HARLOW, Mary and Marie-Louise Nosch (2014). Greek and Roman Textiles and Dress: An Interdisciplinary Anthology, Oxford and Philadelphia, Oxbow Books. ISBN: 978-1-78297-715-5. Hardback, 414 pp., fully illustrated with b/w and colour photographs and drawings, bibliographies at the end of each chapter, no index. Price: £48 (currently reduced to £14.95 on the Oxbow Book site). (also available as a digital version).
This is the 19th book in a series entitled Ancient Textiles Series that is produced by the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research (not to be confused with the TRC Leiden). This book, as with many of the others, is concerned with prehistorical, Greek and Roman textiles and dress and their relationship to comparable items from neighbouring and long-distance trading countries and cultures. The twenty studies in this book are based on archaeological finds (actual textiles and related equipment), contemporary imagery, textual evidence, modern collections of ancient items, as well as different, modern approaches to the study of textiles and dress.
The subjects covered in the book range from a survey of current literature on the subject, to issues such as the role of “gender and reproduction in mathematics and weaving”, the imagery of fibulas and pins, Roman art and the representation of dress, theatrical and musicians’ dress, as well as the role of embroidery and the use of the wool basket in imagery and texts. There are also chapters on how marble statues were originally painted and how the white marble statues of today can provide a wealth of information if the traces of paint that are left are analysed. In this era of sustainability it is worth noting that there is also an article about the re-use of textiles and garments in ancient times.
Recommendation: This book should be in any serious library on the role of material culture in the ancient Western world. It is an invaluable source of information and ideas. It will appeal to those working in the Classical world, as well as those involved in research into the history and use of textiles and dress in the widest sense of these words. Well worth reading.