Monday, July 25, 2011

La Dama de Baza

While on my vacation, I have managed to read most of the latest issues of the Archaeological Textiles Newsletter, which I received as a result of my purchase of a membership. One of the most intriguing issues in the issue is one of the shortest.  Here is the citation:
Demant, Ida.  From Stone to Textile:  Constructing the Costume of the Dama de Baza.  Archaeological Textiles Newsletter, No. 52, pp. 37-40 (Spring 2011).
La Dama de Baza (i.e., The Lady of Baza) is the name given to a statue that is on display in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, Spain. According to Ms. Demant's article, it was originally found in a necropolis near Granada and dates approximately from the 3rd century BCE; Wikipedia indicates that it is one of a number of similar sculptures found on the Iberian peninsula of similar date.  A photograph of the statue appears to the left.  
La Dama de Baza (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Ms. Demant and Anne Batzer have been engaged for several years in an attempt to use general knowledge of costume of the period and the statue itself to recreate the textile portions of the Lady's costume. Since the statue, like most ancient period statues, had been painted, it was possible to discern the basic color scheme of the costume--namely, blue and red, with blue and red checkered borders.  Aware that ancient period costumes often used dyed wools for outer layers and undyed linen for the underlayers, Demant and Batzer used dyed blue wool, with red and blue woven, checkered trim, for the outer portions of the Lady's costume, and plain white linen for her underwear.  They concluded that, to best match the draperies visible on the statue with such layering, the Lady's costume likely would be made of four pieces; a long, woolen mantle, which is draped partly over her head, and trimmed with the red and blue checkered pattern; a long outertunic, which they concluded had long, wide sleeves; an undertunic in linen, and an underskirt, also in linen, which peeps out beneath the tunics in front.  Their recreation strikes me as a plausible match for the statue (though the reconstructors did not attempt to recreate the Lady's heavy and elaborate jewelry).

However, the Baza reconstruction reminded me of a different reconstruction:  the reconstruction of a woman's costume based on the finds from one of the Lønne Hede graves in west Jutland. No linen survived in that grave, but substantial fragments of a blue and red woolen costume did. It has been reconstructed, and appears in the National Museum of Denmark, as a short blouse, worn with a long blue skirt with red and blue checkered trim, and a red and blue plaid shawl.  The grave finds included a silver crossbow brooch that is usually shown in the middle of her chest, pinning nothing despite the existence of the shawl. A picture of the Lønne Hede reconstruction can be found here. It is dated to the beginning of the first century CE, or about three hundred years after the Lady of Baza.

Still, I wonder about the similarity of blue costume with blue and red checkered borders. Could the Lønne Hede costume be a distant descendant, as it were, of the Lady of Baza's costume?  Did they have anything in common other than being female?  Were they both priestesses, or had a similar rank or role in their respective communities?  Any such connection is sheer speculation on my part. Even so, I think that I'll keep an eye out for other late Roman statues, and other blue and red textile finds. to see whether any kind of pattern emerges.

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