Micro Analysis on Hallstatt Textiles: Colour and Condition
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Due to the special conditions in the Bronze Age and Hallstatt Period salt-mines of Hallstatt, Austria, a large number of archaeological textile fragments, dated from 1400 to 400 BC, can be found. Textiles of good condition from these periods are quite unique. The fibres are identified as wool and most of the fragments still have colours i.e. yellow, green, olive-green, brown, blue and black. To obtain information about the dyeing techniques used in this period, dyestuffs analyses are performed by high performance liquid chromatography coupled to photo diode array detection (HPLC-PDA) and mordant analysis by scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDS). In addition, the condition of the textile fibres is assessed by SEM. The analyses revealed that all textiles were dyed with plant dyes and insect dyes. The yellow plant dyes and the red insect dyes are mordant dyes but the identification of mordants turned out to be difficult. SEM/EDS analyses of small uncontaminated areas on the fibre showed that the elements aluminium, iron and copper are present in many samples. These elements could originate from a mordant or from the mine. The condition of the fibres was assessed by the presence of the characteristic scales on the wool, tears, cuts and particles from the mine. It was found that a relation exists between the copper content of the fibres and their condition. Degraded fibres contain more copper. Black textile fragments which are most possibly coloured by iron gall-black show as well degradation phenomena.
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