Barbara Thomas

Research Associate

My interest in textile manufacturing was rooted in my childhood in rural Germany. The chaîne opératoire of textiles has intrigued me ever since and transferred to my professional career. I graduated from the University of Cologne with a Master’s degree in Archaeology of the Roman Provinces and am currently working on my Ph.D. thesis on complex silk weaves from Late Roman to Early Medieval times at the University of Bonn. The research on textile tools and techniques from Roman times is the central part of my work. My research has led me to many museums and institutions, including a Veronica-Gervers-Research Fellowship in Textiles and Fashion History at the Royal Ontario Museum Toronto in 2016 and a Pasold Research Fellowship at the Victoria and Albert Museum London in 2020.

My particular interest is in complex weaves from Late Roman to Early Medieval times, namely twill damasks and weft-faced compound weaves. While we have indications for complex wool and silk fabrics being produced within the borders of the Roman Empire and its successors, questions on the production processes and the makers of these fascinating fabrics have yet to be answered. For example, how did these techniques travel and develop in Eurasia? And how were the specialized looms constructed?
Looking beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, I met with the specialists Christopher Buckley and Eric Boudot at the ICAS 2019, where we soon found a common topic in the research on the development of looms for complex weaves of the first millennium AD. The broader view of the topic has encouraged me a lot in my studies – it’s all connected somehow.

As a freelancing scientist and lecturer, I teach textile technologies at the TH Cologne. I am also keen to pass on my knowledge about traditional textile manufacturing in workshops for adults and children, where I can transfer research results to hands-on experiences. I aim to encourage people to personally discover the rich history of textile techniques and thereby preserve the knowledge of our shared heritage.