ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
It's been a good week. As expected, the conference was dominated by eastern europeans and archaeobotanists (sometimes one and the same), which skewed the talks somewhat. Evenso, there were lots of interesting talks, ranging from the Roman period to the post-medieval, from Aberdeen in the north-west to Istanbul in the south-east. I think the most interesting for me were Sabine Karg's A cross-disciplinary approach to understanding the diversity of useful plants during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period in the Baltic - taste preferences, purchasing power or climatic limitations? and Norbert Benecke and Peggy Morgenstern's Food economy in medieval urban centres of Berlin - the archaeozoological record. The plant study has been collected in the book Medieval food traditions in Northern Europe, but unfortunately there has not been a corresponding study on the animal bones from the Hansa sites. Hopefully I can can find out if/where the archaeological studies from Berlin are published. My talk went well, and I think most people were interested in what I had to say. From a purely palynological point of view, it was probably rather irrelevant. :-)

As the plant, animal bone and human bone specialists in eastern Europe mainly come from the natural sciences, rather than the humanist faculties, as they do in Sweden and the UK (the bone specialists at least - not sure about the plant specialists), discussions were slanted thereafter ("we scientists must talk to the archaeologists") which irritated me and some of the other archaeologists there. Not sure what to to about this, apart of course to talk to the "other side" as it were, so everyone can be aware of where we (and they) are coming from and how this can bias our thinking. I wish that it was easier to do cross-faculty studies. From a Swedish point of view I'm limited in what I can study at university level since I did the economics/social science branch of the gymnasium (the last three years in school, technically optional) and not the natural science/technological branch. For most, if not all, courses in various natural sciences I have to do three years of physics, chemistry, biology and natural science level math, as I otherwise would not meet the qualifications for entrance. Which, needless to say, suck. While multi-disciplinary studies is clearly the way to go, it's not possible to do all disciplines by oneself. Therefore, in my ideal world, we would talk to each other, go to multidiciplinary conferences and learn what the other fields can do to help my field. My next project is a study of university diet, and for that I will not only need archaeozoology, but archaeobotany, history, and probably lots of other fields that can tangentially help me find patterns.

Gdansk itself was lovely. I had planned to post lots of pictures, but as I can't find the camera cord, this will have to wait. :-(
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
The first read-through of my talk took 30 minutes (but then I did the whole thing, mentioned all sites), the second took 20 minutes, only mentioning a few sites. I would have liked to do a third test run, but everyone at work was very busy last Friday and my housemates went away for the weekend (neither connected to the first two read-throughs, I might add). Perhaps I can get hold of an unsuspecting volunteer at the conference registration...

Tomorrow I'm off to Stansted, and from there to Gdansk. Don't break the internet while I'm away.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
A few days ago I was linked to a post on academic conference etiquette, which in turn linked to a post on conference rules. I thought they could be very useful, since this will be my first talk at a "proper" conference. Some things were obvious, such as practice your talk beforehand and don't overrun your time slot. Although I got a bit worried when they said that a 20 minute talk (check) would equal 10-12 full A4 pages. I have three... Admittedly, both pages seem to run under the assumption that you will write your talk and then read what you've written - something I'm not so keen on, as it doesn't captivate the audience, especially if it's a topic they're not very interested in. The better talks I've heard have been people using notes and keywords rather than a full text, which is the method I'm planning to use. I haven't "read" it out loud yet, hopefully tomorrow when I've got most of the images for the powerpoint set up. I've got the slot just before lunch, so I figure that if I'm a couple of minutes short people will probably not mind too much. But I better not end up with a five minute talk and twenty minutes for questions!

I still can't find some images I want to use. Department of "I know I have seen such an image somewhere (during the 17 years I've studied archaeology)" is not very helpful.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
I can't believe it's the end of July already. Where did the summer go? I still have lots to do on the conference paper. Even if it's slightly more than a month away I not only have to finish writing the paper, but fix images for the power point (if furs and bone bore you, you might as well have something to look at, rather than just listen to someone talk), which usually take much longer time than one first anticipates.

Here's my abstract. Does it sound interesting to you?


Tawyers and furriers in Medieval Europe

Medieval, and indeed post-medieval, crafts were highly interconnected, and what was considered waste in one craft was often used as raw material in another. Waste dumps, which are often used as craft indicators, are therefore less reliable as they may signify more than one craft. A continual process of craft specialisation and the fluidity between many adjacent crafts further complicate matters. It is therefore important to correctly identify craft workshops in urban excavations.

Despite the variety of leather working crafts in Medieval towns, the archaeological focus has been on tanning and shoemaking, two inter-connecting crafts that often left substantial remains of structures and craft waste. Tawyers, who cured skins with alum, and furriers, who cured furs with oils and fat, are more difficult to identify archaeologically - the archaeological remains are less substantial and require wet sieving and subsequent osteological, entomological and chemical analyses.

We know from written souces that the trade in skins and furs was very large throughout the Medieval period. Between July and September 1384 over 390,000 furs were imported to London alone. Tawyers and furriers were present in most Medieval towns, but have rarely been identified archaeologically. This talk discusses methods for identifying these crafts and presents a few case studies.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
Today I intended to read a French bone report on a furrier's workshop in St Denis for my talk at the urban environmental archaeology conference. Unfortunately, it was the Swedish-French dictionary that I had in the house and not the French-Swedish, which is in the office. Well, if I didn't know what to do on Monday evening, I guess I have the answer now...

Plan B is either to work on a translation of my tannery essay into English, or just go out and enjoy the summer sunshine (possibly with ice cream).

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