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Usage and meaning of early medieval textiles. A structural analysis of vestimentary systems in Francia and Anglo-Saxon England

By Olga Magoula


This thesis puts under examination the linguistic and non-verbal elements of early medieval clothing on the basis of semiotic systems that pertain to the use and function of early medieval textiles in Francia and Anglo-Saxon England. An attempt is made here to address the possibilities in the research of the diverse messaging systems which reflect social roles and identities communicated visually through dress and dress accessories. In the course of this examination the relationship of early medieval people with dress and their concepts about their bodies is explored. While seeking to establish the most important elements in the structure of early medieval dress, we will also try to explore and deploy the methodologies of corporeal semantics, the criteria of visibility of the vestimentary display and the elements that make up the key focus of the apparel. The empirical evidence is drawn from both Merovingian and Carolingian Frankish and Anglo-Saxon contexts and comprises both texts of diverse genres which set the framework of a historical narrative for the subject in the light of comparative historical analysis. This framework is set against, is compared and challenged by the archaeology from early medieval burial sites and relics. My aims are, first the establishment of a common semiotic plane of interaction and comparison between two types of source material, the historical sources and the archaeology. In order to accomplish this, the disparities between the quality and quantity of textual and artefactual evidence and their inherent limitations are also researched and evaluated. My second aim is to find out ways to extract information about textile and metalwork artefacts from the written sources and organise it so that it will be possible to visualise and understand the structure and the role of dress in early medieval societies in reference to the construction of social and personal identities. This is an interdisciplinary task and the interpretative tools suggested here and the theory of verbal and non-verbal meaning of textiles could also be used as suggestions for further research directions of other types of linguistic and artefactual expression. Moreover, this task - to the point that the above issues and aims are resolved - could form the premise upon which a new system of artefact evaluation of the finds pertaining to dress from early medieval burials, a key feature of early medieval archaeology, could be exploited

Topics: CC Archaeology, DC France, DA Great Britain
Year: 2009
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