Braidings, between leathercraft and archaeology

First little about braidings. Most people know well to braidings through that womans hair gets braided, in what is  a flat braiding with three strands. And think not more over it. But this type brading is of unknown age and origin and have follow with in the civilization development. The first humans in history as is credited  knowlegde about braidings is the phoenicians. Shall you belive what’s written builds all braidings in the world on the knowlegde they created. Or had!. *Two thousand years after the phoenicians became this knowlegde brought to Spain by the moors, when they invaded the Iberian Penisula around year 800. And when the discovering of the new world begin in the 1500th  century was it according to the myth the conquestador Hernando Cortez and people as follow with him, as brought braidings with them to the new world. They come back to its starting point in Europa 500 years later  in book form through Bruce Grants book “Encyclopedia of Raw Hide and Leather Braiding”. But is all correct as writes?  Well noting when you put two and two together!. The archaeology have not yet submitted  evidence fore  findings of a single braiding in Europe. Still is the archaeology the closest sience to give a answer to if it is correct as the myth tell. Or if it was other as  perhaps brought the braidings to the new world?. Or if they perhaps was there when the conquestadors came?.  But how does the archaeology to braidings?. That is some about what this article covers. It started as a try on a book review of the book “Purses in Pieces” by the dutch archaeolog Olaf  Gaubitz. He was also the author behind the book “Stepping Through Time”, a book about findings of medieval shoes as was published in 2001 (Mentioned in Lær, Sko og Skinn Nr. 1-2006). The content had basic in archaeological shoe- findings in the town Dorderecht in Netherland. “Purses in Pieces” is based of findings of purses, around in Netherlands, with especically reference to Dorderecht because of the variation purses thereof is. “Purses in Pieces” have in the same way as “Stepping Through Time” with som comparativly findings from other places in Europe, as among other Smerenburg (1700) on Svalbard and Birka(900) in Sweden. And some describings of other items as wallets, knifesheats,boxes, containers etc. But essentially is it about discovery of purses from medieval time up to 1600. It would up it worse so that** Olaf Gaubitz died in 2007. It appears in a memory article written of one of the coauthors to “Stepping Through Time”, Carol van Driel-Murray. It also said in this article that “Stepping Throuh Time” immediatley became a new standard reference work fore medieval and post medieval footwear. If the same can be said about “Purses in Pieces” is uncertain. The book was planned as one in a serie of books. It is by that not as fine to say any about the whole as “Purses in Pieces” would be part of. All the time the books perhaps was ment to complement each other. Least,…the frame for a book review became to small when the writing took a little other turning around the main content when the most sensational for the undersigner in this new book rather became marginally and about the way braidings are reffered and rendered on.On page 21 in a section named “The bindings” is described those seams as is uset to the joints as “bindings”.When one considers to  see that at least one or two of this “bindings” also can be described as bradings.It can perhaps seem finicky, but the difference in definition have  importance. Something as a example in the section 62, figure 104 H show, where it in the closing system on a purse is something as is named “braided toggle” without that this is given a closer describing or reproduction. It looks out what in contemporary time between leathercrafters is named a “Turks Head” (Jfr. Encyclopedia of Raw Hide and Leather Braiding, by Bruce Grant). But the fact is, as it is in the book, so must you as a reader guess what it is and looks like. It is other such cases in the book. And in the section “Bottle covring” on page 108 is a case of doubt whether the text is fallen out under printing of the book so the page only have a little picture of a reconstructed item, a leatherbottle (a cuir bouile work?). And with a  round braided string you wonder over if it real annual is found by escavations, or just added to the item?, Because all other strings in the book is flat strings. And it’s nothing mentioned in the text in the previous pages or the subcequent pages about a round braided string based on 4 strands. It can  this way, looks like braidings not are so important in archaeological contexts!. But it’s hardly synonymous with a condition in the Netherlands, but probably throughout  Europe?. Because it not exist accordance between the mythical(?) claim that it was Hernando Cortez as brought the  braidings with him to the new world from Europe , as in order should have been conquested from the moors, and archaeological findings in Europe. Or to say; a traditional practise any place in Europe with braidings as corresponding to the one you can see with giltleather,  if’s origin also was in the moorish Spain. ( By thought on the place giltleather get in the Netherlands after 1600 would it not be unaturally  to think that knowlegde about braidings from Spain found the way there in a richer mon than elsewhere in Europe). But if the knowlegde about this have most to do with how braidings get perceived or not perceived in archaeological contexts is not known. Unless braidings not are so important, what so if they are found without be on a certain item as is inthe case from Olaf Gaubitz book?. Where it can look out as it have come with random beause it sits on a other and more interesting item. **In the preface to “Purses in Pieces” mentoneds it that “a wealth of other leather items” was discovered in Dorderecht. It sounds quite complex out what this can be. But it must perhaps  have been found fare more braidings than the/those you can get a impression of in “Purses in Pieces”!. In Europe.   And even if it’s with some “unexplained ” items in the book so do not this explain where it became of items as not can be explained immediatly?. And if  they are put in magasins. And if this is typical for Europe?.  That it not exist a overview over braidings found i Europe makes it very difficoult to consider the history on the field. And if the book “Stepping Through Time” set a new standard for books on the field  medieval footwear – so show it also that the then existing littrature had to be both obsolete and inadequate, both inside of the (footwear) archaeology and a reading public ouside of it. And  “Purses in Pieces” do the same. Even if it although the initially hardly was the meaning with the book. That it first of all should say any about bradings. Any european overview over findings of braidings do not exist as fare as known, That is what as calls for. A such book is not so inconsiderable as it can sounds like. Even if it possible not are so many bradings to place between the covers. But for all you know, could  you be pleasantly surprised.

Source reference: * Encyclopedia of Raw Hide and Leather Braidings, y Bruce Grant, p. 21. ** Purses in Pieces, Archaeological finds of late medieval and 16th century leather purses, pouches, bags and cases in the Netherlands, by Olaf Gaubitz, p.7-8. *** page 9.


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November 2014

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