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The Project

The purpose of this homepage is ...

...twofold – and therefore it is actually a project, not "just" a database:

Overview and easy access

First of all it wants to give an overview on as well as easy access to reliably dated textiles from the 1st millennium BC and AD. This, actually, is a desideratum, since during the last decades, quite a number of textiles have been radiocarbon dated. However, the places of publication of these results frequently are rather hard to locate and only known to those who ordered or undertook the analyses. This is one of the foremost reasons why textiles – quite undeservingly – are still not being used as an historical source to the extent they could be.

The benefit for other textiles

Secondly: Sustained benefit of radiocarbon analysis is achieved when we can apply the datings also to related textiles bearing no such indicators as stratigraphy, dating inscriptions or radiocarbon analysis. These related textiles mostly are of a similar style, sometimes also showing analogies in technique or iconography.

Trend-setter or old fashioned?

However, what is needed most is to know whether the radiocarbon dated textile in question is typical of its kind, representing the average life span of its group, or whether– by pure coincidence – we have a precursor, an unusually early item, or – in contrast – an old fashioned, unusually late one.

The lonely highlight

In order to know for sure we need to have several (in strict statistical terms: ten!) samples safely dated. Collections, however, usually do not possess several textiles of one kind. Also, frequently there is the desire to have "highlights" being dated or unusual objects – which per se are difficult to compare with other textiles.

Look out for parallels

Therefore, it is essential to have parallels, i. e. several examples of one type dated, to improve progress in our ability to evaluate textiles historically and to make the most of the – still rather expensive – radiocarbon analyses. A type or group of textiles could consist of items which have in common an unusual iconographical feature or weaving structure (cf. "How to use – Parallels"). Consequently, it would be important and wise to first check parallels in other collections, get in touch with colleagues in charge and agree upon the analyses of related textiles, before the actual radiocarbon analysis is going to be undertaken.


We want to facilitate, encourage and promote this important communication. Therefore, in the database you will find a column called "Parallels", which indicates whether one or several parallels to a particular textile have already been radiocarbon dated. If you find out that, e. g., two items parallel to your textile in question have already been dated it would be most valuable if you added an analysis of your textile. In this case, please, let us know that your textile belongs to such a group.

Coordinate further radiocarbon analyses

Dear colleagues, we hope that many scholars of any kind of specialisation will start to integrate textiles into their different historical research and we hope that this homepage and its database help to spread the idea of coordinated radiocarbon analyses.

How we started

The idea of this database project of shared information and joint decision on the question which textiles should be radiocarbon dated, was initiated by Antoine De Moor (Antwerp, Katoen Natie) and further developed by the team "textile-dates" in Bonn university, in collaboration with Mark van Strydonck from the Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique (IRPA KIK) in Brussels.

Sabine Schrenk, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, September 2009