Neue Metodische Ansätze bei der Anwendung von Küpferverfahren in der Purpurfärberei

Author(s): Fabienne Meiers

Year: 2013


After providing a series of experiments with purple snails of the species "Bolinus brandaris" using different vats (soda, urine, yeast, sodium dithionite), not only the achieved colour samples were compared with each other, but also the various vats on criteria such as reliability and energy demand. The experiments were closely based on written sources from antiquity (Aristotle, Pliny and Vitruvius) and the historically documented woad/indigo vats. For modern circumstances, the sodium dithionite vat would be considered as the optimal purple dyeing vat. However, it has no historical value, since sodium dithionite has only been available around 100 years ago. The soda vat elaborated by Boesken-Kanold and Haubrichs gave a satisfactory result with the used molluscs. Also, the combination of long fermentation time and mechanical heating of the vat lead to increased energy consumption. In return, the urine vat showed its advantages precisely in this respect using low room temperature and no additional heating source. Yet, the odour was considerable. The yeast vat could not be performed successfully in this series of experiments. The imitation dyes, which had been reproduced according to the papyri "Graecus Holmiensis" and "Leidensis X", could emphasize the potential and practicality of these historical recipe collections. The results suggested that the antique dyeing workshops would operate a large market, which was subject to more or less rapidly changing fashion trends, with affordable products. Cheaper dyes from madder and alkanet roots, safflower, woad/indigo, kermes and lichens could mimic all sorts of purples effectively. Yet, the substitutes faded quickly. And ultimately, the typical smell of true purple could not be counterfeited.

Cite this Record

Neue Metodische Ansätze bei der Anwendung von Küpferverfahren in der Purpurfärberei. Fabienne Meiers. Experimentelle Archäogie in Europa. 12: 43-59. 2013 ( tDAR id: 424901)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


dyeing Experiment

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: 5.865; min lat: 47.275 ; max long: 15.034; max lat: 55.057 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): EXARC Experimental Archaeology Collection Manager

Record Identifiers

ExArc Id(s): 14012


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