Changing narratives; the place of basketry in the Neolithic and Copper Age cultures of Europe.

Dr Susanna Harris (University College, London)                             

Changing narratives; the place of basketry in the Neolithic and Copper Age cultures of Europe.  

Ever since the discovery of the frozen Iceman in the north Italian Alps, dated c. 3300 BC, the man, his clothing and equipment has acted as focus for research and new interpretations.  One significant area has been the re-evaluation of the role of flexible basketry types such as twining in the Neolithic and Copper Age (5500-2500 BC).  Along with clothing and equipment made from furs, bone, wood and stone, the Iceman was found with a large piece of grass twining interpreted as a cape, and a small, twined knife-sheath.   It was not so much the material or technique that was novel, as twining from this period is documented from waterlogged sites of the same age, but the context and features of the grass twining made it reasonable to interpret it as a garment.  This has produced a subtle but substantial change in the interpretation of twined basketry in the Neolithic and Copper Age. Where previously only textiles and animal skins were believed to form the basis of clothing, it is now considered plausible that people dressed in garments made from twining and other forms of flexible basketry.  By implication, this also has ramifications for the way we understand the narrative of technological development and clothing in Europe. Yet single finds like this are also problematic for archaeologists and need to be treated with caution. 

In this paper I will look at three key areas to understand the place of flexible basketry types in the Neolithic and Copper Age cultures of prehistoric Europe.  First I will place the twining found with the Iceman into the context of other sites and finds from this period and geographical area.  Following this, I will look at recent developments and debates in the interpretations of twining and other flexible basketry types. This will lead to a current overview of the place of basketry in the Neolithic and Copper Age cultures of Europe.   

 

 





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