The Heart of the Madder: New Research on an Important Prehistoric Dye Plant

Author(s): Michelle LaBerge

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

In recent years, an interest in natural botanical dye sources has prompted new research into the cultivation and processing of prehistoric dye plants in Europe and the Near East. Advances in chemical analyses of ancient European textiles have provided more detailed information about dye plants, which were important sources of color in early textile production. Evidence of dye from domesticated madder root (Rubia tinctorum) has been reported in the archaeological record of the European Bronze and Iron Ages in textiles preserved in salt mines, bog sites and elite European burials but the picture of madder usage from the Late Bronze Age into the medieval era is still unclear. The use of other indigenous plants related to madder also complicates this picture. A critical review of the history of research on madder and the evidence for its use in archaeological contexts in Europe, along with an experimental component of the thesis involved growing madder and using madder root as a dye has suggested new paths of research, and "ground-truthed" older data. The preliminary results may shed some light on the distribution of madder through the Iron Age, and may speak to the significance of the color red in European prehistory.

Cite this Record

The Heart of the Madder: New Research on an Important Prehistoric Dye Plant. Michelle LaBerge. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449917)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 24128