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Support for Archaeological Textile Fragments


This economical storage system is designed to house a collection of many small, highly degraded archaeological wool textile fragments (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Fragments of plain weave, Z twist yarns mounted on board.

The system ensures the integrity of the textile fragments in storage, protects other holdings in the collection from small particles of sand and soil remaining on the archaeological fragments, minimizes handling of the textile fragments while making them accessible for examination, and groups fragments by yarn and fabric construction.



Margaret T. Ordoñez
Textiles, Fashion Merchandising
and Design Department
Quinn Hall
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881 USA
Tel (401) 792-5481
Fax (401) 792-2581

Kathryn Tarleton
430 Snipatuit Road
Rochester MA 02770 USA
Tel (508) 763-5816

Linda Welters
Textiles, Fashion Merchandising
and Design Department
Quinn Hall
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881 USA.
Tel (401) 792-4525
Fax (401) 792-2581

Photographs: Linda Welters
Charts: Kathryn Tarleton

Publication: 1992



A rigid, solid surface provides support for small, fragile wool fragments. The textile fragments, categorized by construction method, are mounted on foam core boards and stored in shallow boxes (Fig. 1).

Materials Tools Supplies

  • 100% cotton twill tape, 1.25cm wide
  • Cardboard boxes pH neutral interior alkaline reserve outer cover and core
  • Needle and thread or stapler and rust-resistant staples
  • Non-corrosive brass pins, 26 x .53mm or non-corrosive stainless steel pins
  • Polystyrene foam core board, laminated with alkaline reserve paper
  • Scissors
  • Unbuffered paper, lignin-free
  • Utility knife


  1. Cover polystyrene core board with unbuffered, pH neutral paper to provide a solid, smooth, neutral surface. Cut the paper covers 0.5cm smaller than the board dimensions and pin to the boards at the corners with non-corrosive brass pins.
  2. Cut two slits, 1.5cm long, through the paper and board on each side of the boards for twill tape handles. Positioning the handles through the board rather than along the edges minimizes the possibility that friction could occur between the cloth handles and the box walls, thus allowing the board to be lifted evenly out of the box. The ends of the twill tape can be secured together under the board by stitches or staples through the tape.
  3. Mount the fragments on the boards by placing brass pins between (not through) the yarns of the textiles. This system allows examination of samples by a stereomicroscope without moving them, and pinning permits samples to be removed easily for study.
    Orient fragments on the boards with selvedges and warps running vertically and wefts horizontally.
    When warp and weft are not distinguishable, place the fragments with the smaller, more tightly twisted and/or more closely set yarns in the vertical direction (Fig. 1).
  4. Place the boards into boxes that have pH neutral interiors, and alkaline reserve exteriors (Fig. 2).

    Figure 2. Shallow storage boxes for textile fragments.


Group similar fabric types (twill, knit, etc.) on one board so that each fabric group is stored in a separate box. The textiles, arranged by fabric and yarn construction, are identified on the boards by labels printed on pH neutral paper (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Corner of a laveled reference board.

This method of organization facilitates comparison of the fragments with those from other collections. An example of a grouping is the “Plain Weave, Z Twist” (PWZ) fabrics; each different fabric within this group is assigned a specific number (PWZ 1, PWZ 2, etc.). The chart in figure 4 contains analytical data such as yarn spin and ply, thread count, fabric structure and color. Another example of grouping is the knit fabrics (KF).

Figure 4. Data for plain weave fragments with Z twist yarns.

The chart for KF contains analytical data with appropriate categories for knit fabric such as wales and courses (Fig. 5). The charts for all the fabric types are stored in the textile collection’s computerized catalog with a hard copy on file.

Figure 5. Data for knit fabrics.

To further minimize handling of the mounted fragments, a reference set containing a representative sample from each type of fabric can be prepared. Mount the reference samples on boards and label as was done with the other groupings of fragments (Fig. 3). This set and its accompanying analytical data may satisfy the needs of many researchers visiting the collection.

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