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Classical Studies
Classical Studies 2700A/B
Les Murison

-3 layers in skins and hides - outer layer is epidermis; middle layer (true skin) is corium or derma; innermost tissue/layer is flesh or adipose tissue -leather is an artificial product, doesn’t occur in nature, people manipulate it to make it into leather. It has collagen in it and has felt like mass of fibre tissues holding it all together (reticular tissue) – this is ultimate product of process calling tanning is something that is hard (supple leather). -leather never rots -there are three main stages of leather preparation. 1) there is preparing the leather for tanning (clean skin, removing epidermis from flesh, leaving the corium and opening up fibre structure to receive tanning agent – this is called plumping). 2) tanning proper – use of certain chemicals to make the corium imputrescible (so it won’t decay) and water resistant 3) Finishing – rolling, dying, embossing, glazing and incorporation of grease into wet leather (it will be pliable and water resistant). Dubbin - a wax product used to soften, condition and waterproof leather and other materials. It consists of natural wax, cod oil and tallow (rendered form of beef or mutton fat). 3 tanning processes in ancient world. Most important was vegetable tanning (this is the only legitment process that can be called tanning) VEGETABLE TANNING - uses tannin or tannic acid – present in vegetable matter (wood, bark, leaves, and roots…oak bark, oak wood and oak galls contain a lot tannin, so they were commonly used) -oak gall – excreted from oak trees and look like a large, round apple like structure. It is a scab on branches. -insects used to lay eggs in oak bark, it is a histamine response, and tries to get rid of it (they th have a lot of tannic acid). This was mostly used agent until the 15 century. In east there was product called Sumac (produced in small shrubs and trees – N.Africa, Europe and Middle East). Tanning in Western Europe goes back to the Palaeolithic age (end of stone age – 630 BC) MINERAL TANNING (aka tawing) – it comes about by immersing corium in strong solution of alum and salt (2:1). Alum is a double sulphate (aluminum, potassium, sulphate). This process was known in middle east early on. Tawed objects have been found in Crete and Egyptian tombs. Leather from tawing is stiff and not as water resistant (big difference) OIL TANNING (aka. Chamoising, pronounced chamois, it’s a goat like antelope in the European mountains – not really oil at all. Rub oils of various kinds into skins to make them supple and water resistant. It only adds a layer to corium and leather, so it doesn’t really chemically convert the leather (not true tanning – well known in antiquity). Used on sails and tents. Homer mentions this type of tanning. Ply the elder talks about olive oil from chamoising -cotton was not all that common in Mediterranean world in ancient times – romans made ship masts out of canvas (made of hemp or leather). Leather was used for army tents -Tanning because of the smell (harshly rotted skin), the noxious vats of urine and dung used to losen hair and flesh, and smelling tanning substances – tanning was an occupation looked down upon (but very necessary…they were restricted in a certain area. In Athens they were downwind from the rest of the city – NE side of acropolis ne
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