"Power dressing in the desert: new evidence of Iron Age clothing from the Sahara" by David J. Mattingly
Since Classical antiquity, the peoples of the ancient Sahara have typically been described in terms suggesting they comprised nothing more than barbarian nomads. However, my archaeological work in southern Libya and now in southern Morocco has revealed a different picture, in which at least some of these populations became sedentary oasis cultivators and attained a previously unsuspected level of socio-cultural development. In this paper, I shall present evidence for the production of high-quality textiles and garments in the Sahara at the time of the Roman empire. In particular, I shall discuss discoveries of painted images of people from tombs in the north-western Sahara. These reveal fascinating details of their elaborate garments, which can be backed up by traces of fine woven textiles in the tombs.
Prof. David J. Mattingly is Full Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Leicester, but since the 1990s has been most active in the archaeology of Iron Age peoples of the Sahara. He is overall editor of the 4-volume Archaeology of Fazzan series on the Libyan Garamantes and also the 4-volume Trans-Saharan Archaeology series. His current Oasis Civilisation project in the Wadi Draa Morocco is illuminating the Moroccan Iron Age in a similar way. He has a major monograph forthcoming with Michigan University Press, Between Sahara and Sea. Africa in the Roman Empire.
"Prestigious textiles from Baghdad in Iberia? On Textile Inscriptions, Patterns and Looms" by Corinne Mühlemann
The Arabic inscriptions of two early lampas fabrics refer to Baghdad as their place of production. However, their woven structures as well as an orthographic feature in one of the inscriptions indicate that they were produced on the Iberian Peninsula at the beginning of the twelfth century. How do we have to understand these references to the capital of the Abbasid empire? In this talk I will argue that the inscriptions, the patterns and the woven structures of the two silks allow three lines of inquiry: the construction of value in twelfth century Iberia, the transmission of weaving knowledge, and the representation of textiles in Islamicate legal sources, namely the Kitāb fī adāb al-ḥisba of al-Saqaṭī, who was the market inspector (muḥtasib) of Málaga at the end of the eleventh and beginning of the twelfth century. His ḥisba reveals detailed information about the quality of woven fabrics and previously unknown textile terminology relating to the medieval draw loom.
Prof. Dr. Corinne Mühlemann received her PhD in art history from the University of Bern in 2018. She has been a Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow at the University of Copenhagen, at the Centre for Textile Research (MSCA-IF 886295). Since 2023 she is assistant professor for the history of textile arts at the University of Bern. Her forthcoming book Complex Weaves: Technique, Text, and Cultural History of Striped Silks bridges the fields of textile history and Islamic art history.