Partly because my mother is Welsh, I have always been curious as to the origins of the ‘Celts’.
I have long known of the similarities between the local languages of Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, but for years I thought that this indicated that this was the original language of the ‘British’, who had been pushed westwards by the influx of Romans, Saxons, Vikings, etc.. These days there is more evidence that actually they always were the people of the western coast, having migrated along the coast from the Iberian peninsula. Is that where they started though?
I had been reading “The Origins of the British” but never got further than the first chapter where the author shows that they did not, as previously thought, start out in the Pyrenees, rather they came from somewhere further west, but I have yet to find out where he thinks they did originate. Afaicr, he used only Roman texts in that first chapter.
A few days ago my interest was rekindled by a repeat of a program on the Oseberg burial, where they mentioned that either the lady or her forbears probably came from Iran! Could this have anything to do with the occasional but striking similarities between Persian and British languages? How many generations ago had her forebears moved to the west, two or three? or dozens? I tried to find out just what the original research indicated, but to no avail. So I gave up, and settled for being happy that such an intriguing mystery had even been discovered.
Just this morning though, I was looking at my Amazon wish-list, and got distracted by the free and very cheap recommendations for Kindle, one of which was “History of the Anglo-Saxons: from earliest times to the Norman Conquest.” One of those really old books made digital. I started reading the introduction, and was happily surprised to see that the author was starting not with the origins of the Saxons, but with the original occupants of the British Isles. Interestingly he cites even earlier references than Mr. Oppenheimer: The Phoenicians. Also he mentions not only the Celts, but the Cimmerii, or Cymri, the ancient Welsh . . . How the heck have I never heard this before?
Googling quickly reveals the Cimmerii as the descendants of Gomer, son of Japheth, and so a Google wormhole opens up, and I find that it is well known that the sons of Japheth settled in Europe, the whole of Europe. Also that the Irish have a legend that they are descended from Magog, another of Japheth’s sons, and that they were settled for a while in ‘Galata’ in Anatolia, and hence the origin of the word ‘celt’.
So finally after nearly fifty years of wondering, I finally know who the original people of the British isles were, and roughly where they came from (after the last glaciation – Paviland was well before that and when the Celts and Cimmerii arrived the area was unpopulated, presumably since the ice retreated).
Coincidentally there was a ‘Secrets of the Bible’ program on just now that dealt with Noah’s flood, but they didn’t even mention the Dogger flood, even though they gave the same cause. (Sudden rise in sea level after the last glaciation.)
In essence though, it seems pretty clear that after the ice retreated for the last time, people gradually spread into the new land, perhaps most relevantly around the Black Sea. Then comes a flood, displacing or drowning people from a very large area. Noah and his family survive by riding it out in a boat, but even when the water recedes, a lot of land is still submerged, including their homeland, so they need to find somewhere to settle. Clearly it took at least another generation before they found uninhabited land they could call their own, and that was the islands to the far west, that we now call the British Isles.
I do wonder if Dogger was flooded at the same time or later, though, as there were people living in the area when it was flooded. Did Japheth’s descendants move across Europe after the flood, or were they already there and it was Doggerland that they had to move from?
With all the genetic research that has been done recently, I’m sure someone has already worked out who came from where, and when, and I clearly need to read more recent books than the bible and Phoenician records to get those answers!
So back to ‘The Origins of the British’ and perhaps ‘The British: A Genetic Journey’ might be more informative.


There is a connection

Recently I’ve been busy clearing part of the jungle that my garden has become, and the only other thing I’ve thought about writing about is related to my health issues, so even less relevant . . . except that actually, putting aside the rant about modern medecinal research being swept under the carpet, my health problems are related to modern diet. In fact, the diet that became normal for most of the world just 10,000 years ago, in particular, the change to wheat and cattle/dairy farming.

I will try to explain without going off on a rant.

Starch, much more than sugar or fat, is the trigger to my putting on weight. (And I suspect this is actually the same for a very significant proportion of people.) I have a theory as to why this is the case, but it’s only a theory, and would take a lot of writing to explain, and I have a ton of stuff to do today!

The rest of my problems are related to gluten and casein, and while gluten is talked about a lot, it’s insignificant compared to casein.

The problems themselves are caused in the same way, the same enzyme is needed to break down (digest) both gluten and (cow’s milk) casein, and the partially broken down proteins (peptides) of both casein and gluten cause the same problems, but there is not much gluten in flour compared to how much casein there is in cheese or dried milk.
I’d actually tried a gluten free diet more than once, with no noticeable improvement in anything, but it was an improvement to my sleep, correlating to a period with no cheese that alerted me to dairy being the major culprit in my problems.
Since cutting out dairy, (well cow and goat dairy, I’m ok with ewe’s milk products) I can detect the effect of too much gluten, but it takes a lot of bread to do it, and at the moment, I’m avoiding bread anyway (and other high starch foods) to keep control of my weight, so it doesn’t often happen. A small portion of battered fish is fine as far as gluten sensitivity is concerned, but combined with a modest portion of chips, I can wave goodbye to a couple of days weight loss!



I didn’t take many photos on my last trip abroad. I have a dinky but powerful video recorder, and while it is possible to take stills with it, it’s very awkward. I should be able to ‘lift’ stills from the videos, but I have yet to get to grips with the video editor I have found.

So, this picture was taken in Masouleh, a well known tourist destination in Iran, in the foothills of the mountains south of the Caspian Sea. Legend has it that Masouleh was the hideaway of the revolutionary Mirza Kuchek Khan, a hundred years ago, but that’s a whole other story. For me the photo brings back happy memories, not only of this outing, but of my previous trip there some 30 years ago.

I don’t think I was aware of the weaving traditions of the area when I first visited, but this time I was actively trying to find traditional weavers. Sadly though, like just about everywhere these days, hand made doesn’t fetch the premium prices that it deserves, and so there are almost no weavers left, and those that are only demonstrate by previous appointment, if at all.

The bags in the picture are made from scraps of old blankets, and while the round one may or may not have been handwoven, the one with the zig-zags definitely was, so I bought it. Recognising it’s antiquity, I snatched it up, but actually it had been waiting a long time, and would probably still have been there even if I hadn’t got there for another year.

Some day, I will get around to deconstructing it to study the weave (it’s lined), then I’ll remake it into a simpler pouch bag.

Starting again

I needed a firmer indication of what was needed for the uni application than I could get (my ADHD means I have a terrible time making decisions) and the whole thing is a bit of a stretch tbh, so I’ve shelved that for the meantime and am going for baby steps in other directions first.

That includes reactivating this blog! I’ve got more energy and have been getting more done lately than I have in years, but it’s still a bit hit and miss with fatigue issues. Still, I’ve got quite good at avoiding the triggers that I know about, namely cow’s milk casein, coconut and beef. Despite previous appearences, gluten is almost certainly a culprit and is relatively easy to avoid, so I’ve been avoiding that too, also lettuce is looking likely, but I need to reintroduce again to be sure, and I don’t want to risk it at the moment.

Sometime down the line, I will almost certainly edit out the more personal, less intersting posts, like this one, but for now I just need to get into the habit of writing and posting regularly. I’m also working on an article for Ceramic Review, and a video for Kickstarter, on traditional pottery in my late husband’s home town. Being smaller and clearer goals,  I have a much better chance of actually achieving them.

Along the way, I should be able to produce a talk on the same subject too. I already have a fair bit of footage, but some bits are not as clear as I would like, and some parts, like clay preparation, I wasn’t able to film anyway, so I won’t be able to finish it until after my next trip.

The next step is to find a suitable video editor, but I’m off out helping a friend today so that’s it for now. Short and sweet.

Moving on . . .

Drawing a line under my experiences abroad . . .

And an enlightening discovery about some personal medical issues . . .

I have decided to try and get a degree in archaeology!

For various reasons I need to study from home, so I looked first at the OU, and while they do have a pretty interesting history and arts course, it’s not quite what I really want.

Looking for other options I found that Leicester University also does distance learning, and they do a very interesting archaeology course. Fingers crossed I get accepted!

Why Morocco?

A couple of months ago, I was at a reenactors’ fair, and, as tends to happen at these things, I got to talking about warp weighted looms to a stallholder. As I was explaining my theory that single lines of weights in the migration period (anglo-saxon/viking) most probably indicated use of some sort of horizontal loom, instead of looking like I was talking nonsense, he was nodding. I said he didn’t look surprised and he said he’d seen one! I said I’d seen pictures of one in use in Lebanon, and he said he’d seen one in Marrakesh.

I admitted to being envious and explained that I dreamed of travelling around the world studying traditional weaving, but it was too expensive. He gently put me right on that notion; £50 return he’d paid. Even I could manage that, and I already knew that food and lodging would be a lot less expensive than on holiday in this country. So, as soon as I got home, I looked up Morocco weaving on the internet. I didn’t manage to find any pictures of horizontal warp weighted looms, but I did find a website for a weaving cooperative in a village called Ain Leuh, where they weave beautiful flat weave carpets.

So,  there, in a nutshell, is ‘why Morocco?’!

Since then, I have found there are lots of cooperatives, and even some in other villages in the same area. There is a lot more to see than just weaving though. Not far from Ain Leuh, towering above another village with a cooperative, there is a plateau, made by a lime rich spring, and still irrigated from that spring, though from photographs, it seems that the water has a lot less lime than it must have had in the past. The stream, when it’s done it’s work irrigating the plateau, is allowed to form a waterfall over the edge of the plateau, and where it actually falls is determined by which irrigation channel is left open!  The whole area is popular with hikers, for the mountains and cedar forests, and somewhere in the vincinity of Ifrane, a large town on the way to Ain Leuh, there are some rather nice cascades, but I haven’t definitively located them yet. There’s the source of Oum Rabia river and two national parks in the area too. Fes (the nearest town with an international airport) is famous for it’s old town, which is the world’s largest urban car free zone. It’s absolutely packed with ancient buildings and traditional souks, with all sorts of traditional crafts, including weaving. All in all, rather a lot to see!

Eye candy

It’s not that I’ve not been doing anything interesting that I haven’t posted much lately, it’s just that I realised I need to put photos in my posts more often. I have quite a few pending posts that ‘just’ need photos, and it’s getting around to taking them that’s the sticking point.

I have been to a reenactors fair, and that got me interested in sprang again, so I have finished off some bits of sprang that had been sitting around unfinished for far too long, and done a couple of plain samples to find out how thick a yarn I need for some replica sashes, I have several lengths of tablet weaving, and some interesting WIPs, all need photgraphing, if they’re going to make the basis of any interesting posts.

In the meantime, I have played around with double faced methods, (nothing photogenic there, alas!), made a pair of mini felted boots to go on the xmas tree, and spent a night in an unheated Anglo-Saxon house after the ‘Yule’ Feast.

And now I’m busy planning a trip to Morocco!

Preserving our heritage

Weaving is fundamentally linked to man’s development from the earliest times, through the industrial revolution and is still vital for modern living. Museums and especially preserved buildings and artifacts are vital for understanding our history, not just local history, but our national heritage and our place in world history too.

Please help save these museums and mill buildings. The cotton weaving industry that played such an important part in our country’s development was centered in Lancashire these are the last ones left in Lancashire, and there aren’t many anywhere else either! Queen street is the last operational mill surviving, still operated by steam engine.

Petition link

Link to video of part of the museum

Persian Carpets and Heddle Rods and addendum

The first continuous string heddle I ever saw, was in Iran, (too many years ago!) on a carpet loom. I did ask how it was made, but it had been done by the man that set up the warp. It was very neat, with what looked like a row of chaining along the front so, years later, I was rather surprised at the loose and rather irregular heddles, that I saw on warp weighted looms that re-enactors were using or had set up. The vast majority of them were simply loops tied individually around every other warp thread. Knowing that there was a better way of doing it, I trawled the internet for pictures or better still, a tutorial, of the Iranian method. For ages I had no luck, and the best/only method I could find was the half hitch method. I tried it, and hated it. Perhaps it was just that the yarn I used was rather slippery, but I couldn’t see how the open half stitches were ever going to stop the loops from shifting around the rod, so I kept looking for a better method, and eventually found one. It’s actually drawn in Cloth and Clothing … and if you look carefully, it’s being used in at least one of the old films turned video too. Link to video

I’m not sure this is the same method as the Iranian carpet heddles, so I’m still looking for a good close up picture, and found a whole series of videos going into great detail about the whole process of carpet weaving, from selecting materials to finishing, but when the presenter gets to the bit where I’m expecting her to show how to do the heddle rod, she explains that you don’t actually need one! I did learn quite a lot about carpet weaving though, not least, a lot of weaving vocabulary in farsi.

It was only when I found a relatively close up picture of a heddle rod that the memories came flooding back though, and I finally understood (having seen the detailed videos) what my husband’s cousin had told me so many years before. The heddle rod is actually lashed to the frame, and I remembered thinking that was strange and asked Naimeh how did she use it. She told me, that it wasn’t really needed as long as she was careful putting in the thin weft. I could see that if she put the thin weft in too tightly that it would pull the two layers of warp together, but I couldn’t figure out how come she didn’t need to use the heddle rod to change sheds. Watching the videos, and having more experience of weaving I have finally realised that, due to the clever use of a shed stick, combined with the ingenious structure, the cross is permanently maintained just above the fell line, so that one warp is inserted below the cross, and stays straight, and the other is put in above the cross, and fed in and beaten down so that it zigzags wildly from front to back.

Even when the heddle rod is needed, it isn’t used like they are on a two shed WWL, or any other type of loom where the heddle rods are moved. It’s more like an inkle loom, you just press gently on the warp a little way away from the rod to clear the shed enough to get the weft hook into the shed. The realisation that the heddle rod really doesn’t move, makes me wonder if this was the method used in, say, ancient Egypt. Rather than lifting up and dropping the heddle rod, it would be easier to flatten and push the shed stick out of the way and then press down on a section of warp at a time while passing the weft through.

Well, I’m updating this post because I have just found a very nice article that very neatly dismisses my theory about the method of use of heddle supports in Ancient Egypt. It even mentions the permanently supported heddles of contemporary traditional weavers in Africa. Link to article.

Change of plan – Stoneage Weaving

Not so long ago I found out that the first weaving was weft twined, rather than under over type, and twisted bast strips, rather than loose fibre, but I had been looking at Egyptian looms and weaving, so while I made the connection between basket weaving and the first fabric I hadn’t thought about the real potential of twining. It had been a long time since I had seen the picture of a Chilkat cloak in ‘The Book of Looms’, and there is no indication there of how they start their work.

Yesterday, I was looking at the older WWL videos on YouTube, when a title caught my eye: Taaniko Weaving – A Maori Weaving Technique. What an absolutely lovely video! Full of background information as well as detailed instructions for starting and finishing, and lots of inspiring pictures of what to do in between.

I was a bit late going to bed last night!