7th Experimental Archaeology Conference Abstract – Katrin Kania

Researching the Basics. Craftspersons as a “research tool”  in an archaeological spinning experiment

Katrin Kania

Independent researcher

Questions in experimental archaeology are often connected to specific crafts processes – which is a serious problem in regard to both objectivity and repeatability of an experiment. Different skill levels, talents, and changing fitness levels may influence the outcome of a crafts-related experiment considerably. On the other hand, those influences did also exist during historical crafts processes, and knowing about them is beneficial to the research and evaluation of historical crafts. While it is possible to take the human element out of the equation in some cases, crafts like hand-spinning do not allow for this. Thus, an approach is needed that both uses the individual persons’ skills and experience while at the same time gives an indication of how strongly the individual person influences the outcome. The spinning experiment presented here was designed to do this by isolating the possible influencing factors spindle weight, spindle MI (moment of inertia),fibre and spinner through a setup with specially designed spindles and a large number of participants. For the first time, a large number of spinners – fourteen persons – worked under identical circumstances and with identical material.

This large-scale experiment resulted in a dataset that allows an estimation of how much influence the craftsperson had on the resulting yarn. It shows one possible method of designing a crafts-related experiment that is both repeatable and expandable using the toolset developed. This could lead to both a larger database and even better insights into the individual influence of the crafter working with historical methods today


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