Introduction: leather in archaeology, between material properties, materiality and technological choices

Harris, S. (2014) Introduction: leather in archaeology, between material properties, materiality and technological choices. In: Harris, S. and Veldmeijer, A. (eds.) Why Leather? The Material and Cultural Dimensions of Leather. Sidestone Press: Leiden, pp. 9-21. ISBN 9789088902611

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The study of leather is a specialist field in archaeology, yet focuses on one of the major materials in the past, the use of which continues into the present. The common occurrence of these animal skin products through time, whether tanned leather, parchment, vellum, oil or fat cured skins or rawhide attest to the enduring utility and desirability of animal skins as a material. Traditionally, these products have all been grouped together as leather, although their fundamental differences are increasingly recognised and published in the archaeological literature. For those without a specialist interest in leather it is easy to overlook the variability of products among this group of materials and to lose sight of the specific reasons behind the choice of leather in particular situations and according to different cultural and temporal contexts. In this volume, the authors address the question Why leather? through investigating the nature of animal skins, the behaviour of skins and leather in use and the network of decisions made by the makers, designers and users in bringing raw materials to a finished object and its place in the social fabric of life. The authors also address why leather works in certain situations, and indeed sometimes why other materials were and are chosen in preference to leather. The response to such questions is not only addressed through the properties of materials, but also how leather, like all materials, is viewed with the dimensions of culture and beliefs which surround it. The aim of this introduction is to place the conference theme and chapters herein within the field of leather in archaeology and current issues surrounding the study of materials in the past. This volume benefits from the insights of archaeologists and authors from other professions, whose specialist knowledge provides the archaeologists with the benefit of seeing their topic from a new perspective.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Archaeology, leather, method, theory, materials
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Harris, Dr Susanna
Authors: Harris, S.
Subjects:C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Publisher:Sidestone Press
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 Sidestone Press
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with permission of publisher
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