Using Experimental Archaeology to Answer the Unanswerable: A case study using Roman Dyeing


This paper introduces a new approach to understanding the dying industry in Pompeii. This study began with the construction of a full-scale replica dyeing apparatus, copied from remains in Pompeii, to establish the operating parameters of an apparatus. A determination of cycle time, fuel type and requirement was made. The skeletal data of Herculaneum was matched to a modern population and an ergonomic assessment of each dyeing apparatus was made. The replica was amended to allow exploration of the eff ects of a change in design and ventilation.

A computer simulation using Finite Element Analysis was undertaken. The design, cycle times and temperatures were taken from the excavated remains and experimental fi ndings. The FE Analysis allowed the determination of physical

changes in materials during heating, the mode of failure of the apparatus and the time span within which this occurred.

The approach and fi ndings of this study are both novel and new. The study took a theoretical problem through replicative experimental archaeology into Finite Element modelling. It allowed the problem to be understood and explored by those

from differing disciplines. While this study answers specifi c questions about the size of the dyeing industry, it may be used to illustrate the application of a technique to answer ‘unanswerable’ questions.

Cite this Record

Using Experimental Archaeology to Answer the Unanswerable: A case study using Roman Dyeing. Heather Hopkins, Roeland P Paardekooper, Penny Cunningham, Julia Heeb. In Experiencing Archaeology By Experiment. Pp. 103-118. Oxford: Oxbow Books. 2008 ( tDAR id: 422102)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


dyeing Textile

Geographic Keywords

Temporal Keywords
Roman Era

Spatial Coverage

min long: 6.624; min lat: 36.649 ; max long: 18.513; max lat: 47.095 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): EXARC Experimental Archaeology Collection Manager

Record Identifiers

ExArc Id(s): 8614


Rights & Attribution: The information in this record was originally compiled by Dr. Roeland Paardekooper, EXARC Director.