Why Leather?

The Material and Cultural Dimensions of Leather

Edited by Susanna Harris & André J. Veldmeijer | 2014

Why Leather?

The Material and Cultural Dimensions of Leather

Edited by Susanna Harris & André J. Veldmeijer | 2014

ISBN: 9789088902611

Imprint: Sidestone Press | Format: 182x257mm | 134 pp. | Language: English | 17 illus. (bw) | 79 illus. (fc) | Category: archaeology, material culture studies, leather, ancient Egypt, ancient Near East | download cover

This pioneering volume brings together specialists from contemporary craft and industry and from archaeology to examine both the material properties and the cultural dimensions of leather. The common occurrence of animal skin products through time, whether vegetable tanned leather, parchment, vellum, fat-cured skins or rawhide attest to its enduring versatility, utility and desirability. Typically grouped together as ‘leather’, the versatility of these materials is remarkable: they can be soft and supple like a textile, firm and rigid like a basket, or hard and watertight like a pot or gourd. This volume challenges a simple utilitarian or functional approach to leather; in a world of technological and material choices, leather is appropriated according to its suitability on many levels. In addressing the question Why leather? authors of this volume present new perspectives on the material and cultural dimensions of leather. Their wide-ranging research includes the microscopic examination of skin structure and its influence on behaviour, experiments on medieval cuir bouilli armour, the guild secrets behind the leather components of nineteenth-century industrial machinery, new research on ancient Egyptian chariot leather, the relationship between wine and wineskins, and the making of contemporary leather wall covering.

The Archaeological Leather Group promotes the study of leather and leather objects from archaeological and other contexts. The Group aims to provide a focus for the investigation of leather, and to develop new research by bringing together a broad range of knowledge and experience both practical and academic. Leather is explored through its manufacture, function, context, processing, recording, conservation, care and curation. Members come from a variety of disciplines and include archaeologists, historians, conservators, artefact specialists, materials engineers and leather workers. The Group normally meets twice a year and organises one scholarly meeting in the spring, and visits a museum, working tannery or other place of leather interest in the autumn. The Archaeological Leather Group Newsletter is published twice a year, and the website maintains a comprehensive and expanding leather bibliography.

Chapter 1. Introduction. Leather in Archaeology; Between material properties, materiality and technological choices
Susanna Harris

Chapter 2. Skin deep: An outline of the structure of different skins and how it influences behaviour in use. A practitioner’s guide
Amanda Michel

Chapter 3. Cuir bouilli armour
Eddie Cheshire

Chatper 4. Bespoke vellum: Some unusual requests
Laura Youngson Coll

Chapter 5. Leather in the textile industry – A memoir
Alan S. Raistrick

Chapter 6. Why Leather in ancient Egyptian chariots?
André J. Veldmeijer & Salima Ikram

Chapter 7. Why wineskins? The exploration of a relationship between wine and a skin container
Barbara Wills & Amanda Watts

Dr. André J. Veldmeijer

André J. Veldmeijer (Visiting Research Scholar American University in Cairo) studied archaeology at Leiden University and received his PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology from Utrecht University in 2006. He has worked in Egypt since 1995 as a leather, footwear and cordage specialist in various research projects. His second PhD, on the archaeology of footwear, is planned for the next four years.

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Abstract:

This pioneering volume brings together specialists from contemporary craft and industry and from archaeology to examine both the material properties and the cultural dimensions of leather. The common occurrence of animal skin products through time, whether vegetable tanned leather, parchment, vellum, fat-cured skins or rawhide attest to its enduring versatility, utility and desirability. Typically grouped together as ‘leather’, the versatility of these materials is remarkable: they can be soft and supple like a textile, firm and rigid like a basket, or hard and watertight like a pot or gourd. This volume challenges a simple utilitarian or functional approach to leather; in a world of technological and material choices, leather is appropriated according to its suitability on many levels. In addressing the question Why leather? authors of this volume present new perspectives on the material and cultural dimensions of leather. Their wide-ranging research includes the microscopic examination of skin structure and its influence on behaviour, experiments on medieval cuir bouilli armour, the guild secrets behind the leather components of nineteenth-century industrial machinery, new research on ancient Egyptian chariot leather, the relationship between wine and wineskins, and the making of contemporary leather wall covering.

The Archaeological Leather Group promotes the study of leather and leather objects from archaeological and other contexts. The Group aims to provide a focus for the investigation of leather, and to develop new research by bringing together a broad range of knowledge and experience both practical and academic. Leather is explored through its manufacture, function, context, processing, recording, conservation, care and curation. Members come from a variety of disciplines and include archaeologists, historians, conservators, artefact specialists, materials engineers and leather workers. The Group normally meets twice a year and organises one scholarly meeting in the spring, and visits a museum, working tannery or other place of leather interest in the autumn. The Archaeological Leather Group Newsletter is published twice a year, and the website maintains a comprehensive and expanding leather bibliography.

Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction. Leather in Archaeology; Between material properties, materiality and technological choices
Susanna Harris

Chapter 2. Skin deep: An outline of the structure of different skins and how it influences behaviour in use. A practitioner’s guide
Amanda Michel

Chapter 3. Cuir bouilli armour
Eddie Cheshire

Chatper 4. Bespoke vellum: Some unusual requests
Laura Youngson Coll

Chapter 5. Leather in the textile industry – A memoir
Alan S. Raistrick

Chapter 6. Why Leather in ancient Egyptian chariots?
André J. Veldmeijer & Salima Ikram

Chapter 7. Why wineskins? The exploration of a relationship between wine and a skin container
Barbara Wills & Amanda Watts

Dr. André J. Veldmeijer

André J. Veldmeijer (Visiting Research Scholar American University in Cairo) studied archaeology at Leiden University and received his PhD in Vertebrate Palaeontology from Utrecht University in 2006. He has worked in Egypt since 1995 as a leather, footwear and cordage specialist in various research projects. His second PhD, on the archaeology of footwear, is planned for the next four years.

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