Coole Socke

Textilwissenschaftlerin Anne Marie Decker und Textilwissenschaftler Cary Karp kamen in unser Depot, fanden Überraschendes und waren begeistert. Wir haben sie dazu befragt:

MKB: Anne Marie and Cary, why are you interested in socks?
Anne Marie: My interest in socks comes from a long standing interest in the specific techniques used to make them. I have been fascinated in particular with the history of the technique of nalbinding. The Museum der Kulturen has the most extensive collection of early nalbound socks; in a variety of compound variants.

Cary: I am interested in the structure and history of non-woven fabric (Maschenstoffe). Socks are particularly interesting because they illustrate several important forms of it, and the techniques used for their production.

Das Foto zeigt Anne Marie und Cary an der Arbeit, an einem grossen Tisch im Depot. Vor ihnen liegen einige Socken. Anne Marie untersucht eine Socke mit Handschuhen. Cary steht mit dem Fotoapparat dabei.

Anne Marie Decker und Cary Karp zeigten sich beeindruckt von unseren Objekten

Why socks from Egpyt?
Anne Marie: The Egyptian corpus of nalbinding is one of the more statistically significant size corpuses available to research. Textile finds are often rare and thus significant collections thereof are very valuable for the information that they can provide. In Egypt, the technique of nalbinding appears to have been primarily applied to sock construction, although we do see a few other types of items.

Cary: An article in the May 1955 issue of the journal «Wirkerei- und Strickerei-Technik» describes and shows photographs of a number of objects acquired in Cairo by Alfred Bühler, with the intention of donating them to the Museum für Völkerkunde. These include the sock that is now catalogued as III 16705. It is described as Vantsöm both in the article and the current documentation maintained by the museum. This is a Swedish term for a structure and technique that in German is now normally called Nadelbindung.

However, it seemed clear to me from the photograph that the sock was incorrectly described, and that the correct name for the applied technique is Häkeln, using a stitch called a Kett- or Kettenmasche. It later became apparent that the exact same correction was needed for the small pouch, III 16702, and that another sock, III 16706, was also gehäkelt but with a stitch called a Stäbchen.

European crochet has its roots in the Nile Valley

In 1935, Fritz Iklé arranged an exhibition of his collection that was displayed at several locations in Switzerland. It was titled “Primäre textile Techniken” and the accompanying guide contains the following statement:

«Das Häkeln, vom Stricken verschieden, ist besonders vertreten; etwa Ähnlichkeit besteht zwischen dem 'tunesisch Häkeln' und Stricken mit Häkli. Auch für das Häkeln möchten mir die Araber verantwortlich machen.»

Although Iklé could not possibly have known it at the time, nor did Bühler seem to be aware of it, the two objects III 16702 and III 16705 are likely to be Nile Valley exemplars of precisely the Häkeln that Iklé einstweilen felt to be of Arabic origin. The use of a hook to produce fabric with Kettmaschen is a living tradition in Northwest Africa. The key to determining how old that practice is, may lie in the radiocarbon dating of III 16702 and III 16705. That, in turn, could indicate whether European crochet (Häkeln) has its roots in the Nile Valley, just as European knitting does.

Das Foto zeigt Anne Marie und Cary an einem Tisch im Depot. Vor ihnen liegt eine Socke, die sie beide von Nahme bestaunen.

Auch das kleinste Detail wurde erfasst und diskutiert

What did you think about the objects you have found in our storage spaces?
Cary: My visit was specifically focused on the III 16705 sock and it proved to be exactly what I expected. The III 16702 pouch was more of a surprise. I was overwhelmed by the richness of the material that Anne was shown at the same time.

Nothing compares to actually seeing the object first hand

There is no way that I can count the number of study visits that I made to museum store rooms during the course of my 45-year-long career as a museologist. I can honestly say that none impressed me more than the one I’m now describing. Isabella Bozsa arranged as friendly and helpful a day as anyone could possibly hope for.

Anne Marie: The objects we specifically came to see were as amazing as expected. Nothing compares to actually seeing the object first hand. Even with the data we had prior to arrival, I was still surprised by the sizes. And the other related material available was impressive.

Auf dem Bild stehen Anne Marie und Cary vor einem Laptop, das auf einem Tisch im Depot steht. Sie schauen sich darauf vergrösserte Bilder an von einem Gegenstand, den Anne Marie in der Hand hält.

Die Socken wurden mikroskopisch genau angeschaut

Were they of any help for your research?
Anne Marie: Absolutely. It will take me a while to fully process all the data I was able to collect. We were able to corroborate some theories and I did find a few details I was not expecting, which is always exciting. A number of the corroborated theories made it into my presentation, “Charting the Nalbinding of the Nile”, at the Centre for Textile Research's seminar on Current Research in Textile Archaeology along the Nile on the 21st of January, 2019.

Cary: The information about the two crocheted objects should enable a significant clarification of the history of that craft.