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).
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
In this post I will put any of my articles and essays that can be downloaded. It is linked in the blog frame, so you don't need to bookmark it. There are some uni essays that I will put up here, but they need to be scanned and converted to pdf first. It may take a while, since it's not high up on my priority list.


- To eat or not to eat? The significance of the cut marks on the bones from wild canids, mustelids and felids from the Danish Ertebølle site Hjerk Nor (MA essay in osteoarchaeology, 2000).
The essay discusses the use of wild canids, mustelids and felids at Hjerk Nor, a Danish Ertebølle site with an unusually high amount of 'fur animal' bones. The bones from these species were studied in a microscope, and the placement of the cut marks were compared finds from two Neolithic sites in the Netherlands: Hazendonk and Swifterbant, and from one Neolithic and three Mesolithic sites in Denmark: Kongemose, Muldbjerg I, Præstelyng, and Tybrind Vig. All 'fur animal' species at Hjerk Nor were utilised for both skin and meat. Cutmarks deriving from dismembering and filleting were particularly plentiful on wild cat and otter.

Download as pdf.


- Identifiering av garverier i en arkeologisk kontext - metoder och möjligheter (MA essay in archaeology, 2010).
The essay deals with possibilities of identifying tanneries in archaeological excavations. The geographical and chronological emphasis is early medieval northern Europe, although the methods would apply for earlier and later periods and other regions as well. Documents, artefacts and pictorial evidence were examined to see what tannery indicators they could yield archaeologically. Crafts associated with the use of tanning products and tanning waste as raw material were also taken into consideration. As conclusion, the identification of tanneries is dependent on many different indicators, such as location, tanning vats, tools, dumps of horn cores, foot bones, lime and bark. Several of these indicators are not exclusive to tanneries, and it is therefore important to use as many indicators as possible in order to form a secure identification of tannery activity. The long association with shoemaking further complicates identification of tanneries.

Download as pdf. Note that this essay is written in Swedish, so it's of limited use for most people, but then again, there are lots of pictures of tanning tools, medieval images of tanners etc, which are less language dependent.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
I'm back from the essay presentation in Visby, which seemed to go well. Only a few spelling errors that I need to correct, and then I'm sending it to my supervisor, who will send it to the examinator. Fingers crossed that he or she likes it. It was a very intense trip: only 24 hours in Visby and the same in Stockholm. Still, I managed to have time for fika*, and walked all over Visby feeling nostalgic. When I'm rich I'll buy a small house/flat within the ring wall.

Surprisingly, we had snow. Admittedly much more on the mainland than on Gotland, but still. Compare these pictures with the ones from a previous post:

Photobucket Photobucket


With only 24 hours in Stockholm I didn't see that much, mostly Östermalm, Gamla Stan, and passing through city on my way elsewhere. Gamla Stan is lovely, with its old houses and narrow alleyways, and really appealed architecturally. Östermalm, on the other hand, is dominated by 19th century architecture, and felt just like my hometown. I spent several hours at the Historical Museum, but it won't be on my list of favourite museums. Unfortunately I can't pinpoint why it didn't appeal to me. Still, I got to see a fair number of famous objects, so I can't see it as wasted hours. I skipped the Museum of Medieval Stockholm, and instead wandered round the Old Town. It seemed to have as many tourist shops as London, so if that's any indication of the amount of tourists, I'm glad I got there in the off-season!



*: Fika is a very useful Swedish word, meaning a short coffee/tea break, possibly with biscuits, cookies or even cake. Company is optional, but usually preferred.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
I realised that I haven't posted about my tanning essay for a long while now, and surely there must be some readers who wonder what's happening on that line.

The essay is finished (yay!) and has been handed in. I will present and defend it at the end of November in Visby. By then, I will also have received someone else's essay that I will be the opponent of. This is quite different from the UK system, where once your essay is handed in, you just wait for your supervisor and an external examiner to mark it, and let you know what your marks were. Some of my MA course mates in Southampton were quite surprised when I said that our undergraduate and postgraduate essays are presented like Ph.D. theses are - obviously a way of training us how it's done, in the same way that undergraduate essays prepare students for postgrad and Ph.D. writing.

It will be a rather brief visit, having one day in Visby, one in Stockholm and two in Malmö before I fly back again to London. Still, it's better than just flying in and out, and I want to save some holidays left for next year, since it's so much nicer holidaying when it's a bit warmer!
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
A classic, but unfortunate (often recurring even) episode in any writer’s life is the need to add a reference or text, and you have only a vague idea where in your copious amounts of papers it may be. As it turned out, my first two guesses were totally wrong, so I went googling instead. This turned out to be lucky.

Setton’s book The papacy and the Levant was far more detailed than my original source, which only said that when alum* was found in Italy in 1461, trade in alum from the Near East ceased. Apparently, the reason the other alum trade ceased? Papal monopoly on the Italian alum trade. If you bought from the Turks, it was a non-pardonable sin. Previous alum sources had been in the Greek islands and in Turkey and beyond. But that was now under control by the Ottoman Empire, who could and did charge a lot for it. Genoese merchants had grown rich on the alum trade in previous centuries, but I’m not sure how much that affected the Pope’s decision (nepotism and ancient enemies and all that) and how much was fear of the slowly encroaching Ottoman Empire/Islam and how much was mere greed.

As [personal profile] oursin says: it’s always more complicated. And often, complicated makes it so much more interesting!


*: alum is used for curing leather, and produces a white skin. The craftsmen were called tawyers in English, but vitgarvare (white-tanners) in Swedish**.
**: and in German, for that matter (Weissgerber).
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
I've taken a few days off work to write the final chapter on the tanning essay. My main irritation point is that I'm writing this far from my usual discussion team - how I miss my uni days, where you could find loads of people to discuss ideas with (and go off on tangents far and wide :-) ). It's sadly no use working in archaeology if you're writing in a language none of your workmates can understand as you have to translate everything first... And asking non-archaeo Swedes is not of too much use either once you move away from "does this sentence work for you?".

I have a vague feeling that my supervisor likes archaeological theory more than I do.


At least once this is done, I only have to insert the figures, do the final check for language smoothness and spelling errors, and then I can send it off to the university.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
It's a lovely spring weekend outside, and I'd love to go out in the sunshine - perhaps cycling out in the countryside, or along the Thames or the Cherwell - and just enjoy the lovely day. But no. I'm inside, alternating between patching my work jeans and writing on the tanning essay. Yesterday I was in the library* until the bell rang, but at least I managed to get hold of some useful articles, as I realised I needed to add something on trade in hides during the Roman Iron Age**. On the island Öland, in the Baltic Sea, there are many Roman import goods from this period, and on several grave fields, women have hide working tools as grave goods. This combination has led to suggestions that they sold hides to Roman empire, probably for the army (shoes, tents, belts, sword sheaths, harnesses etc). I doubt we can find written sources indicating trade, as AFAIK the Romans classified people north of the limes border with their tribal names and not by location. And properly identifying a tribal name with a specific region ought to be rather impossible. This of course ignores the likelihood that the hides were sold through one or more traders on their way to the Roman border, thus obscuring any possibility to find the origin of the hides.


*: The Bodleian/Sackler library has a surprising amount of books on Scandinavian Prehistoric/Medieval archaeology. Obviously not everything I need, but I rarely need to contact my parents to ask them to photocopy something from a Swedish book.

**: In Scandinavia, we're still in the Iron Age when other regions of Europe are part of the Roman empire. We're not in the historical period/Middle Ages until c. AD1000.
ossamenta: Tanner from Medieval manuscript (Vitgarvare (Nürnberg 12brüderstiftung))
... would probably not smell sweet at all, but nevermind that.

One of my continuous "pulling my hair out-frustrations" regarding the essay writing has been trying to find out when tanners emerge as a separate craft. According to Ælfric's Colloquy, from the 10th century, tanners not only made the leather, but also made shoes, belts, harnesses etc. Interestingly, the translator in the pdf linked above uses the word "tanner", where the original has "sceowyrhta" (shoemaker). The town law of Visby (on Gotland, present day Sweden), from 1332-1335) has a section on fees for craftsmen in order to practice their craft. Tanners are mentioned specifically, which has lead to interpretation of this as evidence for a tanners' guild. This would be quite interesting, since the earliest guild charters for tanners in Sweden and Denmark are from the 1630s.

Archaeological evidence for this shift to specialisation is scant: so far I've only heard of one site in Novgorod, which contained waste from both tanning and shoemaking, until the 12-13th centuries, when layers of animal hair and ashes disappear, suggesting that the site was now only occupied by specialised shoemakers, and that tanning occurred elsewhere (Hald 1972).

What we do have instead are written sources (not many, admittedly). Bynames could be used as craft signifiers, and hopefully we can also attach an address to that person. Well, we have to have a broad definition of "address" here. A street name if we're lucky, otherwise a parish. And coming back to the subject line: names. Specifically craft signifying bynames. Already in 1150, a Johannes coriarius witnessed a grant of land in York. Coriarius is usually translated as tanner*, except in one British dictionary, where it also is translated as currier**. Currier is the word used by Lisa Liddy, when discussing leatherworkers in Medieval York (Liddy 2003). This is rather problematic. As a currier is a specialist within the tanning craft, this would suggest that the York leather industry was highly specialised during the 12th century. As comparison, in Sweden, curriers (lädertågare) only occur in Stockholm during the 17th century. I wonder why the person writing the dictionary included currier when no other dictionary does? Other problematic definitions include pellifex/skinner, who sometimes is a whittawyer, sometimes a furrier, and sometimes a tanner.

Of course, these definitions are only properly valid for the high Middle Ages, and may have changed slightly since the Viking Age/Early Middle Ages, which is what I'm writing about. How will we ever know? Extrapolating backwards is tricky, as there are thousands of things that may have changed, most of which never occur to us when we try to set the likely variables.



*: Niermeyer's Medieval Latin dictionary (2002), Mittellateinisch Wörterbuch (1999), Woordenboek van het middeleeuws latijn van de noordelijke Nederlanden (1981). Coriarius is absent from the Danish Medieval Latin dictionary. I have not been able to find a dictionary for Medieval Latin from Swedish sources, though.
**: Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British sources (1981)



Hald, M. (1972) Primitive shoes. An archaeological-ethnological study based upon shoe finds from the Jutland peninsula. Danmarks Nationalmuseum, Köpenhamn, ISBN: 87-480-7282-6.

Liddy, L. (2003) ”Current documentary knowledge”, i Mould, Q., Carlisle, I. & Cameron, E. Leather and leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York. The archaeology of York: The small finds: 17/16. York Archaeological Trust and The Council for British Archaeology. ISBN: 1-902771-36-2. pp. 3222-3226.
ossamenta: Moominpappa sitting on a rock in the sea, writing on his typewriter (Muminpappa skriver)
I’ve been awfully busy the last few weeks. Not with my job, but with writing. No, I’m not attempting to be the next bestseller author, I’m trying to finish my degree…

When I wrote my undergraduate essay (C-uppsats) back in the distant past, Lund University were discussing an amalgamation of the two last terms of the archaeology course. Naturally, just as I had finished the third term, they decided to do it. To accomodate for those stuck inbetween the old system and the new one, two seats were reserved for old C-course students. I didn’t have much hope for being one of those, as there were quite a few of us in the old course. So I started to look around for universities that still did C- and D-courses, as opposed to the more popular CD-course. My choice stood between Stockholm and Visby. And since I had always wanted to go to Visby, it was an easy choice. Unfortunately, the months I spent in Visby - especially the summer - were very fun ones, resulting in a not quite finished D-essay (I did manage to do the other courses in time, though). By then, I had only a few weeks until moving to Southampton for my MA course in osteology, so I decided to put the essay aside for that year, and take it up afterwards.

View of Visby, Gotland Small street in Visby, Gotland
Visby - isn’t it a gorgeous town?

But things never turn out quite the way you want them too. By the time I had finished the MA course, I was so thoroughly sick of dissertation/essay writing that I just wanted to work for a few years. And lo and behold, the last years of the big infrastructure expansion in Malmö landed me with excavation work for two seasons, before the surprising job offer from Ireland arrived in the inbox. Needless to say, the D-essay was postponed even further.

And finally, last year, I kicked myself into ”get old stuff done and finished”-mode, and got in touch with the university. I’m having a fresh break, with a completely new essay: The identification of tanneries in an archaeological context. Since I’m doing it part-time, it couldn’t be done in the standard 10 weeks. Instead, I’ve been grasping time in the evenings and weekends trying to get it finished as soon as possible. I’ve taken three weeks study leave, so I can concentrate fully on the last bits. The plan is to have it done this term (i.e. until mid-january). I’m really sick of not having time to do other fun things. The sewing inspiration pile is daunting, and growing by each month (other people clean when the writing stress gets too hard to handle - I get into sewing/embroidery creativity mode). And I would like a better New Year’s Eve than half an hour’s break for fireworks watching…

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ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
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