Monday, May 01, 2006

Surviving Garments Database

Faithful readers will remember me mentioning my lecture on medieval re-enactment and re-creation in NU's HIST 2105 at the beginning of April. In that lecture I talked about how re-creation and re-enactment is often inspired by a desire to re-create "stuff," clothing for instance, or armor, or food.

Sometimes serious re-enactors end up with an unusual amount of expertise, because they are motivated to find out things (St. Augustine's underwear) that few serious scholars are interested in.

When you get someone who is both re-enactor and scholar, you sometimes end up with a great synergy.

One such person is the linguist Heather Rose Jones, who has also been sewing medieval clothing for about 30 years. Long ago she figured out that there are a surprising number of surviving garments from medieval and ancient times, but that there is no central reference work to help interested parties find them. So now she has created the Surviving Garments Database. No pictures, but for the serious researcher, a goldmine.

My picture? This is the coronation robe of King Roger II of Sicily, who ruled in the 12th century. He was of Norman background, but his new kingdom (which included much of the "boot" of Italy) had a significant Islamic population. Islamic influence is given credit for the use of symbols here: a palm tree showing prosperity, and lions savagely pulling down camels, which might also mean prosperity to some people at the time. Click on the image to get a really good view.

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