Treasures from the Sea: Sea Silk and Shellfish Purple Dye in Antiquity [Hardback]

Hedvig Landenius Enegren (Editor); Francesco Meo (Editor)

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ISBN: 9781785704352 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: Ancient Textiles Series | Volume: 30 | Year of Publication: 2017 | Language: English 224p, H279 x W215 (mm) b/w and colour

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Treasures from the Sea


This interdisciplinary volume presents a collection of 17 papers which treat the current state of research on two marine resources used in ancient textile manufacture, shellfish purple dye and sea silk. Purple dye is extracted from the glands of the molluscs
face=Cambria size=3> Hexaplex trunculus, Bolinus Brandaris
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and Stramonita Haemastoma which through a chemical reaction of photosynthesis produces hues ranging from dark red to bluish purple colour. The importance of purple dye since ancient times as a status symbol, a sign of royal and religious power is well documented. Papers include the study of epigraphical and historical sources, practical experiments as well as, highlighting the presence of purple dye in the Mediterranean area in select archaeological data. Less well known is sea silk, a precious fibre derived from the tufts of the pen shell, Pinna nobilis, with which the mollusc anchors itself to the seabed. These tufts once cleaned and bleached take the aspect of golden thread. Only a handful of artisans on Sardinia still have the knowledge of how to work these fibres from the pen shell, a species protected by the EU Habitats Directive, the knowledge having been transmitted orally for generations. Papers include linguistic issues pertaining to terminology, archaeological investigation, the study of the physical and chemical properties of sea silk and the step-by-step practical working of sea silk fibres. The comprehensive multifaceted overview makes this book a valuable resource for anyone interested in ancient textiles, dyes and textile technology.
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Reviews & Quotes

"[Treasures from the Sea] is without doubt an important contribution to the understanding of the history, archaeology and technology of the purple dyestuff and sea-silk industries of the Mediterranean, and its fascinating subject-matter and good use of colour illustrations makes it appealing to a wide readership."
Paula Martin
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (01/03/2018)

"… a stimulating, varied and interesting collection of papers… altogether a valuable addition to the library of works on early textile production and dyeing."
Jo Kirby
Ambix: Journal for the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (26/09/2018)

"The volume is a pleasure to read… the overall publication is excellent. The interdisciplinary approach maintains the reader’s interest and works well for ancient materials, which can be studied from a variety of angles."
Kate Fulcher
Papers from the Institute of Archaeology (30/10/2017)

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