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Textiles in Southern Etruria. Textile Technology in Central Tyrrheanian Italy from Late Prehistory to the Roman Republican Period

Final Report Summary - TEXSET (Textiles in Southern Etruria. Textile Technology in Central Tyrrheanian Italy from Late Prehistory to the Roman Republican Period)

TexSEt-project. Textiles in Southern Etruria. Textile Technology in Central Tyrrheanian Italy from Late Prehistory to the Etruscan Period

The TexSEt project has investigated the emergence and development of textile technologies and the use of textile fibres in Central-Western Italy from Late Prehistory (Final Bronze Age – 10th century BC) until the Etruscan period (8th-4th century BC).
The TexSEt project has had two objectives that follow two distinct but connected threads. The first, studying the spinning and weaving tools of the Etruscan-Italic world, is connected to analyses of archaeological textiles; the second has involved museological research looking at presenting scientific research in innovative and more accessible ways to inform the wider public of the importance of fabric-making activities in the ancient world. The first objective included the study of preserved archaeological textiles, textile implements and their contextualisation, as well as ancient iconographic and literary sources. The research has further integrated experimental archaeology combined with an ethnographic approach. New analytical methods for textile analysis developed in recent years were applied to explore what constituted pre-Etruscan and Etruscan textile tool kits and the range of qualities that could be produced by these tools. This was then compared to changes in the chronological and/or geographical record. The first objective has been to enhance our understanding of a long period of evolution in textile production, before the standardisation of technology and production in the Roman Empire. The second objective has been to combine the archaeological study with museological research to develop new approaches in exhibiting textile artefacts and tools in an archaeological museum context. Specifically, the focus has been on how to best ‘translate’ scientific results in new ways. The objective has been to find new ways to exhibit specific objects, such as textile tools, in the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome and in the National Archaeological Museum of Vulci (in the province of Viterbo, north of Rome).
All objectives declared at the beginning in the application itself have been achieved.
The first step was to create a wide network bringing together museums including the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia and others under the Archaeological Superintendency for Lazio and Southern Etruria, together with the Centre for Textile Research and the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, the La Sapienza University of Rome, the SAXO Institute at University of Copenhagen, and the Land of Legends, the Experimental Centre at Lejre, Denmark. The scientific analysis of the many fragments of fabric has been done by Margarita Gleba from the University of Cambridge, who also includes data from Southern Etruria in her ERC project Production and Consumption: Textile Economy and Urbanisation in Mediterranean Europe 1000–500 BCE (PROCON).
Textile tools from the famous necropoleis in Cerveteri, Vulci, Tarquinia and in Ager-Faliscus area have been catalogued and well documented with drawings and photographs. All data have been collected and analysed following the methodologies developed at the Centre for Textile Research.
Moreover, the experimental archaeology has played a central role in helping to understand these Etruscan objects. Dr. Laurito has therefore launched an experimental programme which involves the Lejre Experimental Centre and the technical-functional analysis laboratory headed by Prof. Cristina Lemorini (chair of Experimental Archaeology at La Sapienza University of Rome). The aim of this team work was to bridge the Northern and Southern European experimental methodologies. We believe that the opportunity to connect different European research groups and work in an interdisciplinary way will fill gaps in understanding of the long operational chain of textile activities and propose a more comprehensive interpretation of textile tools and technology. Certainly the more detailed understanding we have of these ancient everyday objects, the more useful they become for outreach and exhibition purposes. The objects have an important story to tell, and it is recounting this story which poses the greatest challenge to many museum workers and archaeologists.
The experimental archaeology bridges the two objectives: the textile tool analyses and the way to display them in museums. During the fellowship Dr. Laurito visited many European museums and met curators and conservators to learn and be trained for her project in the Italian museums.
In Italy before the TexSEt project only very few fragments of textiles from pre-Roman times had been identified. However, thanks to the TexSEt project, today more than 60 textile fragments have been identified in the museums in Southern Etruria. This has been the project’s first significant discovery. Dr. Laurito worked systematically to re-examine data from the dozens of fabrics identified in Cerveteri, Tarquinia, Vulci, Grotte di Castro and Narce using SEM analysis in collaboration with Margarita Gleba. Samples have also been selected for dye analysis in the laboratories of Dr. Ina Vanden Berghe (Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, Brussels). During the final international conference in Rome (11-12 February 2016) an exceptional discovery has been announced to scientific community: the most ancient Italian archaeological fragment of textile dyed with purple from Murex shell has been identified in Tarquinia by Romina Laurito and Margarita Gleba.
The renewed interest of the Italian scientific community in textile archaeology has resulted in greater attention being paid to the archaeological textiles and textile tools. This attention was manifested during the Conference organized by Romina Laurito in Rome at the Danish Academy on the 11-12 February 2016, where more than 25 speakers were invited to share results of their research, strictly connected to the TexSEt research, and more than 130 persons attended the two-days conference. The conference and its publication (scheduled to 2017) represent the final communication event as planned in the application.
The potential impact and use of Dr. Laurito’s research is that the Italian scientific community, mainly archaeologists and curators, know the huge potential of the textile tools in order to understand not only the textile production in ancient times but also for the investigation of ancient Italian technology, economy and society.