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Peter O Zwart




Location: Ontario Canada
Joined: 28 Nov 2010

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PostPosted: Sun 28 Nov, 2010 6:03 pm    Post subject: Types of Leather         Reply with quote

Hi, I've been lurking for a while but finally had an unanswered question (took long enough Big Grin ) was wondering what kind of tanning would be done in northern Germany in the 8th century? I know they used vegi-tanned leather, but would they have had brain-tan or some others that I'm not aware of as well?
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R Lister




Location: Hamwic
Joined: 01 Jan 2010

Posts: 34

PostPosted: Mon 29 Nov, 2010 2:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think pit tanning, or brain tanning, however i am far from expert.

I use veg tan leather in my 6th -7th century kit.


Rich
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Peter O Zwart




Location: Ontario Canada
Joined: 28 Nov 2010

Posts: 69

PostPosted: Mon 29 Nov, 2010 11:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Does anyone know the process of Pit tanning? or what the product is like how durable/flexible it is relative to vegi-tan?
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Chuck Russell




Location: WV
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PostPosted: Mon 29 Nov, 2010 2:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

alum tanned leather for sure
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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
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PostPosted: Mon 29 Nov, 2010 3:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

They used urine, dung. lime solutions, and some forms (bark / oak leaf) of tannins. The later medieval open pit tanning supposedly took over 1 year to complete. Legislation intended to prohibit the industry may be one of the better surviving period sources indicating what the actual practices were. I have not seen detailed explanation of the bark /oak leaf tanning process. http://history.eserver.org/medieval-pollution.txt
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Peter O Zwart




Location: Ontario Canada
Joined: 28 Nov 2010

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PostPosted: Mon 29 Nov, 2010 6:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks a lot every one really helpful, that's a interesting article but that tanning solution doesn't sound appetizing at all Razz
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Arne Focke
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Location: near Munich, Germany
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PostPosted: Tue 30 Nov, 2010 7:39 am    Post subject: Re: Types of Leather         Reply with quote

Peter O Zwart wrote:
what kind of tanning would be done in northern Germany in the 8th century?


We know that vegetable tanning was used since there a quite a few surviving examples of leather treated that way.
(Pit tanning is just one form of veg-tanning by the way.)
Problem is, other kinds of leather won't survive in the ground, since the tanning agents those methods use are not chemically bound to the collagen fibres of the skin.
Brain tanning is one example for such a method. Also similar methods like fat or oil tanning.
Alum tanning would be another method, using a solution of alum salts.
With brain or oil tanning I am 99% sure that those were used. Alum tanning is another question. It is easy enough to do, but I am not sure if alum was already traded in large enough quantities at that time.

So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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Douglas S





Joined: 18 Feb 2004

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PostPosted: Wed 01 Dec, 2010 12:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know of brain tanning among native Americans, but any proof of this in old Europe?
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Arne Focke
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Location: near Munich, Germany
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PostPosted: Thu 02 Dec, 2010 5:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Problem is such leather would not be preserved in the ground, so it would be hard to prove.
Written evidence from this time about such a mundane subject is unlikely, so if no knows of a painting showing someone while brain tanning i don't see how to prove it.
Just sad.

So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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Peter O Zwart




Location: Ontario Canada
Joined: 28 Nov 2010

Posts: 69

PostPosted: Thu 02 Dec, 2010 4:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks allot for the info! I don't think it would be a stretch for medieval Europeans to have brain-tanned leather but i don't know other than that it's not something that I would think of, but someone obviously did. Genesis says God gave Adam and Eve skins to wear not that it says if or how they were tanned :-(
I was also wondering what kind of soft kit items would have been made from leather. I can imagine some kind of chaps/pants for farm laborers to keep those soft wool pant in good shape maybe some kind of vest or shirt as well for the same reasons. Just speculation I don't know of any period illustrations or anything like that, but they need to do something with the skins.
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Chuck Russell




Location: WV
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PostPosted: Thu 02 Dec, 2010 7:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

not sure about the preservation. lots of roman leather has been around in the ground so hmmmmmmmm. check some of the Bog finds and see if they have any info on leathers found there
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Arne Focke
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Location: near Munich, Germany
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PostPosted: Fri 03 Dec, 2010 3:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is indeed a slim chance to find leather from the brain/fat/oil-tanned family in a bog find. Problem is, it only is preserved because the acids from the bog did some tanning of their own making it impossible to tell the kind of the original tanning.
So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Fri 03 Dec, 2010 5:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It would be highly plausible for fat-tanning for some fur at least. If you skin a small furry animal in the beginning of winter, it can be fat enough that if just cleaned and rubbedt it will be enough to keep it soft and usable without deteriorating too fast (fur has a shorter life-span than leather anyway, right?)

But again, this is true for small furries. if it translates to larger and thicker hides and if valuable fat would be used in tanning instead of easy-to-aquire oak bark, lime and/or dung is another issue that makes me think oak-bark was a much more likley option to produce leather.

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Mark T




PostPosted: Fri 03 Dec, 2010 3:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If anyone hasn't read it yet, you might be interested in Leather and the warrior, by John W. Waterer (Northampton, The Museum of Leathercraft, 1981). Copies are available from some online bookstores, or directly from the Museum itself: http://www.museumofleathercraft.org/ - which might also be willing to answer questions.


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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
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PostPosted: Fri 03 Dec, 2010 4:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bjorn Hagstrom wrote:


But again, this is true for small furries. if it translates to larger and thicker hides and if valuable fat would be used in tanning instead of easy-to-aquire oak bark, lime and/or dung is another issue that makes me think oak-bark was a much more likley option to produce leather.


A factor to consider is that the brain tanned types generally are pretty soft, and not very tough. I have done the simplified version of alum tanning on deer hides and seen others who have done similar things. What resulted was not suitable for tooling, harness, or strap grade use. Leather suitable for straps, and armour parts seem to be more easily obtained from the oak bark / vegetable tanning methods today. Unless some old secret has been lost, I would figure the same would have been true in medieval times.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Arne Focke
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Location: near Munich, Germany
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2010 5:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also available trough the museums shop is "Conservation of Leather and related materials" by Marion Kite and Roy Thomson. A must read for everyone who is interested in archaeological leathers and their preservation even if it is not weapons related.
Roy Thomson is the treasurer of the "Archaeological Leather Group" (http://www.archleathgrp.org.uk/). If someone has a serious interest in the subject, it might be worth considering to join.
I always enjoy the articles in their newsletter. Happy

So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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