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Leather Finds of the Pre-Roman- and Roman Iron Ages in Northwest Germany

Shoe of the bog body from Marx-Etzel (after: H. Hahne, Moorleichenfunde aus Niedersachsen. Vorzeitfunde aus Niedersachsen Teil B (earlier: Band VI) (Hildesheim 1915).

There is a considerable number of leather finds of the Pre-Roman- and Roman Iron Ages, which were predominantly found during peat extraction but occasionally also in the course of systematic excavation. The analysis of this material, which has received little academic attention, was the focus of a project funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture between 2007 and 2010, and carried out in cooperation with the graduate school “Human Development in Landscapes” of Kiel University.
The analysed material mainly comprises human clothing and equipment such as shoes, fur mantles, belts and straps as well as horse harness, bags and vessels. Some of these objects were part of the equipment of bog bodies, others were found in the vicinity of timber trackways, in settlements, graves or in isolation.
Within the framework of the project the individual objects’ function was identified and they were dated – wherever possible using radiocarbon determination. Additionally, animal species and tanning methods were analysed in order to address questions of landscape usage and availability of animal resources in comparison with the results from animal bones from contemporary settlements. Cuts and sewing techniques were studied in order to obtain information about possible standardisation and professionalization in the leatherworking craft. The central questions were, whether tanning and leatherworking were carried out by professional craftsmen or whether they were part of domestic craft, and whether there were specialised work areas or workshops within the settlements.
Another of the project’s objectives was a comparison of the levels of achievement of the tanning and leatherworking crafts in the research area and neighbouring areas, with the particular aim of clarifying the origin of technical and stylistic influences as well as understanding the nature of these influences. Dr. Julia Gräf was tasked with the project; she submitted the results of her analyses to Kiel University, which were duly admitted as her doctoral dissertation in 2014; the thesis was published as a monograph in 2015.

  

 

Photo showing the Windeby bog body with remains of a fur mantle in the head area (Photo: ALM Schleswig-Holstein).

 

 

Bibliography

Ullemeyer, R. u. Tidow, K., 1981: Textil- und Lederfunde der Grabung Feddersen Wierde. In: W. Haarnagel (Hrsg.), Feddersen Wierde. Die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen der vorgeschichtlichen Wurt Feddersen Wierde bei Bremerhaven in den Jahren 1955 bis 1963, Band 3, 77-152. Hildesheim.

Gräf, J., 2015: Lederfunde der Vorrömischen Eisenzeit und Römischen Kaiserzeit aus Nordwest­deutsch­land. Studien zur Landschafts- und Siedlungsgeschichte im südlichen Nordseegebiet 7. Rahden/Westf.

    Lederfunde der EisenzeitIron-age leather finds