12th Century Thimbles

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Brother Ranulf
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12th Century Thimbles

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Oct 22, 2007 4:40 pm

Researching various bits and pieces last year I came across an interesting paradox - I wonder if anyone can explain this. I should emphisise I am talking here about modern-style and "beehive" thimbles, NOT ring thimbles.

In his 1980s/90s paper on "Sewing Thimbles" for the Finds Research Group, Edwin F. Holmes states that "Domed type thimbles are found in Britain in contexts from about 1350 and ring type thimbles from about 1450." He goes on to say that this is later than on the Continent, where thimbles were made from the 13th century - he also states that "there was little brass made in Britain before the 17th century...".

This all seems at odds with the evidence I found for 12th century copper alloy thimbles. Brass is, after all, only one of many and various copper alloys. See for example 12th century thimbles in a Norman context:

http://www.mondes-normands.caen.fr/angl ... _1_012.htm

Further late 12th century copper alloy thimbles appear in "Travels With A Medieval Queen" by Mary Taylor Simeti (published 2002). I have also seen beehive thimbles dated 12th century in museums in this country; thimbles listed as 12th century English often turn up on eBay and other auction sites, although I am aware that these may be inaccurately dated.

The paradox is - How can 12th century modern-style thimbles appear in Norman contexts on one side of the Channel and be completely unknown in England until 1350 (if Holmes is correct)? The English court spent much of its time in Normandy; merchants from both sides of the Channel travelled back and forth; churchmen travelled to and from monasteries; pilgrims flowed constantly through both areas; there was a constant interchange of people, ideas and learning.


Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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gaukler
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early thimbles

Postby gaukler » Mon Oct 22, 2007 6:42 pm

Those Norman thimbles look rather 15C to me. They are probably intrusive finds (it's not uncommon to find later finds in lower layers in digs- animal and human soil disturbance in most cases). Most museum are quietly changing captions for "Roman" thimbles.
The earliest thimbles seem to be 13C Hispano-Moresque Thimbles like http://www.antiques.dk.com/detail.php/C ... s/10539132
mark


Gaukler Medieval Wares
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Brother Ranulf
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Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Oct 22, 2007 7:03 pm

The manor of Rubercy has been shown to have two building phases, both of them 12th century. It seems to have fallen into disuse soon after the second building phase, so it seems unlikely that later artefacts could be deposited among so much genuinely contemporary material. Many finds have been made at the site, every one of them definitely late 12th century.

Someone once said that if a set of facts result in a paradox, then one or more of them must be false . . . he didn't say how you make the choice, though.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138


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