Clothes are in every time and at every society a fundamental instrument for the expression of a culture and status of human being. This and the fascinating diversity in manufacturing are the reasons why its worthwhile to look deeper into a textile fabric.

Especially in archaeology the conservator has to deal with all stages of decay and with varied amount of material. Investigation of the fibers and the workmanship of the textile is one of the first steps.

Here I show some examples for different stages of preservation of textiles from my last 10 years of work. Let´s start with the most challenging:

  • In this archaeological textile fragment the fibers are completely decomposed through burning in a cremation burial. An common analysis with transmitted light was not productive. So I tried to find out the fiber material through Electron Scanning Microscope (SEM) which was more successful and as a result I could identify a bast fiber.

Excavated piece of textile. Its completely carbonized, so a fiber analysis through transmitted light is not possible anymore.

Detail of the carconaized fragment. The textile is woven in herringbone.

Kastl FS10004

In SEM you can see the surface structure of the fiber. The analyses showed a bast fiber.


  • During a conservation assessment you can find often on archaeological metal objects textile or fiber fragments in a further stage of decomposition and interspersed with corrosion products. An analysis with transmitted light is mostly still possible.

Medieval brooch with textile attachments on the right side top.

Makro image of textile

ID 28782 M13_Faseruntersuchung

Micro image in transmitted light. You can see the structure of an bast fiber.


  • The textile of this Japanese monk robe shows the early state of degradation. That means physical reactions result discolouring or brittleness. The fabric is still flexible so traditional textile cleaning and restoration treatments can be applied.
Kesa Muster

Japanese monk robe produced as a patchwork with two types of fabrics. Here you can see it before conservation.

Restaurierung Applikationen Kopie

Restoration steps of one patchwork field of a Japanese monk robe. 1. Straighten the fabric 2. Replenishment of padding 3. Underlay with a supporting silk textile 4. Cover with gauze

Microscope image from a metallized (gold) paper strip from the fabric above.


Microscope image from the silk fiber of the fabric above.

  • Here you can see an ethnographic artifact with textile attached and covered with stain. The textile is in a good condition.

Detail of an West African dancing cap. Its made of a calabash which is decorated with textile, horn and cowrie shells. The left side show after cleaning trough vacuum suction.

Helm2 EZ rück

Helmet after conservation.

In object conservation and especially in conservation of archaeological heritage the conservators have to deal with a wide range of materials. In this examples you could see there is never only one material. Complex material combinations in artifacts make an indispensable use of interdisciplinary approach. BB conservation is familiar with techniques from traditional textile conservation to a wide range of object conservation.