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Old Crafts and Skills

Here we present short introductions on several crafts and techniques, relevant to archaeological open-air museums. These are kept simple and fast ('quick & dirty') in order to give an impression of possibilities. If you like to learn more, follow the links with each item, check our bibliography or contact our members.

Metalworking: Omega fibula

Ratna Drost (NL)

The fibula was worn by both men, women and children. The more elaborated ones with gems or precious stones, were made for the rich upper-class. One of the easiest fibulae easiest to make, is the ‘omega’ fibula. The Romans were very fond of jewelry. Women as well as men, wore rings, bracelets and necklaces. A special, but at the same time ordinary, piece of jewelry was the ‘fibula’.

(Roman) Wall Fresco

Ratna Drost (NL)

Two modes of painting were practiced in Greco-Roman antiquity: painting on movable tablets and painting directly on stuccoed walls. In case of the Roman wall paintings, two principles govern the selection of compositions. One is hierarchy by which the rooms are decorated with respect to their importance in a program of activities; the other is function, which calls for a practical coordination between activity and appearance.

Bookbinding

Marc van Hasselt (NL)
Hannah Fraza (NL)

Much of our historical knowledge comes from written accounts. The art of bookbinding was, for much of our history, an important physical aspect of knowledge accumulation and dissemination. It can also encompass several other crafts such as illumination or calligraphy.

Running a Roman mosaic workshop in a museum

Lawrence Payne (UK)

To run a ‘Roman’ mosaic workshop you need to understand about the rules. The original mosaicists of Greece and Rome set the tesserae (tiles) in certain ways to create a more ‘flowing’ effect and this has resulted in a set of 8 Rules to work to. These Rules are what separate a Roman mosaic, regardless of when it is made, from a Modern mosaic. Modern mosaics have no Rules therefore they cannot be criticised. In a Roman mosaic if you do not know The Rules then chances are you won’t see them. Leave them out of the mosaic and it can be spotted by anyone familiar with them.

Metalworking: Roman Figurines

Ratna Drost (NL)

The small bronze, terracotta or clay figures were mostly made for ritual of religious purposes. However, some of them were used as toys for children, even when not specifically made for that purpose. Most of the figures were made in quite large numbers using molds. Like the more monumental sculptures, they were painted in bright colors.

Pottery: (Roman) Fine Ware

Ratna Drost (NL)

The Romans had and used different types of pottery. Normally, Roman pottery falls into three categories: Amphorae, pottery used for transportation and storage, usually undecorated; Coarse ware, used for everyday necessities and extremely common; Fine ware, a combination of functional and decorative requirements. Therefore it might be painted or glazed.

Pottery: (Roman) Coarse Ware

Ratna Drost (NL)

The Romans had and used different types of pottery. Normally, Roman pottery falls into three categories: Amphorae, pottery used for transportation and storage, usually undecorated; Coarse ware, used for everyday necessities and extremely common; Fine ware, a combination of functional and decorative requirements. Therefore it might be painted or glazed.

Cooking: Crustulum and Dulcia Domestica (Roman)

Ratna Drost (NL)

The Romans enjoyed food and dining. I’ve selected the recipes for ‘crustulum’, a mini Roman pancake, and ‘dulcia domestica’, stuffed dates. Crustulum counts as humble nourishment for soldiers, dulcia domestica as a more decadent snack.

Spinning with a Spindle

Hannah Fraza (NL)
Spinning yarn is the first step to creating cloth. There are multiple ways of spinning, you could, for example, also use a spinning wheel or a stick which you roll against your leg, but a spindle is one of the most basic and simple methods which can be used anywhere you go. By spinning you twist all the separate hairs in the wool into a single strand, this makes a piece of yarn a lot stronger than just some loose hairs.

Tablet weaving

Hannah Fraza (NL)
Sarah Goslee (US) (from www.stringpage.com)

With tablet weaving you create very decorative belts. By turning the tablets, a space is opened between the stands of yarn (the warp) through which the weft is intersected. By turning the tablets backwards or forwards different patterns can be achieved, this, of course, also depends on how you thread the different colours of yarn through the cards.

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