1 Introduction and research problem
In 2008 the author started doctoral research on Early Medieval textiles (400-1000 AD) in the Netherlands. The aim of this research is to achieve a better understanding at a practical and theoretical level of the production, function and use of clothing throughout the Early Middle Ages in the area now called the Netherlands. Looking beyond the practical function of clothing it can be observed that there are many social aspects to the way people make and wear clothes. The organisation of textile production is closely related to the way society was organized. By studying the mode of production it is possible to gain an insight into the social position of the craftspeople, ranging from domestic production for personal consumption to specialists supplying their goods to others. Clothes themselves are also social markers. The identity of a person or a group of people is often reflected in the way they dress. Diversity and changes in clothing can therefore be related to the social structure of society and to changes that may have occurred in that society over time.
The last few decades saw an increase in research on Early Medieval textiles. After preliminary inventories and several publications on single sites, the extensive survey of European textiles by Bender Jørgensen (1992) provided an insight into the development of cloth production in northern Europe (including the Netherlands) during this period. However, many questions remain on the technical and social aspects of the production and use of textiles and clothes in the Netherlands in this period. It is not clear how people dressed and how social or economic differences were reflected in clothing. Neither do we know how textile production was organised within and between different types of settlements. This article aims to provide some answers to the problem of textile production by the analysis of the large number of textiles found in Early Medieval settlements in the Netherlands.