Week 12: Mean Fabric Dating

In addition to comparative analysis, I will be experimenting with a new approach to quilt dating. In HISP 462: Lab Methods in Archaeology, we discussed archaeologist Stan South’s method of Mean Ceramic Dating. This involves identifying the dates of manufacture for each ceramic sherd found on an archeological site and creating a weighted average based on sherd type frequencies and median dates of production. The result is interpreted as the midpoint of site occupation. If a simple weighted average can be used to help date an assemblage of objects with distinct characteristics that are associated with years of production, why look at quilts as an assemblage of fabrics?

Unfortunately, dates for fabrics are not as hard and fast as they are for ceramic wares. The subjectivity and propensity of quiltmakers to hoard decades old fabric may affect the usefulness of this technique. Also, in a quilt, each piece of fabric is intrinsic. None can be considered outliers or excluded because they may have arrived in the assemblage at a later point. Still, plugging estimated fabric dates into a formula may help remove some of the subjectivity and bias of quilt dating, and reveal information about quiltmakers that could otherwise be missed.

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