Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lending A Hand

I'm writing this post to bring an interesting and odd find to the attention of anyone interested in late Medieval European clothing (esp. 15th century), because it offers an opportunity to help in a small important way, in historical costume research.

Today on, Beatrix Nutz, who is leading the research into the clothing-related archaeological finds at Lengberg Castle, posted a short note along with a picture. The note reads simply, "Help – I have a question. Has anyone seen this type of metal (iron and non-ferrous) eye-closure before? These have been found at Lengberg Castle in East Tyrol (Austria) and date to the 15th century. I am trying to find comparisons."

Although I don't usually post pictures from other sites that are not under a Creative Commons license or the like or unless I have special permission, I am reproducing Professor Nutz's photograph in the interest of amplifying the signal on her request for help.

I have never seen this type of closure in a medieval context (not that I have special expertise in that period of costume history).  It's very clearly not a hook and eye, and it doesn't really look like two "eyes" in search of a hook, to me.  Rather, it seems to be a kind of toggle (note how the loop on the item on the right is less wide but fatter in shape than the loop on the item on the left).  It appears that you would insert the "loop" on the rightward device into the "loop" on the leftward one to close your garment. 

If anyone reading this has any knowledge about other medieval finds of this type of object, please get in touch with Professor Nutz.  She is with the Archaeology Department at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.


  1. A scale would really help. How long are the white and black bars supposed to be (to someone not used to looking at these)?

    That said, to me they do just look like the eyes off hook-and-eyes. E.g. or

    1. I think the black and white bar at the top of the photo is meant to give scale. That's hard to tell if you don't know the length of the bar sections, but I think the convention for archaeological photographs is that each segment is 1 cm long. If that's true, each of the metal items is a bit more than a centimeter long.

      I'm familiar with Fouquet's Jester portrait. Though this does not prove anything (hooks and eyes can have different shapes), I note that the only eye shown on the Fouquet portrait is shaped like an egg, and is not mostly rectangular like the ones in the Lengberg find.

      In addition, although Professor Nutz's note does not indicate the positions in which the metal objects were found (which would provide clues as to use), her note suggests that she thinks these items are a set and constitute one closure. That's speculation, of course, and I could be wrong about that.

      Finally, as is too typical for me, I got something backward in my post; the longer toggle (left) would have to be inserted into the shorter one (right) for the two together to work as a closure.

  2. I know nothing about it, but it's certainly interesting.