Thesis supervisors: Senior Research Fellow Heiki Valk, PhD Jüri Peets, PhD Erki Russow.
Opponents: Dr hab prof Jerzy Maik (Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii Polskiej Akademii Nauk, oddział w Łodzi); Dr. Katrin Kania (Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg).
In the medieval society, the functions of textiles were manifold and might vary from practical to symbolic. Every medieval person needed textiles every day – in addition to clothing, in household and furnishing as well as packaging and sails in transport. One of the biggest medieval assemblages of archaeological textiles has been found in cesspits in Tartu. The doctoral theses are based on 3257 textile fragments. Cesspits were once used as lavatories and pits for waste. Textile scraps thrown into cesspit may originate from craft activities (e.g. tailoring) or these were used as equivalents to modern toilet paper or sanitary towels. The amount of both written and iconographic sources about medieval Tartu is limited, thus the textile fragments form the main source for studying textile trade and production as well as consumption habits and clothing culture of townspeople.
It seems that the inhabitants of medieval Tartu have preferred imported textiles to local products. The role of hanseatic trade in shaping the textile market in Tartu should not be underestimated. Among the numerous textile finds from the cesspits of Tartu, several types of imported cloth from West European production centres dominate, while fragments, which can be regarded local products, form a minority. Broadcloth, it means felted, teaselled and sheared woollen fabric, can be pointed out as typical to the medieval town culture. Remains of clothing items reveal that the inhabitants of Tartu were well informed about fashion spread in other North European towns. The most luxurious fabric was silk. Edgings and decorative top-stitching of silk was used in order to stress the status of the wearer. In medieval Tartu no large scale textile production developed. Nevertheless, the innovations related with professional urban craft (horizontal looms, carders, spinning wheel) in European towns obviously reached also Tartu. In rural areas of Livonia foreign urban textiles were rare and technological innovations of textile production were not introduced before Modern Era.