Stories from the Crannog: Maria Elena Bertoli and the Beauty of Ancient Textiles

In the world of archaeology, every thread tells a story, and Maria Elena Bertoli, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, wants to understand more. Under the mentorship of textile expert Susanna Harris, Maria Elena’s focus lies at the intersection of archaeology and textiles, delving into the intricate world of looms, weaving, and the profound impact of textiles on ancient societies.

Susanna has done work with us in the past, and recommended us, as she recognised the synergy between Maria Elena’s research interests and our work. This is what brought her to the beautiful and (sometimes) sunny banks of Loch Tay. “It’s such a beautiful place, I’m really happy to be here!” she told me, a big smile on her face as the sun shone down.

Her time with us has been marked by an exchange of knowledge. Drawing from her knowledge of Bronze Age Northern Italy, Maria Elena sheds light on the pivotal role of textiles, particularly flax and wool, in shaping ancient economies and societies. Her PhD research, titled “The Fibre of Revolution,” explores the transformative power of wool in Bronze Age communities, unravelling its impact on production and trade networks.

For Maria Elena, the journey into textile archaeology began in Padova, near Venice, Italy, where her academic interests led her to the world of archaeology. With an undergraduate degree and not one but two Master’s degrees under her belt, all centred around the study of ancient civilisations, she decided to look into textiles more, as it is often overshadowed by more tangible artifacts like pottery and bronze, while holding invaluable insights into daily life and societal structures.

With her tireless efforts to unravel the mysteries of ancient textiles, Maria Elena emphasizes the importance of patience and passion. Through experimental archaeology, she explores these realms, bridging the gap between the past and the present.

She has been essential in the setting up of our new loom on site and has been working closely with the wonderful Claire and Maureen, all exchanging knowledge and passing on what they know to one another.

Thank you for all your help Maria Elena, and best of luck!

If you would like to follow Maria Elena’s progress into the world of textile archaeology, she can be found on Instagram at @maria_elena_bertoli.