Conservation, Analyses, and Reconstruction – University of Copenhagen

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CTR > Conferences and Workshops > 2016 > Pre-Columbian Textiles > Conservation, Analyses...

Abstracts. Conservation, Analyses, and Reconstruction

  1. Analysis of Paracas fiber material from the Swedish National Museum of World Culture
  2. An elaborate sprang shirt from the 13th century
  3. Textile provenance investigations by isotopic tracing techniques
  4. Metodologica en la enseñanza de textiles prehispanicos - UNMSM
  5. The Steps to the Steps: Recreating a Wari Tie-Dyed Textile

Analysis of Paracas fiber material from the Swedish National Museum of World Culture

Anna Javér, textile conservator
The National Museums of World Culture, Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg City has in its collection, 2000 year old textiles from the Paracas peninsula in Peru. They are managed by the National Museums of World Culture. During the last twenty years fiber material from the collection have been analyzed as a long-term project to understand the degradation processes and condition of the Paracas textiles in Gothenburg.
After the exhibition "A Stolen World" in 2008, Peru asked for a repatriation of the collection. Following negotiations between the City of Gothenburg and the Ministry of Culture in Peru it was decided by the municipal councilor that the ownership of the textiles would be returned to Peru during the years 2014 to 2021. In June 2014 the first four textiles were returned to the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History (MNAAHP) in Lima, Peru as a start of the restitution.
Before the shipment the textile conservator, as a visiting fellow at the National Heritage Board (RAA) in Sweden, carried out more extensive analysis of the textile condition than had been done before, along with chemist Kaj Thuresson. The weight, length and diameter of fiber samples were measured as well as the pH. SEM images were taken with a scanning electron microscope under 500 and 1000 times magnification. Because the fiber samples are too small to be subjected to a tensile test instead a pressure test was constructed. The results of the analysis will be presented in this paper as well as the process of restitution of Paracas textiles to Peru.

Anna Javér is a textile conservator and responsible for the National Museums of World Culture’s textile collections, their preservation, and availability to researchers and visitors.Til toppen

An elaborate sprang shirt from the 13th century

Carol James

In 1923 a pair of hikers came across a series of objects in a cave near the Salt River in Arizona. Among the objects was an elaborate sprang shirt, later given to the Arizona State Museum where it remains to this date. The cotton yarn in the shirt was subjected to Carbon Dating and assigned a probable origin date of. In order to better understand the shirt, a replica was made in early 2015. Diverse technical challenges included hand spinning an appropriate cotton yarn, mapping the pattern, accurately copying the irregularities, and creating the neckline. The project yielded surprising insights.Til toppen

Textile provenance investigations by isotopic tracing techniques

Karin Margarita Frei, Senior Researcher, Ph.D. National Museum of Denmark

In order to understand the “chaîne opératoire” of textile related materials - such as wool and plant fibres - it is important to have inform on the provenance of the textiles raw materials.
In the last two decades, provenance related investigations have often been based on scientific methods such us strontium isotopes. Measurements of strontium (Sr) isotopes in archaeological bone tissues/skeletons have shown to be an effective technique for the characterization of human and animal mobility in prehistory (Montgomery, 2010). However, more recently this tracing system is also being applied directly to the investigation of archaeological textile’s provenance (Frei, 2014; Frei et al., 2015a; Frei et al., 2015b). These novel methodologies provide a new dimension to the field of textile research and helps scholars to identify potential trade routes and social networks connected to textile production and craft.
Big efforts have been made in developing these methodologies, not only to measure the strontium isotope fractions of wool or plant fiber threads from archaeological textiles, but also there has been an intensive research in developing chemical protocols that will allow to pre-clean the textile fibers in such a way that the original strontium isotopic fractions can be recovered. These novel multi-step strontium isotopic tracing techniques are already proving to contribute with new important information regarding the provenance of archaeological textile’s raw material. Furthermore, our present ongoing investigations seem to point to that during the Bronze Age there was a highly complex textile raw material trade which might have relations to the metal trade network (Bergfjord et al., 2012; Frei et al., 2015a).
This presentation aims at providing an overview of the multi-step strontium isotopic tracing methodologies and its limitations, as well as to present some of the highlights of the strontium isotope results from textiles from the Nordic Bronze Age and thus provide an insight of the possibilities of potential applications to Pre-Columbian textiles.


Bergfjord, C., Mannering, U., Frei, K. M., Gleba, M., Scharff, A. B., Skals, I., Heinemeier, J., Nosch, M. L., and Holst, B., 2012, Nettle as a distinct Bronze Age textile plant: Sci. Rep., v. 2.

Frei, K. M., 2014, Provenance of archaeological wool textiles: new case studies: Open Journal of Archaeometry, v. 2, no. 1.

Frei, K. M., Mannering, U., Kristiansen, K., Allentoft, M. E., Wilson, A. S., Skals, I., Tridico, S., Louise Nosch, M., Willerslev, E., Clarke, L., and Frei, R., 2015a, Tracing the dynamic life story of a Bronze Age Female: Scientific Reports, v. 5, p. 10431.

Frei, K. M., Mannering, U., and Thrane, H., 2015b, Textiles on the Move: the provenance of a Late Bronze Age nettle textile from Lusehøj, Denmark, in Suchowska-Ducke, P. S. R., S. & Vandkilde H., ed., Forging Identities. The Mobility of Culture in Bronze Age Europe, Volume 2: Oxford, BAR International Series, Archaeopress, p. 55-62.

Montgomery, J., 2010, Passports from the past: Investigating human dispersals using strontium isotope analysis of tooth enamel: Annals of Human Biology, v. 37, no. (3) May-June, p. 325-346.Til toppen

Metodologica en la enseñanza de textiles prehispanicos - UNMSM

María Ysabel Medina Castro, Conservadora textil, Universidad de San marcos
y Museo National de Archaeologia y Anthropologia, Lima, peru

La Escuela de Conservación y Restauración, es joven dentro del ámbito académico de la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos; dentro de las diversas materias y talleres que estudian los alumnos para su formación como conservadores del amplio patrimonio del Perú; existe un Taller de Textiles; el cual está compuesto de dos momentos; el primero de tecnología, en el cual se le enseña a reproducir las principales técnicas constructivas de los tejidos prehispánicos, con el objetivo que en la segunda parte del curso, cuando participan en los primeros auxilios de material textil de las colecciones del Museo Nacional de Arqueología, puedan entender el comportamiento de los tejidos, según su naturaleza y estructura; asimismo, realizan prácticas en la estabilización del textil aplicando diversos métodos otorgados por la profesora.  Finalmente, los alumnos realizan dos álbum, uno con las reproducciones técnicas textiles y otro con los diversos materiales en nuestro medio empleados en el proceso de conservación.Til toppen

The Steps to the Steps: Recreating a Wari Tie-Dyed Textile

Rebecca Stone, Ph.D. and Shelley Burian, M.A. Emery University, Atlanta

The so-called "patchwork tie-dyes" of the Wari Empire (c. 500-1000 CE) remain among the most technologically complex and formally dynamic of ancient Andean textile compositions. The individually shaped webs were made in the discontinuous-warp-and-weft technique. The Wari modified this technique in several creative ways to better express their ideals. Instead of capitalizing on the inherent advantages of this method -- crossing same-color warps and wefts in balanced plain weave creates a lightweight yet intensely colorful patterned cloth -- coloration was achieved through reassembling a series of separately tie-dyed pieces.  They also modified the reversed properties of tie-dye, dipping some of the tips of gathered cloth segments into darker dyes. Another creative approach was to not only employ the scaffolds to construct asymmetrical but ultimately interlocking webs, but also to essentially reintroduce scaffolding to dovetail the side selvages of adjacent webs, making it appear as if they were one cloth unit. However, the weavers hid joining in one area to announce it in another, using large, obvious whip stitches in the other-direction selvage.

These sorts of elaborate and idiosyncratic technical choices merit more attention. To this end, Ms. Burian, an accomplished spinner and weaver, is undertaking a start-to-finish recreation of a portion of a Wari tie-dye, in order to be able to evaluate whether our intellectual understanding is sustained in practice. She is reconstructing the process to make an authentic fragment now in the Michael C. Carlos Museum (at Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., USA). Photographs, videos, and an ongoing blog ( are part of this endeavor, which is sponsored by the Carlos Museum, the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, and the Emory Center for Creativity and the Arts.  We will present our findings, both practical and conceptual, and hope for feedback from other textile experts.

Her recreation is, as of May 1, 2015, about one-third complete but will be finalized well before the Copenhagen conference dates. Til toppen