Strand Definitions: Material Culture

Material culture provides the background to medieval life and economy. It is concerned with the materials available such as metal, stone, clay, wood, textiles, vegetable fibres, and animal parts (bone, leather, ivory, fur, wool), the way in which they were processed and the craftsmanship used to transform them into the finished object. Material culture also includes the ways in which objects were decorated. This ranges from very simple ornament to complex decoration including inscriptions and iconography. The use of objects, the social occasions during which they were used, and the social status of the objects are all important aspects of the theme.

This strand includes (not exclusively) the way in which archaeological finds through their context can illustrate the social use of objects, the changes in consumption in the Middle Ages, and the meaning of ornament on objects. The subject areas covered by the strand are archaeology and finds, costume and dress including textiles, coinage, weights trade and economy, art and devices on objects, methods of production and the culture of consumption.