globular) cap in Dürrnberg. The Phrygian cap made of fur
was worn with the hair side inwards. The beret-like caps were
made of sheepskin, by gathering a circular piece with a leather
strap. In this case, the hair side was worn towards the outside.
All of those items belonged to the workwear of the miners from
the salt mines as functional and protective head coverings. As
we can compare them with the contemporary depictions, they
were worn by men. There is one example among the berets
found in Hallstatt that belonged to a small child – as can be seen
in the size of the item867. Scarce depictions of children (situla of
Kuffarn) also point to the beret type of head gear for them.

Fig. 230. Headgear from
the Iron Age salt mines
of Hallstatt and Dürrnberg in comparison with
depictions on situlae,
Iron Age.

Grave finds of headgear of high-ranked male persons are
known in the princely tombs of the late Hallstatt and early La

Popa 2009, 105. – Stöllner 2002, colour pl. 10.


Pany-Kucera et al. 2010, fig. 8.


Tène ­Period in Southern Germany868. From Eberdingen-­
Hochdorf a pointed birch hat was found. More attention has to be drawn to the big leaf-shaped crown or
hat (Fig. 231) depicted on the statue from Glauberg,
dated around 400 BC. Metal wires, wood, leather and
textile remains found in grave 1 could be reconstructed
to belong to such a leaf-shaped crown. So we can imagine this depiction to have had a real counterpart worn
during lifetime as well.
Hallstatt period inhumation graves contain a
lot of bodily adornment. Typical metal objects
around the head of female individuals are
bronze rings and bronze pins869, e.g. at Hallstatt
or Gießübel, Tum. 18, grave 6. The position of
the bronze pins suggests their use as hair-pins,
or as part of some otherwise perishable head-gear
such as a veil or bonnet. Grave 464 from Hallstatt
is remarkable because there are hundreds of amber
beads around the head (Fig. 232), which may have
decorated a bonnet. The Early La Tène period cemetery of Dürrnberg is representative concerning inhumation graves in this region. Metal objects as
remains of headgear are very scarce, sometimes
in women’s graves pins and bronze rings appear (Fig. 227). In one case a very rich adorned
woman wore a bronze ring around her head,
together with a torques around her neck, beads
of a necklace, fibulae and rings around her arms
and ankles870.
Fig. 231. Glauberg,
­Germany, statue with
leaf-shaped crown,
c. 400 BC.

Like other elements of dress – the most famous being the use of
paired fibulae on the shoulders and belts with metal fittings –
the use of different hats, caps, veils and bonnets were ­developed

Glauberg: Bagley 2014, 415, Kat. Nr. 118. – Bartel 2002, 163–167. – Frölich 2006. – Hochdorf:
Biel 1985.


Gießübel: Banck-Burgess 2012b, 41. – Hallstatt: Grömer and Kania 2006; – Kromer 1959.


Moosleitner et al. 1974, pl. 189.



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F Summary
The roots of our history, as well as the history of
the textile craft, reach back to the ‘dark ages’, the
millennia before the Ancient Civilisations and before
writing. Textiles, textile production and clothing were
essentials of living in prehistory, locked into the
system of society at every level – social, economic
and even religious.


The cultural and historical importance of textile technology,
especially of spinning and weaving, can hardly be overstated.
Textile crafts not only produced essential goods for everyday
use, most notably clothing, but also utilitarian objects as well as
representative and luxury items.
This book is dedicated to historians, costume designers, archaeologists and anyone interested in handcraft and artisanship. The
temporal and geographical scope of this investigation is the prehistory of Central Europe, the period before the introduction of
writing, which coincides with the Roman occupation in Central
Europe. Austrian finds and sites as well as those of neighbouring countries are the primary focus.
The essential textile craft techniques that we still largely employ
today date back to inventions in the Stone and Bronze Ages. A
major concern of this book is to draw a differentiated picture of
prehistoric textile crafts. The numerous individual production
steps – not just spinning and weaving – are presented here in
their entirety. The historical depth is illustrated by a variety of
archaeological sources – from tools and textile finds to written
sources of the Late Iron Age. From the first early agricultural
societies of the Neolithic period, people developed many ingenious weaving and sewing techniques, as well as types of bindings and patterns that accompany us for the most part until today. From the Bronze Age in the 2nd millennium BC, a ‘wave of
innovation’ can be noted in which the first twill weaves, dyes,
colour patterns and spin patterns emerge.
The refinement of textile technologies achieved a first climax in
the Hallstatt period, visible in the finer and more diverse wool
fabrics of the Iron Age in comparison to the Bronze Age. The
Hallstatt fabrics are of high quality, and very decoratively designed by weave structures, colours, patterns and elaborately
made borders. This development was perhaps fostered by the
emergence of differentiated social structures at the beginning of
the Iron Age. The title of the book – ‘The Art of Prehistoric Textile Making’ – reflects the diversity of decorative techniques of
textiles, since it challenges the common perception of primitive
simplicity in prehistoric textile technologies.


The weave types constitute an essential design element. By their
textured appearance, complex twill variants stand out against
simpler plain weaves from the Bronze Age and earlier periods.
Using different colours for warp and weft, the patterned effect
of twill weaves is even more remarkable with its typical ridges.
In the prehistory of Central Europe, most patterns were designed
to emerge during weaving. The design of the pattern goes hand
in hand with their production technology. The system of warp
and weft threads emphasises the vertical and horizontal directions. Stripes and checks of various kinds arise organically by
using different colours for the warp threads and repeating colourful weft threads. Spin patterns are also created during the
weaving process, which were very popular in the Central European Iron Age.
Creating curvy, non-linear shapes required resorting to other
techniques. To achieve those, various pattern-forming entries
in the weft as well as floating elements on a base fabric could
be applied. The incorporation of different elements provided a
wide sphere of activity for creative prehistoric people. Embroidery, sewing technology’s little sister, has so far only rarely been
detected in Central Europe, and yet it can be traced through the
ages from the Bronze Age onwards. Tablet weaving is a special
weaving technique utilising four-holed tablets that allow complicated and figurative designs. Tablet weaving had its heyday
in the Central European Iron Age, and provided a rich field for
creative work in pattern design: there is almost no limit for this
technique, as archaeological and historical textile finds impressively testify.
In this book, every effort is made to correct the common misconceptions of prehistoric textile crafts being primitive. Questions of the organisation of production, labour division and the
people involved in textile production are considered. Textiles
and textile tools can give us a first indication of the level of production – starting from the level of household production in the
Stone and Bronze Ages and culminating in more industrial level
workshop production in Roman times. The evidence for Central
Europe, albeit scanty, suggests that most textiles were produced
in the domestic sphere during the Neolithic, but that specialist

weavers and mass production emerge during the Iron Age. It is
also a delightful challenge, to create a hypothesis about ‘the people behind’, about textile producers and consumers. We can find
traces in every settlement of where they lived and worked. Spindle whorls, loom-weights and needles in graves may indicate
that their owners were textile workers, but also may demonstrate their special status.
Textiles were not only produced for clothing. Like today, they
fulfilled a number of different functions in everyday life. We have
presented evidence of wall hangings, pillows and ­mattresses
dating back to prehistoric times. Textiles were used as transport
bags in salt mines and as padding for scabbards. Even after wear
and tear, the ‘resource textile’ – produced with so much time
and effort – was handled thoughtfully. More than once, veritable ‘recycling’ has been observed. Discarded materials were
used as makeshift binding material, as packaging material and
even for dressing wounds.
The book concludes with a comprehensive chapter about clothing in prehistory. Different archaeological sources such as textile objects, rare finds of complete garments, jewellery in graves
and iconographic evidence were compiled; Greek and Roman
written sources enlighten some aspects of textile art at the end
of prehistory. Neolithic depictions of clothed people on figurines, stelae and carvings show some representations of clothing
which can be technically interpreted. But were the loincloths and
aprons shown on the (cult) statuettes of the Early and Middle
Neolithic reserved for ritual purposes, or were they also used in
everyday life? Whether the garment of the Neolithic period may
be reduced to a simple belted dress silhouette is questionable.
An upper garment, open at the front, is definitely part of the
repertoire; it is a basic type that is also known from the clothes of
the Iceman. The way the garment was built can clearly be traced
to working leather. Various hats and forms of shoes made of
plant materials as well as all the equipment of the Iceman with
his leggings, loincloth, bearskin hat and multi-component shoes
show us the diversity of clothing in the Neolithic period. A certain optimisation and tweaking of the clothes for particular purposes may already be seen at this time.


In the Bronze Age, the lack of human representations in Central Europe drastically affects our knowledge about the forms of
clothing. From Northern Europe, however, complete garments
are known: women wear a combination of blouse and skirt or
string skirt; men a loincloth or wrap-around and an oval cloak.
The Central European dress elements recovered from graves,
such as pins and metal trimmings, do not exist in this form in
Northern Europe. We thus do not know with certainty which
kinds of clothing they belonged to and how the garments were
The Iron Age, however, delights us with numerous sources.
Both the archaeological finds, the finds from graves, as well
as pictorial representations in Central Europe indicate a variety of different garments. All this is complemented by original
finds of garments from the centuries around the beginning of
Common Era from Northern Europe: tunics, rectangular cloaks,
skirts and dresses. For the first time in the history of Europe,
trousers emerged – a form of garment that, like the shirt-like
tunic, remained essential to the development of European fashion ever since944. Particularly interesting are the written sources
by ancient authors, to whom we owe descriptions and even the
names of various pieces of clothing for the first time in Central
European clothing history: bracae for trousers and sagum for the
rectangular cloak held together by fibulae.
Iron Age women’s clothing in Central Europe certainly consisted
of shirt-like (sewn) dresses, veils and cloaks; combinations of
skirts and tops are also possible. The peplos with flap, however,
is not attested in pre-Roman times. The location of paired fibulae at the shoulders, which are frequently seen as evidence of the
peplos, can also be interpreted in various other ways. The multiple colours of Iron Age garments are noteworthy, as demonstrated both in the written sources and by the Central European
textile finds – especially those from the Austrian salt mines. Various forms of headgear and footwear complete our picture of
Iron Age clothing. Not all questions have been answered and
we are far from being able to paint a full picture of the clothing
for the whole population of each prehistoric period. First indica Cf. Bönsch 2001.



tions of individual garment shapes, footwear and headgear are,
however, already possible. In the spirit of the research project
‘DressID – Clothing and Identities. New Perspectives on Textiles in
the Roman Empire (2007 – 2012)’, the book is further concerned
with illuminating the importance of clothing and jewellery in
the prehistoric period. Clothing not only protects against wet,
heat and cold; the psychological effects of clothing as well as the
social meaning, as an important medium to communicate identity and as indicator of power and status, cannot be underestimated. Like today, clothing was an important non-verbal means
of communication, expressing details about its wearer such their
social status, age, gender and group membership.
Today, as then, clothes had a role in identity creation for the
individual and for the group. Textiles and the skill of craftsmanship with which they were created contribute much to this
visual effect. This monograph interweaves the topics of prehistoric textile art, the history of the textile craft and the history of


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