Monday, March 30, 2015

The purpose of grave goods and the person behind grave 44.

The archeological report I'm using as my source gives information on the person burred
in each grave. It turns out that the person in grave 44 was a juvenile, a teenage girl between the ages of 12-14.

Photo of Grave 44
However, if you examine the necklace that I recreated, it seems to be a pretty big necklace for such a young girl. I have a slight frame, and when I put it on it seems much heavier than I would be comfortable wearing.

My point in saying this is that it seems a bit odd for a young girl to be wearing a necklace that big. This leads me to question what the grave goods placed in a burial really indicate. Were they actual possessions of the deceased, or were they offerings from loved ones? Did the necklace belong to the young girl, or was the necklace owned by someone else and gifted to the girl at her burial? And, if the necklace was not her necklace, why was this very large elaborate necklace given to her. What about her was so special? Was it her age (just on the cusp of adulthood--the idea of so much promise/potential wasted)? Or was it her status (was she the daughter of someone of significance)?

Clearly some research is needed. I will need to go back and read more of the analysis in the archeological report to learn more about the person behind grave 44, but, it also might help to do more research on Anglo-Saxon burial practice. What do academics and archeologists think the grave goods represented?

I have found a few sources I can mine for information on this topic. I looked at these sources earlier for information about beads, but I think I need to go back to them to learn more about Anglo-Saxon society and burial customs. This will help me to better understand the meaning and significance behind the beads found in this grave.
--The Spindle and the Spear: a critical inquiry into the construction and meaning of gender in the early Anglo-Saxon burial rite (book)

--Negotiating gender, family and status in Anglo-Saxon burial practices, c. 600-950 (article)
--The use of grave goods in Conversion Period England (book)

I also found a few other sources just now which could shed light on this issue
--From the Cradle to the Grave: age organization and the early anglo-saxon burial rite : According to the abstract this article discusses the idea that "real function of this system was to signal the position of members of the primary descent group within the households that made up the settlements of the early English."
--Grave Goods in Early Medieval Burials: messages and meanings : suggests numerous other motives and meanings behind grave goods, including "gift giving"

I have a lot of reading to do!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bead Perforations

One of the reasons I like using archeological reports as sources is because they provide much more information about the beads than a simple image from a museum does. In the case of the image below, we can see the size of the perforation for some of the beads. This picture is also at a 1 to 1 scale, which allows us to measure the size of the bead and the bead perforations accurately. As you can see, the size of the perforation varies, and this variation is what I want to talk about. Why are the perforation sizes so different on the same necklace. 
Now, the answer to this question could easily be because the beads were made by different workers who had different size mandrels, so, I suppose the real question is: are there any reasons why an artisan would prefer one size over the other.

The only real commentary I've seen in my research so far giving a reason behind the size of bead perforations was given in relation to transparent beads. I'd have to go back to find the source, but I think it may have been Birte Brugmann's book which mentioned this idea. I should go back to her book when I get home. But, the basic idea she talked about is this:
-the thinner the layer of transparent glass, the lighter the color of the bead. 
-building up a thick layer of transparent glass will result in a bead that has a comparatively darker color. 
-as a result, one way to keep a lighter color in a larger sized transparent bead would be to make that large bead with a large hole.

 There are only three monochrome transparent glass beads in this necklace (three melon shaped beads). The two beads whose hole sizes are shown do not seem to have an unusually large perforation sizes (between 2-3mm), so I'm not sure that was a considering factor here. Though with small number of monochrome transparent beads here, it is hard to say. I might have to look at larger sample sizes. The mandrel sizes on the transparent beads with decoration also seem to vary pretty widely (1-6 mm). This brings me to my next point.

Another very logical reason for using a mandrel with a larger size is that making beads with a larger hole would also mean that the artisan could make a larger bead using less glass. This idea would seem to make a lot of sense, especially as raw glass was a valuable resource in England, since it was most likely imported from abroad. It would make sense then to suspect that larger bead would regularly have larger perforations. But, in fact, this doesn't seem to be the case with regards to this necklace. While a few larger beads have large perforations (#34 for example) other large beads have small perforations. Bead number #23 for example, which is the largest glass bead on this necklace has a rather small perforation of 3mm or so.

So, in conclusion, while there might be some very good reasons for artisans to prefer larger mandrels over smaller ones, the size of the mandrels and the beads they produce seem rather random, a if most of the time mandrel size was not a serious consideration. 

When I am making my recreations, I will try to follow the size of the perforation listed for an historic bead, just to keep my recreation as accurately as possible. When I don't know the size of the perforation, I generally use larger mandrels for larger beads, so as not to use up as much glass, and so that it will take me less time to build up a larger bead. 

However, I do find the larger mandrels (4+mm) a bit heavy and unwieldy, and so I tend to use them only for the largest beads.  Did period artisans feel the same, not liking to use larger mandrels because they were less comfortable to use. Its hard to know, because so few tools survive. The one photo of a period mandrel (or what is thought to be one) that I have seen comes from the Ribe excavation (Scandinavia). It is 30 cm's long (almost 12 inches), but the tip where the bead would go is much smaller. The sizing on the image in the article makes it seem as if the tip would be about 3-4mm, while the rest of the mandrel would be twice that width, making it heavier, but perhaps more sturdy than if the entire mandrel were narrow. 

Overall, this mandrel seems as if it would be a heavier mandrel than the ones I like to use most.  But it is also likely that they were used differently, making their weight less of a factor for the comfort of the period bead maker. When I make beads I hold the mandrel in the air and spin it. But, perhaps period artisans were able to rest the mandrel on the side of a fire/kiln. I have read articles and watched videos where people do this when trying to recreate historic bead making methods.

Overall, with this blog entry, it feels like I've thought about this issue a bit and not come to any definite conclusions. That is slightly annoying, but, i'm also ok with it, because in a few of the articles I'm reading on experimental archeology, the authors also speak in terms of possibilities and conjecture, because it is almost impossible to know some things for sure: "however the question does not deal with "right" or wrong because we will never be able to verity or refute our theories" (Tine Gam). Basically, we can only do our best based on the archeological remains available to us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Portway Andover Necklace

Excavations at Portway, Andover, an Anglo-Saxon Cemetery, were carried out from 1973-1975.

Link to record of archeological report where the above picture was taken from.

My most recent project has been to recreate the outer necklace from the above image (grave 44). This necklace is being recreated for the Artifacts of a Life event in September
--These beads are almost all of a style that I have recreated already (as they are mostly all shown in Brugman's typology which I recreated as an earlier project). However, what makes this necklace significant is that the order it is strung in was preserved in the grave. This very rarely happens! As a result, studying this necklace can perhaps tell me something about Anglo-Saxon bead fashions and necklace styles, especially if I compare it to the other two Anglo-Saxon necklaces I have reconstructed so far.
---I also hope to use my knowledge of Anglo-Saxon beads and Brugman's Anglo-Saxon bead typology to date this necklace, and see if my dating of the necklace agrees with the dates from the report. Dating graves is one reason that archeologists develop typologies of objects.

The necklace from grave 44 has:
17 amber beads (which i will recreate using amber colored glass
25 shaped or polychrome beads
=Total 42 beads

I first came across this necklace as a pintrest image when I was doing a Google image search trying to come up with an idea for Artifacts of a Life. I was then able to track down the archeological report from the excavation using the information on the museum card about the item, and order the report on interlibrary loan, which gave me a LOT of information about the necklace, as well as a much better picture.

However, as Artifacts of a Life requires more than one object, I am also thinking of recreating the other two small bead strings pictured here (graves 19 and 50). These strings are much much simpler. If I am able to make progress of buildings period bead kiln, I may even be able to make at least the smallest string using a period fire source!The smallest necklace only requires a few colors of glass, and only has 20 beads, all monochrome. Normally, this would not be something I would not be interested in recreating (it is too simple to be interesting to me at this point)...but, it would be perfect to try with my period fire experiments, as I will be basically learning how to make beads anew using a different source of heat. I am very excited about this idea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll try to post more about this necklace as I work on finishing it. It is actually almost complete, but I have some scribbled thoughts about my process and thoughts as I was working that woudl be nice to type up less formally in blog form, before including those thoughts in formal documentation. I have tended not to make process posts, but this is something I've been encouraged to try by a few people.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Thoughts on additional feedback from K&Q's

After talking with one of my judges at K&Q's I received some additional feedback about what those judging me would have liked to see more of. I was told that the judges would have liked to see more information about "WHY" such as "Why those colors?" or "Why those styles."  I have started researching these questions and putting together thoughts that I already had on this topic regarding Anglo-Saxon beads specifically as this question likely needs to be focused on a particular time period/location in order to answer it well. This information can be added to my already existing documentation on the Social Significance of Anglo-Saxon beads, which talks about what beads signified in Anglo-Saxon society with regards to gender, wealth, and trade connections.

While I'm sure I will find some answers, these may not be easy questions to answer completely. One article about viking beads written by an experimental archeologists states that answers to these same questions are hard to figure out: "Nor has it been possible to find experimentally whether there was any reason behind the use for particular colors at Ribe. When red, white, and yellow are often used to decorate blue beads, but not the other way around, is it only a matter of fashion , or are there good technological reasons? (Gam, Prehistoric Glass Technology, 1990)

I've ordered some books from the library on Anglo-Saxon art, gender in Anglo-Saxon society, Anglo-Saxon color words and color classification, and I plan to look back through some of my older resources to see if there are answers to these questions that I missed. I also talked with the art librarian at the university where I work to get some advice on where to look for information like this.

Some scattered initial thoughts after an hour or two of searching are typed up below:

--Some initial research using the Grove Art Online Database gave me the idea that I will have to look at works on Migration period art (instead of Anglo-Saxon art)

--Polychromy as a design aesthetic/style was mentioned in connection to Anglo-Saxon and Migration period art. An entry on Anglo-Saxon sculpture notes that "much stone carving was painted in accordance with the Anglo-Saxon taste for bright and shining decoration." Another entry on wall painting notes that "Taken together with the similarly increasing evidence for painted sculpture, textiles, window glass and colored tiles, a much clearer idea of the polychromy of Anglo-Saxon buildings is now possible (Grove Art Online)

---One issue that I already have found will make this type of research a bit difficult is that glass beads are not considered by many academics to be important, and thus will likely not be discussed in general books on art of the period. One brief dictionary entry found in the Grove Art Online database notes that "the invading Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and possibly Frisians settled all over lowland England....and little of artistic interest survives from these years. However, missions of the 6th and 7th centuries encouraged a conversion to Christianity which led to the construction of stone buildings and crosses and the production of liturgical books, vessels, and vestments." (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms). This period where nothing of "artistic interest" lies is precisely when the beads I'm studying woudl have been made. As Christianity spread, Anglo-Saxons stopped burring people with grave goods, and it is from these graves that most of the Anglo-Saxon beads have been found. An article from the British Museum called "Decoding Anglo-Saxon art" also does not talk about glass beads, focusing instead on the metalwork of the period.

-- Some comments that I have seen being made about about the artistic style of the period would be hard to apply to glass beads. The article from the British Museum called "Decoding Anglo-Saxon art"  states that: "The early art style of the Anglo-Saxon period is known as Style I and was popular in the late 5th and 6th centuries. It is characterized by  what seems to be a dizzying jumble of animal limbs and face masks....such designs reveal the importance of the natural world, and it is likely that different animals were thought to hold different properties and characteristics that could be transferred to the object they decorated."  I have not seen any animal bead sculptures from Anglo-Saxon contexts (though I have seen much earlier Phoenician animal beads). The complexity of the designs pictured on the metalwork is not imitated in any way that I can see on Anglo-Saxon beads.

--Art books and sources do mention stained glass, but not glass beads.

Some scattered thoughts on this topic that I had based on previous research I've done are listed below

--blue was in one case associated with lower wealth graves. and that a lot of beads, especially early on are blue/green (which could be because the metals for those colors are easily available??). Glass w/o color will be tinted green due to iron impurities.

--A/S bead styles grew in some regards out of roman designs and were influenced heavily by Merovingian color/design choice (review Brugmann)

--I wonder if some basic design choices were made because well, these are the things you can do with this craft...lines, dots etc. Combining and recombining very basic designs. Some bead "types" even just have squiggles on them, pointing to skill as a factor in design.

--Maybe it has to do with what basic colors contrast well to the eye.

--Annular Twist beads may imitate metalwork in their design, as might Irish interlace beads. A quote on p. 66 of the book Color and Culture  (John Gave, p. 63)" states that the "interlace" on "irish manuscripts" "seems to derive largely from metalwork"
--yellow and red beads can be linked to Germanic fashion for gold and garnet jewelry. See documentation from my first bead. Also see Grove Art Online "techniques...were augmented in this early period by the technique of garnet inlay adopted from Frankish jewelers" (6th c) "In the kingdom of Kent greater access to resources has encouraged the development of more lavish and spectaculars forms of ornament. Particularly striking is the use of garnet, shell, colored glass and niello to create polychrome effects."(7th c)

More Beadmaking/Teaching

 Novice Schola, Barony of Bergental (Massachusetts), 2/8

Marion drove me up to Bergental so I could teach at their Novice Schola. I demonstrated beadmaking for 3 hours at this event, and taught several people to make beads. On person even e-mailed me after the event looking for information on getting a beginners kit! For this event I also brought a book filled with pictures of period bead. The book seemed to work well and catch the interest of several people during the day.

Making beads at Martin's Workshop (Bhakail) 3/16

This was a nice low key A&S workshop that is held most Monday's in Bhakail. Several people in the Barony have bead making kits, so they have started making beads during some of these workshop. I came down to play, and I hope to do so again sometime. I got to teach one new person (picture below), and share the new modern beadmaking books that I just bought. 

Making beads with Erica 3/21

I went to Erica's house in NJ to make beads with her. We also used this opportunity to begin to make beads for tokens to be used at an Event in Iron Bog in May.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

TI Article

Color Photographs from Tournaments Illuminated Article

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 8 (also contains beads from images 5-7)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Link to Combined Documentation

K&Q A&S was a very good day. I finished in the top 6, and received a Golden Lyre in court for my entry!

I also had a lovely conversation with Clare (Isabel Chamberlaine) the next morning, where we looked at the feedback on the score sheet, discussed the winning entries, and figured what next steps I might take to improve what I am doing. Some thoughts include:

1. Showing process better: I was not sure how to do that for this project, because I had already largely figured out many of the bead making/decorating skills I used to complete this project. However, even though that process is one I already completed, showing it with my A&S entries has value. Others can see what my process was, and showing my mistakes/failures may be useful for newer bead makers. Remembering what my process was like may also help me better teach these skills to others. I plan to make very brief documents that explain how I learned each decoration technique used in the next A&S project I complete. I will also include some of my first attempts/less than perfect beads with my display. My next project is a recreated Anglo-Saxon necklace, so I can also show process and depth by including the Anglo-Saxon typology in a display with that necklace, and linking the two projects. Eventually, I should even create my own period appropriate necklace, using what I learned form the typology and from recreating several existing Anglo-Saxon necklaces.

2. Arrange some information in my documentation & also my display more visually: I will focus on doing this first for the document "Consideration for Reproducing Historic Beads," as this document also talks somewhat about my process. Clare suggested using tables. Perhaps I can include some of the beads discussed in this document physically in my A&S display. Any other physical items I can include might be good (stringers/twisties perhaps?)

3. Focus on experimental archeology: Make beads using a fire/kiln. Also focusing on using period tools and period bead release. This is already something I was planning to do, but I will focus on documenting that process and including some of that documentation with every A&S project I do. Hopefully I can also include some beads made with period techniques in my display, even if they are not part of my actual project. While I will likely never be able to complete a large project using a period heat source, there is a lot more I can do and show people in this area.

The idea of doing ALL THESE THINGS seems overwhelming, but I just need to remember that everything does not have to happen at once. I have my work for the next year or so all planned out!