[Sca-cooks] Foods available in early Anglo Saxon England

Gretchen Beck grm at andrew.cmu.edu
Mon Mar 24 13:43:36 PDT 2008

--On Monday, March 24, 2008 4:32 PM -0400 Amy Cooper 
<amy.s.cooper at gmail.com> wrote:

> I apologize, as this is only vaguely food related, since I'm actually
> looking for dyestuffs...
> I'm part of a team for Cloth of Gold in a couple weekends in Ealdormere.
> We're doing an early Anglo-Saxon outfit from the southern part of what is
> now England. There's not a lot of information out there that we can find
> on what would have been used for dyes. We plan to make the argument that
> if it was used for food, it likely would have been used for dyes (oh hey,
> that stain is pretty! how can I replicate it?). I'm no clothing expert,
> I'm just running with it as the foodie on the team. My question is
> twofold:
> 1) What berries (if any) would have been available?
> 2) Would the Romans have brought beets with them?
> On the other hand, if anyone knows of a foodstuff, that would have been
> available in early Anglo-Saxon England, is pretty easily found now, and is
> capable of dying wool sort of red/purple (we're using madder in another
> part of the outfit, and don't have time for indigo/woad/weld, and want to
> stay away from yellow-greens), please speak up! The dye-ing experts on
> the team have scoured their Anglo-Saxon books to no avail, and have
> several natural dyes books available, but they are not sure what would
> have been available in the time/place we're trying to do.
> Many Thanks,
> Ilsebet

Hi Ilsebet,

It's not exactly foodstuff (well not plant material anyhow), but THE 
ARCHAEO+MALACOLOGY GROUP NEWSLETTER, <http://triton.anu.edu.au/issue_9.htm> 
suggests dog whelk shells:

The three lead articles in this issue of the AMG Newsletter all invite 
comments and contributions from readers. Does anyone know of other 
instances where dog whelks (Nucella lapillus) have been used to produce 
purple dye in northwest Europe, and can this be a plausible explanation for 
the accumulations of dog whelk shells seen in some Romano-British period 
sites in southwest Britain?

The article, also available at that page is "Whelks and purple dye in 
Anglo-Saxon England" by Carole P. Biggam

Hope this helps!

toodles, margaret

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