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3 December 2017
Ancient textiles reveal differences in Mediterranean fabrics

One of the earliest human craft technologies and applied arts, is the production of textiles. The production of this material would represent one of the most important, time, resource, and labor consuming activities in ancient times.
     However, despite their importance, they are rarely present in archaeological contexts, especially in Mediterranean Europe, due to the unfavorable conditions for preservation of organic materials. A new article published in Antiquity may change the way these textiles are studied through the study of mineralized textiles. This has provided a more detailed study of hundreds of textile fragments from Italy and Greece in the first half of the first millennium BCE.
     According to Dr Margarita Gleba, the study's author and researcher at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, "Luckily for us, during the Iron Age (c. 1000-400 BCE) people were buried with a lot of metal goods such as personal ornaments, weapons and vessels. These metals are conducive to the preservation of textiles as the metal effectively kills off the micro-organisms which would otherwise consume the organic materials, while at the same time metal salts create casts of textile fibres, thereby preserving the textile microstructure."
     Dr Gleba also adds: "This is how we get such a large number of textiles, even though they only exist now in tiny fragments. Through meticulous analysis using digital and scanning electron microscopy, high performance liquid chromatography and other advanced methods we are able to determine a lot of information including the nature of the raw materials and structural features such as thread diameter, twist direction, type of weaving or binding, and thread count."
     The results of her study imply that there were close similarities between the Italian Iron Age textiles and those from Central Europe, normally associated with the Hallstatt culture, while the Greek textiles were more closely connected to the Near East.

Edited from EurekAlert! (22 September 2017)

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