The term “archaeological textile” refers to objects and remains that either have to be freed from the dirt after excavation or turned up as clothing of the deceased in crypts. The soil of the Carpathian Basin doesn’t favour the conservation of organic matter so, the findings mean very precious material for researches regarding the history of dressing.
The corolla (fabric headpiece)
Corollas are usually the most intactly remained clothing objects in Middle Age cemeteries due to their complex materials – the textile parts, for example, are conserved by the metal salts corroded onto them. The grade of deterioration of threaded cloth can of course hinge on many factors, such as the pH of the cemetery soil or the decompositional process of the corpse. During excavations we suddenly break the equilibrium between the object and its environment so sometimes a remain crumbles to dust in front of our eyes due to the changed circumstances. At first these remains often appear to be metal because of the corrodation of the metal on their surface, when in fact they are textile. Thread materials in the process of decomposition crumble and break easily, as soil and sand has dried onto them. It is vital to keep these remains within the same circumstances as their original environment until conservation, as totally dried textiles can’t be “rehumified”.
So generally used excavational techniques can’t be applied at the excavation of textile remains, and cooperation with a professional restorer is highly recommended.
On an excavation at Szigetszentmiklós I had the chance to apply several techniques. The best solution was not to clear the skull, but to lift it “in situ” with the soil, and then clean and examine it in the laboratory. Thus, the parts of the corolla could be removed from the skull and its original position could be defined, even though some time earlier it had halfly slipped from the head.
If the find is too weakened, dried out, or fragmented, one must do pre-conversation on the spot. In this case we can fix and soldify the floating, moving elements by impregnating them. During examination we must carefully prevent the wet corolla parts from drying out suddenly, because this can cause the fragmentation of the find.