Textiles and pollen – University of Copenhagen

Textiles and pollen. A key to ancient daily life

The Textiles and Pollen research programme is an interdisciplinary project with participation of researchers from several Danish and international research institutions. The core investigators are Marie-Louise Nosch and Ulla Mannering. The project is based on a collaborative effort cross institutions and involving disciplines such as prehistoric archaeology, textile research, palynology and several more advanced disciplined within the natural sciences.

During the analyses of a Danish Late Iron Age grave find from Hammerum in Herning, Denmark, containing an extremely well-preserved textile costume, in which project CTR is one of the primary investigators, it was discovered that threads belonging to one of the textiles contained a completely different pollen spectre than that obtained from the surrounding soil taken from the grave. The unusual content of grain pollen stored in the costume is interpreted as representing an activity related to the processes of harvesting or threshing: the cleaning process where the glume is separated from the grain, or the pollen could also come from work with the straws. Based on these results it can be concluded that the content of pollen in the soil and the costume are different and that they represented different bio zones and environments.

These results open for a whole new use of palynological information which until now primarily has been use to characterised ancient landscape and environment. In short we think that we have found a whole new method to identify human activities by identifying the pollen that has been stored in ancient textiles.

The aim of the programme is to explore and develop a new cross disciplinary field of research, to test new hypotheses, and to develop a new methodology for identifying pollen in textiles. In the coming years the potential of and possibilities in this new field will be explored in collaboration with researcher in Denmark and abroad.

Researchers from Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology/Section for Plant Biochemistry, Faculty of Life Science (LIFE), University of Copenhagen, Geological Museum, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) and Department of Chemistry, Aarhus University, Seminari d'Estudis i Recerques Prehistòriques Dept. Prehistòria, Història Antiga i Arqueologia, University of Barcelona, Videometer A/S, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Department of Environmental Archaeology and Conservation, Moesgaard Museum and Pratt Institute, Math and Science, New York, USA, already participate in the programme.

On the 6th of September 2011 CTR organised an internal workshop on “Textiles and pollen. A key to ancient daily life” where the research programme was presented and it was discussed how this topic could be developed into a new field of research. At the workshop strategies for continuing the research was discussed and the programme is continued according to these ideas.

The project is funded by The Danish National Research Foundations Centre for Textiles Research and supported by Research and Innovation University of Copenhagen (KUFIR).