Friday, October 12, 2018


W.A. van Bommel-van der Sluijs


The most famous beads in the Netherlands are certainly the beads of the so-called 'Princess' of Zweeloo that are located in the Drents Museum in Assen. The ensemble of beads and other precious ornaments with which the princess is buried, is very exceptional and even unique in Northwest Europe. It is this reason to devote a separate chapter to the princess's grave, based on data from the publication of Van Es & Ypey in 1977. Van Giffen uncovered the grave of the 'princess' in 1952 when he was in Zweeloo in the southeast of Drenthe and researched an early-medieval graveyard field. This cemetery was discovered because old objects had emerged when excavating an esdek [certain type of topsoil]; unfortunately this sand extraction probably disturbed a considerable part of it. The cemetery would have been built at the end of the Imperial period or during the early Migration Era and consisted mainly of inhumation graves. Of the more than one hundred graves, 75% were west-east, the other north-south oriented. Ten to fifteen graves were cremation graves. Two adjacent graves were each surrounded by a ring ditch and apparently formed a landmark for other graves. Nearby, but also elsewhere on the burial ground, pile tracks were found which were grouped in a quadrangle or a rectangle.2 In the secluded group of burial cemeteries (no. 83-88) of which the princess (no. 87) was part, were found in addition six north-south-oriented horse graves (Nos. P1-P6). Because of this and other findings such as a conical beaker (as in Haillot) in the children's grave 88, two bronze Stützarmfibulae (type Perlberg) (and a fused part of a Zwiebelknopffibula of an older disrupted cremation grave) in female grave 86, they came to the conclusion that this grave was in a royal tradition as it was known from Thuringia, Northern Germany and Northern Netherlands. The grave of the princess was dated 400-450 or 400-475, thus forming the earliest phase of the burial ground, leaving aside a few cremation graves. After discovering the beautiful fibula (gleicharmige Kerbschnittfibel, type Nesse) and the large variegated beads the name 'Princess of Zweeloo' was born; the head-and-rump part of the grave was crated up and in 1971 examined by Ypey at the ROB in Amersfoort. (Van Es & Ypey, 1977: 97, 101 and 110, Abb.3 and 5).
            According to the researchers, the 'princess' measured 1.65-1.70 meters. Her jewelry consisted of a large gilded butterfly fibula on the chest, two gilt-silver platter fibulae at the shoulders, a necklace of amber beads and two necklaces of glass beads (the largest of which had bronze rings), two bronze keys, a gilt-silver toilet set, a bone object, a ring of silver thread, a beaver tooth and a bronze bracelet (figs 21-25). However, the question is whether the latter is really a bracelet. Siegmann (2002: 43) discovered that large bronze rings in Liebenau are not necessarily bracelets, but could be the closure of pouches or bags, especially if they do not meet the standard sizes of bracelets. That of the 'Princess' of Zweeloo is indeed very rude, compared to the other jewelry. There were remnants of woolen broken diamond twill (Van Es & Ypey, 1977: 121). The 'bracelet' was found on the left hip as well. A beautifully hand-turned pot [typo?] stood by her head. During the excavation linen remains also appeared which, according to the researchers, had to come from her peplos because of the two clothing pins at the shoulders. Leather remnants under the bronze bracelet on her left side, pointed to a belt bag. The researchers depicted a reconstruction drawing of the princess made by Ypey in the publication (Van Es & Ypey, 1977: Abb.13, here in Fig. 26a).
            During the reorganization of the Drents Museum in Assen in the 1980s, a reconstruction was made of the clothes in particular. This was possible because fabric remains were preserved on the fibulae, the bronze rings and the bronze bracelet (Vons-Comis, 1988). On this basis, a life-size figure was erected at in the museum, covered with a linen peplos woven in broken diamond twill, decorated by the original string of beads and bracelet and (replica) clothing pins (fig. 26b). The large butterfly fibula on the chest probably closed a woolen cloak or shawl (fig. 26c), but the fabric was not fabricated again.
Research on the bead chains from 1987 brought the following data (Vons-Comis, 1988: 53): [p.920]
'Together with the unknown weight of the modern twisted metal wire, the amber beads weigh 139 grams, the length of the chain is 90 cm. The glass beads of chain Cb were in very poor condition during the excavation. Originally, at least 130 beads were present, of which 110 could be recovered. In 1987 only 107 beads were intact. The length of this incomplete chain is 60 cm. The necklace now weighs approx. 35 grams including the thread. Originally, the chain will have been about 66 cm long and about 41 grams heavy. The string of beads D, found at the level of the waist, consists of 30 large glass beads, 1 amber bead, 1 bronze disk and 10 bronze rings. The length of this cord is 55 cm. The weight of the beads, including nylon threaded yarn, is 542 grams. Here comes the weight of the bronze disc and rings treated with PVC: 92 grams. The original weight of the entire cord must be between 542 and 634 grams.'

Fig. 26a. Reconstruction of the garment, wearing of the disk fibulae, de bead strings, bevertooth-amulet en keys according to Ypey (Van Es & Ypey, 1977: Abb. 13).
Fig. 26b. Idem, according to Vons-Comis (1988: fig. 14, copied from the watercolor of O. Goubitz for the cover of the Nieuwe Drentse Volksalmanak 1988).
Fig. 26c. Reconstruction of the woolen mantle or shawl, kept together with the large, gilded silver butterfly fibula (Vons-Comis, 1988: fig. 15).


Below, the beads will be discussed piece by piece (see Van Es & Ypey, 1977: 113-120). Prior [p.921] the description is given a type number or variant thereof from the monograph of Tempelmann-Mączyńska (1985) or from the work of Koch (1987) on 5th-century beads from Baden-Württemberg. Then a short description follows: shape, brightness (translucent - ds - or opaque), color and dimensions (dm is the largest diameter, h is the height as in the length of the bore/bead hole and g is the diameter of the bead hole). The number of beads found is between square brackets: []. If they occur in the Corpus der römischen Funde (Voss, 1998, Erdrich, 2002; 2004) or elsewhere, the place and number are mentioned. The beads are arranged by ascending model number of Tempelmann-Mączyńska, so that the collection can be compared with catalogs or find descriptions in other literature. For the sake of clarity each bead of the necklace is marked in bold with the same letter as on the drawings by Van Es & Ypey (1977).  

Fig. 23. Zweelo 1952: the string of amber beads Ca from the grave of the ‘Princess’ (foto Drents Museum Assen). Schaal 1:2.

 Ca is a necklace of 101 amber beads; these are round, ring or disc shaped. Towards the middle the size of the beads increases, diameter 9 to a maximum of 21.5 mm (fig. 23). Böhme calculated the Zweeloo amber chain to be the richest neck and chest jewelry of the area between Elbe and Loire. On Ypey's reconstruction, the chain, hung around the neck, reaches to the belly. That would mean that the cord is at least 140 cm long, although it actually measures 90 cm. Now the chain hangs on the fibulae on the shoulders, because no amber beads have been found above the fibulae and the chain is too heavy for pinning directly onto the fabric (Vons-Comis, 1988: 53) .3
            Cb is a necklace consisting of at least 130 glass beads, partly lying below and next to the chain Ca, of which 110 could be stored (fig. 24). If the description of a bead in the text of Voss or Erdrich showed agreement with the bead in question, then that type of Tempelmann-Mączyńska (further abbreviated as TM) or Koch was also mentioned. In the description below of the first bead, for example, Erdrich (2002): Koch type 460 and Koch 489. 'Reifen-bullet' [elongated hoop] means that a bead is of Reifen-shape [hoop] to spherical.


Fig. 24. Zweelo 1952: the types of glass beads found in bead string Cb from the grave of the ‘Princess.’ For further descriptions and amounts: see text (After: Van Es & Ypey, 1977: Abb. 8, colored in by author). Schaal 1:1.

TM 2bVar / 30bVar or Koch 482, 483, 486: Reifen-bullet, ds light greenish-blue (f); dm 10, h 8.5, g 3 [2]:
- Voss (1998) 63: Hagenow, 85: Grabow-Ludwigslust [2], - Kremmin-Ludwigslust [2]), 87: Milow-Ludwigslust, 91: Marnitz-Parchim, 94: Rosenberg-Schwerin, 95: (TM 7 hellblau) ) Dämelow-Sternberg;
- Erdich (2002) 109: Gudendorf-Cuxhaven,
148: (Koch 460) l. blue, 0.8 cm, (Koch 489) l. green, 1.1 cm [2] Tötensen-Harburg,
155: Darzau-Lüchow-Danneberg;
- Erdrich (2004) 56: (TM 47) Kasseedorf-Ostholstein [6];
- Koch (1987) Urach: [6];
- TM 2b: (Berge-Fritzlar-H), Hiddenhausen-Herford [8], - Magdeburg [4], Westerregeln [2], etc .; TM 30b: Ballenstedt [8], Mesendorf-Eggersdorf, Cecele [7], Cieple, Frombork [3], Korzen, Luboszyce, Niedanowo [5], Polchleb.

TM 18Var or Riha 1201, 1218-1219: Reifen-bullet, ds dark blue, (c); dm 3-4, h 2-3, g 0.5 [20, now 16]:
- Voss (1998): 27: Wotenitz-Grevesmühlen [2], 54: Gammelin-- Hagenow [> 103], 71: Perdöhl-Hagenow, 76: Pritzier-Hagenow [12],
89: Leist-Lübz [5], 92: Spornitz-Parchim;
- Erdrich (2002) 61: Huntebrück-Wührden,
105: Altenwalde-Cuxhaven, 131: Nordleda-Cuxhaven,
134: Schiffdorf-Wehden-Cuxhaven [3], 136: Westerwanna-Cuxhaven [19];
- Erdrich (2004) 81: (TM 46Var) Sörup-Schleswig-Flensburg - [32];
- TM: Kemnitz [3?], Kollenbey [~ 3], Debczyno, Drohiczyn - [14], Elblag [20], Kietrz [3], Komorow, Lubowidz, Niedanowo [10], Nur, Opatow [2], Osinki [ 11], Pajewo [55], Pruszcz, Zerniki [76];
- Riha (1990): Augst [3]

TM 25Var: Reifen, opaque yellow, (b) dm 3,5, h 2, g 0,5 [12, now 0]:
- Voss (1998) 27: Wotenitz-Grevesmühlen,
76: Pritzier-Hagenow [10];
- Erdrich (2002) 105: Altenwalde-Cuxhaven, 109: Gudendorf - Cuxhaven, 136: Westerwanna-Cuxhaven [6], 147: Tötensen-Harburg [2],
170: Issendorf-Stade [15];
- Erdrich (2004) 53: Bosau-Ostholstein [39],
106: (TM53) Peissen-Steinburg;
- TM: Gütz [2], Niemberg [86], Gostkowo [> 5?];
- Riha (1990): Augst [2]

TM 50Var and Riha 1202-1205Var: ~ Ball, ds colorless, (a) dm 3, h 2, g 0.5 [1]:
- Voss (1998) 54: Gammelin-Hagenow [2],
72: Perdöhl-Hagenow;
- TM: Zauschwitz [5], Abraham [2], Grubno [?]
- Riha (1990): Augst [6].

TM 95a (= violet segment bead) Var or Riha 2888, 12Var (= ds blue ribbed with collars, dm approx 7): Bullet, with collars and lengths as Überfangperle, ds brown-manganese (e); dm 6, h 6, g 2 [14]:
[p.922] - Erdich (2004) 62: Preetz-Plön (TM 1) Reifen, ds violet, dm 8, (TM 31) ds violet, dm 7 [2];
- TM: Gerlachsheim, Brulino-Koski, Debczyno, Kleszewo;
- Rhia (1990): August

TM 108Var or Koch 498 or Riha 1311: Balk, weak translucent dark blue, irregular, with rounded edges (k); dm 3.5 × 3.5 to 5 × 5, h 6-10, g 1 [36]:
- Voss (1998) 86: Kremmin-Ludwigslust [2];
- Erdrich (2002) 139: Westerwanna-Cuxhaven [2], 142: - Westerhamm-Cuxhaven, 171: Issendorf-Stade [4];
- Koch (1987): Urach;
- TM: Buczek [?], Grubno [?], Krosno [> 4], Lipniki [> 1], - Niedanowo, Nur-Kolonia;
- Riha (1990): Augst [20]

TM 137Var: Cylinder, opaque dark green, irregular (i); dm 4, h 10, g 0.5 [2]:
- Erdrich (2002) 109: Gudendorf-Cuxhaven [2];
- TM: Grossromstedt, Körner, Mesendorf, Rauschendorf, - Cecele [2], Debczyno, Komorow, Opatow, Polchleb [3], Warsawa [2], Cerniki [6], Bendiglauken;
- Riha (1990): Augst [3]; -
- Nijmegen: WW1 (find numbers 2-230 and 2-374) [2];
- Aalden, grave 3 [2]; -
- Van Es (1967): Wijster, grave 211 [4]

TM 145: Cylinder, ds dark blue, irregular (j); dm 2-4, h 8-10, g 0.5 [9]:
- Erdrich (2002) 105: (Altenwalde-Cuxhaven [54]), 171: - (Issendorf-Stade [3]);
- TM: Cieple [?], Kloczew, Zadowice [?] -
- Geldermalsen (Meteren-Hondsgemet) (found No. 52-25);
- Van Es (1967): Wijster, grave 211 [5]

TM 146 or Koch 499 (which is squeezed?): Cylinder, ds dark green, irregular (h); dm 2-4, h 4-13, g 0.5 [4]:
- Voss (1998) 79: Scharbow-Hagenow [2];
- Erdrich (2002) 112: Sahlenburg-Cuxhaven [7], 139: - Westerwanna-Cuxhaven [2];
- Erdrich (2004) 56: Kasseedorf-Ostholstein;
- Koch (1987): Urach; -
- TM: Gerlachsheim [2], Igolomia, Paruszowice [?] -
- Nijmegen: WW1 (finds 5 5-85);
- Tiel-Passewaay (210-239); -
- Van Es (1967): Wijster, grave 211.

TM 153Var or Riha 1252: Helical cylinder, black, glossy (g); dm 3-4, h 12, g 1 [1]:
- Erdrich (2002) 109: Gudendorf-Cuxhaven;
- TM: Wildschütz [13], Debczyno [6], Szwajcaria [2], - Warsawa;
- Riha (1990): August;
- Van Es (1967): Wijster, graf 211 [8, was 5];
- Siegmann (2002-2005): Liebenau, graves P10 / A1, N12 / A2 and - O12 / A3 [20];
- Nijmegen, burial ground Margriet: OO 9 [8].

TM 255dVar or better: Koch 573 (= T6, 34) Var: Reifen, ds light olive green with opaque yellow, intersecting wave lines (l); dm 9, h 5, g 1.5; idem, with opaque yellow spiral (s); dm 8, h 5, g 2 [2]:
- Voss (1998) 77: as l: Pritzier-Hagenow [4], as n: 86: Kremmin-Ludwigslust;
- Erdrich (2002) 172: Issendorf-Stade, 'New type': with white and yellow wire binding [3];
- Koch (1987): Urach;
- TM: Gelbe Bürg, Gozlowko

TM 337, 338, 339: Reifen, ds light greenish blue with opaque white, intersecting wave lines and opaque red dots (q); dm 13, h 7, g, 2 [3]; Reifen, ds light olive green with opaque white, intersecting wave lines with 4 opaque red dots (m) between them; dm 10, h 8, g 2 [2]:
- Erdrich (2002) 172: Issendorf-Stade [9], (Koch 533Var): - reifenförmig ds. Yellowish l. green with opaque white waveband, dm 1.3 cm [2]. New type: with three imposed opaque white tufts and round red opaque wire lay-up, dm 1,1 cm. (= inverted colors);
- Aalden, grave 36: similar beads but with red-brown warts instead of dots.

TM 379b and Koch 510Var: Five lobes, ds olive green, cloudy (t); dm 17, h 6, g 2,5:
- Koch (1987): Urach (dm 24 mm);
- TM: Hassleben.

TM 387b: Überfangperle, ball, with collar and ribbed, without gold, ds light brownish yellow (d); dm 5, h 5, g 2 [16, now 13]:
- Voss (1998): 27: Wotenitz-Grevesmühlen [2],
46: Badow-Gadebusch, 54: Gammelin-Hagenow [4], 77: Pritzier-Hagenow [4];
- Erdrich (2002) 145: Rahmstorf-Harburg [7],
155: Darzau-Lüchow-Danneberg [7], 172: Issendorf-Stade [14];
- Erdrich (2004) 37: Fuhlsbüttel-Hamburg [4], 49: - Rondeshagen-Hzt. Lauenburg [2], 57: Kasseedorf-Ostholstein [2], 63: Preetz-Plön [22], 112: Pölitz-Stormarn;
- TM: Braglow-Dworny [> 1] etc .;
- Riha (1990): Augst: ws. 2790 [6], 2832 [5], 2844 [2], 2890 - [12] (Riha does not recognize Überfangperlen as a type) [25];
- Van Es (1967): Wijster, Graven: 2, 5, 16, 125, 134, 166, 210, - 211 [33];
- Nijmegen: Canabae (found No. 28-3441, dm 3-4 mm) [3];
- Nijmegen: digging inner city (find numbers B465 and B203) and - cemetery Margriet (OO separate find) [50].

[p.923] Koch 509Var: Vierlob-disc, ds, very light-green-blue (r); dm 16, h 5, g 2 [1]:
- Erdrich (2002) 182: (TM 173Var) Stöckheim-Braunschweig;
- Koch (1987): Urach [unknown, ws 1].

Reifen, ds olive green with wide opaque brown-red spiral (o); dm 12, h 6, g 2 [1]:
- Erdrich (2004) 113: (TM 243Var) Travenbrück-Storman.

Reifen, ds light bluish-green with wide opaque red spiral (p); 13, h 7.5, g 2 [1]:
'New type', (mouthful of Erdrich April 2007): "also a lot of research found in Northern Germany, seems to be reusable bottle glass";
- Voss (1998): 10 places in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern [10];
- Erdrich (2002): 7 places in Lower Saxony, often melted - and unrecognizable beads [7];
- Erdrich (2004) 107: (TM 339b) Barsbüttel-Stormarn;
- Aalden, grave 36: [3].

Four-lobed disk, ds light gray-green with opaque red spiral (s); dm 18, h 6, g 2,5:
- Voss (1998) 38: (TM 379bVar): - opaque green fivelob with red bands, dm 18, h 5: Langendorf-Stralsund;
- Erdrich (2004) 67: ds l. green quatrefoil with red and yellow paint tracks, Bordesholm-Rendsburg-Eckernförde.

Of the 18 different bead types in the necklace there are some 'universal', for example the small blue spherical, the medium sized Überfang beads, the long black screw beads, the green and blue cylinders and beams. We find these in the publications of Guido (1978), Riha (1990), Tempelmann-Mączyńska (1985), Koch (1987) and Siegmann (2002-2005). The 4- and 5-shapes also occur at Tempelmann-Mączyńska and at Koch. Some types are only found with TM and - possibly as variants of her beads - with Erdrich (2002, 2004) and Voss (1998) in Northern Germany. Finally, there are even those that do not occur at Tempelmann-Mączyńska, but do as 'new types' at Erdrich and Voss. The Zweeloo necklace beads: a, b, c, d, f, h, k, (l, n), p, s occur at Voss (1998), b, c, d, f, g, h, i, j , k, (1, n), (q, m), p, r at Erdrich (2002) and b, c, d, e, f, h, o, p, and s. Erdrich (2004). Not found was type t.
            In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Voss, 1998), 36 of the aforementioned 10 neck beads types were found 36 times, 178 in total. In Bremen-Niedersachsen (Erdrich, 2002), 36 of the aforementioned 13 bead types were found 36 times, totaling 172 pieces. In Schleswig-Holstein (Erdrich, 2004), 14 times one of 9 bead types was found, a total of 115 units.
            For the larger variegated beads from the middle of the chain, however, no parallels can be found. Possibly this concerns 'homemade' variants. Erdrich noticed, when seeing similar fantasy beads from grave 36 (Aalden), that he had found such beads a lot with research in Northern Germany and that the matrix of them appeared to be made of recycled bottle glass (verbal communication). If indeed it turns out that a village makes its own beads of reused glass and then a villager decorates such beads with glass (or paint) once more, then this is an explanation for the lack of parallels of these remarkable beads at Tempelmann-Mączyńska (1985). In addition, Tempelmann-Mączyńska (1985: 57) writes about her types 337, 338 and 339: 'sehr differenziert, besonders wenn es sich um acting Verzierung (...) sehr effektvolle Dekoration auf dem grünen bzw roten Grund (...) various bunte Streifen und grosse Augen miteinander verbunden (...) selten (...) man findet nicht zwei gleiche '. In my view, this also applies to types 340-342. Tempelmann-Mączyńska, however, dates the types 337-342 much earlier, namely in the periods C1b-C2 (250-400). Perhaps at Koch (1987) in Urach also such examples are represented, such as her types 573 and 528. This would also explain not being able to find parallels for the 4- and 5-step beads provided with wide, sloppy bands.


D is a chain at waist height, consisting of 30 large glass beads, an amber bead (fig. 25), ten bronze rings and a bronze disc (fig. 22). A bronze ring was caked to bead 13, where a fabric fragment was also found. They were still in a row, only the first bead D0 was slightly aside under the equal-armed fibula. The bold numbers correspond to the numbers on the images 9 and 10 of Van Es & Ypey (1977). As with the necklace, other type numbers from Tempelmann-Mączyńska and Koch are presented as the description of a bead by Voss or Erdrich indicates similarities with the Zweeloo bead.

Fig. 25. Zweelo 1952: the glass beads and amber bead 17 of belt chain D, from the grave of the ‘Princess.’ A small bronze ring is stuck to bead 13. For the other bronze rings and bronze disk of the belt chain, see text (After: Van Es & Ypey, 1977: Abb. 9 and 10), colored in by author). Scale 1:1.


TM 42Var / 4aVar: Bol / Reifen, weak ds emerald green, 2; dm 21, h 14, g 4:
- Voss (1998) 45: Stadtkreis Stralsund, 49: Mühlen Eichsen-- Güstrow, 76: Pritzier-Hagenow, 80: Warlitz-Hagenow;
- Erdich (2004) 62: Preetz-Plön, 73: ™ Schmalstede-Rendsburg-Eckernförde [13],
107: Barsbüttel-Stormarn, 113: Travenbrück-Stormarn [3];
- TM 42a: Gerlachsheim, Westick, Klein Zerbst, Borek [> 1], - Cecele [> 7], Debczyno, Malbork-Wielbark, Zerniki-Wielki [2];
- Riha (1990) Augst, 1192 (dm 15 mm).

TM 66Var / TM29Var / 34Var: Reifen, opaque white (2 with opaque reddish brown core?), Looks like marble, irregular and pitted, 6, 10, 19; 28; dm 26-27.5, h 15-20, g 8, [4]:
TM 66 looks like an image, but is 'wasserhell'. By the way, TM is far too small in opaque white glass or in limestone (TM 494). Perhaps imitation of the marble beads that occur at Koch (1977) in grave 22, chain 7: dm 23, h 15;
- Voss (1998) 49: Oldebuck-Güstrow, 52: Besitz-Hagenow, - 120: TM 494 (limestone) Rachow-Teterow;
- Erdrich (2004): 62 (TM 6) Preetz-Plön;
- Maybe in - Mädchengrab Bosau-Ostholstein with dm of approx. 20 mm? [28].

TM 187bVar and Riha 1340: Spiral disk, type 'Kempten', ds light bluish green, 26; dm 27, h 10, g 7.5:
- Voss (1998) 21: (TM 186 in green) Bad Doberan-Rostock, 76: - Pritzier-Hagenow, 77: Pritzier-Hagenow [2];
- Erdrich (2004) 73: Schmalstede-Rendsburg-Eckernförde [2];
- TM: Lipniki, Niedanowo [> 1];
- Riha (1990): Augst: [1].

TM 198eVar and Koch 526: Reifen, irregular, "black" (= very dark, weak ds olive green) with irregularly spread opaque red and white dots of different sizes, weathered, 31; dm 23, h 16, g 4:
- Voss (1998) 22: Hanstorf-Doberan;
- Erdrich (2002) 144: Rahmstorf-Harburg,
171: Issendorf-Stade (white, red and blue
dots) [2];
- Erdrich (2004) 62: Preetz-Plön [5],
66: Bordesholm-Rendsburg-Eckernförde;
- Koch (1987): Urach (including such beads with differently colored dots) [6];
- TM: Zwethau [3], Besenov [?], Bialecino [?], Buczek [> 1], - Cecele, Lisewo, Witkowo [?];
- Nijmegen: inner city, grave B670, dm 20, h 15 [1].

TM 257Var .: Reifen roller, opaque red with irregular, opaque stripes and round green line, square bead hole, 4; dm 23, h 16, g 5. idem with opaque turquoise wave line, 22; dm 25, h 18, g 4 [2]:
- Erdrich (2002) 172: (TM 357Var): - reifenförmig, red opaque, with light turquoise green wave line, irregularly laid yellow opaque wire ("strichförmig") Issendorf Stade;
- Erdrich (2004) 110: (TM 377b) "large red opaque bead with - yellow wire laying" Hammoor-Stormarn.

TM 263aVar or better Koch 534, 535 and 533: Reifen, "black" with an opaque white zigzag line of varying width, 3; dm 23, h 12, g 6;
- Voss (1998) 72: Perdöhl-Hagenow, 77: Pritzier-Hagenow [2], - 95: Dämelow-Sternberg,
101: Nutteln-Schwerin;
- Erdrich (2002) 54: Mahlstedt-Oldenburg,
136: Westerwanna-Cuxhaven;
- Koch (1987): Urach [9];
- TM: Letnin, Warchlinko, Zerniki-Wielki [2];
- Riha (1990): Augst ( 2793) [3].

TM 276a / bVar or Koch 21,29: Bol-Reifen, "black" with violet-shaped strings, 2 opaque white, intersecting wavebands and five opleturquoise dots, 25; dm 31, h 18, g 10:
- Erdrich (2004) 54: (276Var?) Burg auf Fehmarn-Ostholstein; - 69: (276Var?) Borgstedtfelde-Rendsburg-Eckernförde;
- Koch (1987): Urach (in reverse colors);
- TM: Spornitz, Ahlum.

TM 276cVar and Koch in Perlen, Table 8: 21, 27: Bol-Reifen, "black" intersecting, opaque white wavy lines and 5 opaque red dots, 1, dm 21, h 12, g 5; idem: with 6 red dots, 13, dm 35, h 18, g 12; idem: with 8 opaque red with violet-dot-eyes, 18, dm 31, h 15, g 6, [3]:
- Voss (1998) 38: Martensdorf-Stralsund;
- Erdrich (2004) 66: Bordesholm-Rendsburg-Eckernförde;
- TM: Gelbe Bürg, Brush [2].

TM 276eVar: Bol-Reifen, "black" (with red strings) and opaque yellow, intersecting wave bands and five opaque turquoise dots, 15; dm 32, h 20, g 8:
- Voss (1998) 30: Langendamm-Rügen, 87: in reverse colors, Leussow-Ludwigslust 109: TM 266 (a) / 276, with crossing yellow (and white) (zigzag) wires Dishley-Kr. Neubrandenburg [2], 109: with yellow, intersecting lines, (refers to Alekseeva: 1975/1978/1982, Taf 32, 42, 32, 44 and 32, 41), Friedland-Neubrandenburg [3];
- Erdrich (2002) 171: TM 276fVar in reverse colors, - Issendorf-Stade, 189: 1.8 cm and Callmer B 0850 Var. with gray-green eyes, dm 2.3 cm. Gielde-Wolfenbüttel [2];
- TM: Gelbe Bürg, Borstel.

TM 293bVar: Bol-Reifen, "black" with 2 opaque white zigzag lines and opaque white by-line, 5; dm 26, h 16, g 8; the same with two opaque white zigzag lines and in between, opaque turquoise band, 7, 9, 23, 29; dm 27-29, h 19, g 5-8 [4]; same with 2 opaque white zigzag lines and in between opaque turquoise zigzag line, 11, 27; dm 28-33, h 18-21, g 8 [2]:
- Erdrich (2002) 136: Westerwanna-Cuxhaven [4];
- Erdrich (2004) 66: (TM 300bVar) Bordesholm- Rendsburg - Eckenförde;
- Koch (1987): Urach (2 gray-blue zigzags with in between - white line, dm ca. 22 mm);
- TM: Debczyno;
- Siegmann (2003): Table Q, 10 (white zigzags with a green line, dm 22 mm).

TM 297aVar: Bol-Reifen, ds light greyish green with 2 opaque-pale yellow irregular zigzag lines between 3 opaque red lines, 8; dm 27, h 17, g 5:
- Voss (1998) 51: (297b) Liessow-Güstrow, 54: Gammelin-Hagenow, 77: (TM 294c and 297a): Pritzier-Hagenow [3], 91: TM 294c: Dütschow-Parchim;
- Erdrich (2002) 106: TM 294cVar: with yellow zigzag between red contours, 1.9 cm, Altenwalde-Cuxhaven, 145: Rahmstorf-Harburg, 171: Issendorf-Stade, 185: dm 1.5 cm Helmstedt;
- Erdrich (2004) 48: (294a / c) Mustin-Herzogtum Lauenburg, - 56: (294c and 298a) Kasseedorf-Ostholstein [2], 63: Preetz-Plön [2];
- TM: Biskupin, Cecele. Type 294c: Cow beer, Cecele [3], - Kozlowko, Niedanowo [3], Nur-Kolonia, Rybna-Kolonia, Rubokaj, Schernen.

TM 377aVar: 'Melon' light biconical, 5 ribs, ds light greyish green with on the ends 5 red-white-dark blue eyes, 21; dm 30, h 20, g 6:
- Erdrich (2002) 137: Westerwanna-Cuxhaven: lobed bead - from colorless glass, on the tops an opaque white rimmed, blue opaque dot.

TM 388Var: Amber bead, skewed disc, 17; dm 22, h 5-10, g 2.5:
To be found everywhere in beaded chains of northern Europe, also singular in Roman cords, eg in the late Roman tombs of Nijmegen and Augst.

TM 508Var: 'Kristallwirtel' made of glass, facetted, ds blue, 'sugared', edges damaged, 0; dm 38, h 26, g 8.5:
The same form also at Koch (1977): grave 553.8: Polyedrischer Kristallwirtel, dm 3 cm, which lay next to the right arm of the adult female dead, St. 4; grave 33.5: Wirtel aus Bergkristall, Sides stark bestossen, dm 3.2 cm, at the left upper part (and another 3.5 cm amber disc on the basin), St. 2, so resp. early 7th century and late 6th century. Parallels in glass, but from the Migration Era (press release Genevra Kornbluth, e-mail August 2007):
- Vogt (1930): Basel and Giesler-Müller (1992): Basel [2];
- Dimitriev (1979): Diurso 500 Kaukasus;
- Mildenberger (1959): Elstertrebnitz (Borna-Sachsen);
- Veeck (1931): Entringen-Württemberg;
- Welch (1983): Ferring-Sussex

Koch 9Var: Reifen-waltz, "black" (= ds dark green) with intersecting opaque turquoise bands and three opaque light-cobalt blue warts, 30; dm 20, h 13, g 5:
- 14) Urach.

'Melon', Reifen sphere, 6 ribs, ds turned gray green with opaque red bands on the ribs with opaque yellow opaque eyes (around the equator), 16; dm 35, h 20, g 4:
'Melon', light-biconical, 6 ribs, ds olive-green with opaque red bands on the ribs, on the tops of green-opaque red eyes, 14; dm 33, h 24, g 5:
- Erdrich (2002) 172: New type: large 5-ribbed bead, green-ds, on each rib a red opaque stripe with 2 yellow dots is applied, dm approx. 3,0 cm. Issendorf-Stade.

'Melon', conical, 8 ribs, ds olive green with shiny opaque red, yellow and green bands over the ribs and a yellow line around the largest size (painted?), 12; dm 35, h 19, g 3:
No parallel.

Reifen, crooked, slightly angular, ds ultramarine blue with narrow, opaque white circles, 20; dm 30, h 14, g 10:
As Guido (1978: 25) Class 6 (Large dark blue annular beads with bosses inlaid with white or yellow spirals) - Oldbury type (a), Plate I, also angular. 'Middle and late Iron Age, especially last part 1st century BC, almost certainly originally from the continent or from continental model.'

It is clear that it is possible to find parallels for the belt beads, but the Zweeloose beads are sometimes one and a half times larger than the examples found - with a diameter of up to 35 mm. In the literature one then does not speak of beads, but of 'spindle whorls' or 'magical Anhänger' [magical pendants].
Although the beads of the belt are very different from those of the necklace of the 'Princess', they are also mainly found back in Tempelmann-Mączyńska and therefore also at Voss (1998): bead numbers (1, 13 and 18) 2, 3 , (6, 10, 19 and 28) 8, 15, 26 and 31, Erdrich (2002): 3, (4, 22) 8, (5, 7, 9, 11, 23, 27 and 29), (14 , 16), 15, 21 and 31 and Erdrich (2004): (1, 13 and 18) 2, 8, (4, 22), (5, 7, 9, 11, 23, 27 and 29), (6 , 10, 19 and 28) 25, 26 and 31.
In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Voss, 1998), one of the 8 types of belt-bead types mentioned was found 23 times, in total 30 pieces. In Bremen-Niedersachsen (Erdrich, 2002) 14 times one of the mentioned 8 bead types was found, a total of 19 pieces. In Schleswig-Holstein (Erdrich, 2004), 16 times one of 9 bead types was found, total 37 pieces. The center of gravity of the sites is therefore in the smallest of the three federal states: Schleswig-Holstein; in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were more often parallels, [p.926] but in smaller numbers. Four of the fifteen different types (0, 12, 20 and 30) occur in Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, nor in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
We also know some beads from Augst, for example the translucent grass green bead 2 and the black bead 3 with white zigzag line. Black beads with line and zigzag or dot decoration are also surprisingly abundant on the Runde Berg from Urach in Baden-Württemberg. Bead 26 (Typ Kempten) is very likely a 1st-century bead. The blue, angular bead 20, which can only be found in Class 6 of Guido (1978) in Great Britain counterparts (Oldbury type), dates from the last half of the 1st century BCE and is probably of continental origin. On the distribution maps made of the belt beads (fig. 27) it can be seen that the majority of the beads originate from the northern part of the free Germania, but a final judgment can only be given if also of the states in the middle and south of Germany a Corpus of Roman finds has been assembled as happened for the north. After all, on the 'Runde Berg' of Urach (Koch, 1987) there are already five types of beads, totaling eighteen beads. But this number is possibly inflated, because all black beads with colored speckles are counted there (6) and elsewhere only such with red and white dots.


Van Es & Ypey state that the grave is of a lady of status who, according to her comments, has (had) contacts with the North German coastal area. The finds in the neighboring graves also point to provincial-Roman and Frankish relations. Especially the horse graves that run straight to the princess's grave underline its regal character. Van Es & Ypey (1977: 123-124) assume that the princess was buried in her dress (fig. 26a). Of beads in a belt - the writers also speak of amulets, precisely because they are at waist height - only one example is known, namely in Vron, although the beads are much smaller there. A similar fibula ensemble was found in grave 19 in Sahlenburg (Niedersachsen).
            Vons-Comis (1988: 172) made a reconstruction of the clothing after conscientious research and correctly found that no beads were found above the disk fibulae and that the beads were therefore not in normal necklaces but presumably were hanging off the fibulae. The belt chain could have been laid loose on the belly afterwards or the beads that might have been attached to the back were decayed. She points to a grave in Bad Lippspringe (Lange, 1959) with largely the same inventory as that of the princess: two saucer fibulae, seven glass beads, a pierced tooth of a bear, two almost identical keys, nine bronze rings and a bowl.
            The reconstruction of the princess's clothing is most likely correct given the extensive report by Vons-Comis (1988). Objections that can be made against the reconstructions of the jewelry by Van Es & Ypey and Vons-Comis (fig. 26b) are as follows:

- The 'princess' can not be buried in her regular dress for practical reasons: the weight of the beaded chains is already 810 grams and the metal objects and other items are added. To be beautiful, a woman would suffer pain, but not daily and not all day long;
- Even if they are hung off the disc fibulae, two large chains are too heavy, they would pull the peppers forward;
- The bead chains always hit each other so that they become damaged;
- The special crystal whorl-bead D0 was placed in the belt chain on the right side of the 'princess' when reconstructed, while on the watercolor of the excavation it was depicted just below the butterfly fibula, so slightly to the left of its center. D0 is certainly not hidden under the arm, the 'princess' of the reconstruction would constantly bump her elbow to the poky, heavy thing. With its 4 cm diameter it is the largest amulet and presumably in the middle of the chest;
- On the drawing Ypey made it can be seen that all the beads, except for bead D0, were strung on cords (fig. 21). But some amber beads lie between the disk fibula, which could indicate that this cord was placed on her breast at the time of burial. Also the belt beads are laid in such a way, that it is not necessary to take into account (now digested) organic beads on the back and thus this cord can also be on top of the body;
- The multiplicity of attributes at chest height: two disk fibulae, the 'small' necklace, a comb, a beaver tooth, the toilet trimmings and the butterfly fibula as closure for her shawl (fig. 26c), make it unlikely that the 'princess' carried all those things at the same time.

[p.933] Only the beaker in grave 88 of the group graves around the 'princess' is too little to indicate a royal homestead. A row of horse graves would do that. Unfortunately, there is no more evidence for this than its oriented towards the princess's grave. Moreover, it would then be strange that the horse grave P4 crosses the grave 86 of the princely relative of the 'princess'. The Perlberg fibulae date this grave to about 400, one colored bead in it is certainly to date later than 500 (Siegmann, 2003: Teil 2, Plate 1, bead 8. For the bead from Zweeloo grave 86, see the bead inventory in the back). Incidentally, that grave gives a messy picture because of the belt hook and a burnt Zwiebelknopf [onion button] fibula from a men's cremation grave underneath. A separate horse grave P7 is dated by an umbo to the 8th century; it is unlikely that the worship of the tomb of the 'princess' would last for centuries and that the burying of horses continued until that time.6 However, it can not be ruled out a richer part of the burial ground from the time of the 'princess' was disturbed by the sand extraction.
            In Liebenau, 150 km east of Zweeloo, is an inhumation grave (P10 / A2) from the late 4th century to early 5th century, with the same scale and keys as the 'princess' and a large silver fibula on the chest and two Stützarm [support arm] fibulae on the shoulders (Hässler, 1999: 77 and Abb 79). In Issendorf there are two rich graves (3532 and 3526) that also contain butterfly fibulae and bead strings (Hässler, 1994). Parallels can easily be found for the 'princess' in the northern states of Germany, not in Drenthe. However unusual the size of the belt beads may be, this also applies to her beads. It is noticeable that only ten similar beads can be found for the necklace of the dozens of simultaneous beads from Liebenau; for the belt chain one parallel in the form of a black bead with white zigzag lines and light green band (s) with a diameter of 'only' 22 mm, Siegmann promptly called 'Wirtelperle'.
            This would mean that the Zweeloo lady herself probably came from the North German coastal area and that she was not a Drenthe 'princess' who acquired valuables from elsewhere. If the large amber beads and the glass belt beads were not spindle whorls - in fact, with one spindle whorl a woman had enough, certainly a lady of status - then they were indeed amulets and perhaps the 'princess' fulfilled a completely different - magical - function.


1. This article is a slightly modified version of the fourth chapter (Excursion: Princess van Zweeloo) from the Master's thesis 'Paarlen for the Archaeologists: Roman and Germanic Beads in the Netherlands' of August 2007. The project is the conclusion of the study Art History- Archeology at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, written under supervision of Prof.dr. M. Erdrich. My gratitude to Drs. V. van Vilsteren for the friendly help with the research in the Drents Museum and to em. Prof.dr. W.A. van Es for the discussion, 30 years after the publication of the 'Princess', at his home. I am grateful to Drs. J.N. Lanting for the additions concerning the comparable graves in Issendorf-Stade and the remark about the
14C method.
2. Until recently, they were thought to be temples or grave chapels, but further investigation showed that the poles served as struts for the burning stack (Beuker, Van der Sanden & Van Vilsteren, 1991).
3. The total weight, 139 grams for 101 large beads seems very little (1.3 grams on average per bead), but amber has a specific gravity of just a little over 1.
4. Cf. Vons-Comis, 1988: 64. She does not want to mention the legs comb because it deviates from the triangular type that was in fashion back then, but in Siegmund's phase 2 both types of combs occur. The plate of bone of the 'princess' has a little too many non-holes (every 0.5 cm), but can not be anything other than a comb.
5. One could also wear amulets to the left on the hip, but then D0 should have been with the keys.
6. Of the horses, bone material has been preserved with which possibly a
14C dating can be done (verbal statement V. van Vilsteren, 2007). However, even if there is enough bone material and if it has not been treated with preservatives, it is very doubtful whether the quality is good enough for a 14C dating. Apart from this, a 14C dating probably does not provide sufficient certainty (written by J.N. Lanting).


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Published as:
Palaeohistoria 49/50 (2007/2008) Het Vroegmiddeleeuwse grafveld van Zweeloo.
Bijlage 1: De kralensnoeren van de 'Princess van Zweeloo,' page 919-934.
W.A. van Bommel-van der Sluijs
Translation from Dutch, with minimal grammar edits, by Susan Verberg, 2018. 

Research Princess of Zweeloo

Research Princess of Zweeloo

In 1952, a grave with a very special content was found in the excavation of an early-medieval graveyard field. The cemetery was only partly excavated at the time. Another part was already disturbed by sand extraction. During excavation it was clear that 'grave 87' had an exceptionally rich content, from which a date in the middle of the 5th century could be deduced. The upper part was therefore lifted as a block [unit] and further excavated in the laboratory. The woman buried in the grave wore a linen robe that was closed on the shoulders with two round gold-plated pins. Around her waist a chain of extremely large glass beads and two bronze keys on the chain. Furthermore, she wore two long necklaces around her neck: one of large amber beads and one of single-colored and colorful glass beads. She had a beaver tooth around her neck and also a silver toiletry set. She wore a bronze bracelet around the wrist. Finally, the woman, nicknamed "Princess of Zweeloo," wore a woolen cloak that was closed on the chest with a very large gilt bronze butterfly fibula. Studying the textile remains has shown that the linen robe was a very special weaving achievement in diamond twill with woven-in card-trim. The clothing was reconstructed in 1988 and since then can be seen in the permanent archeology set-up at the Drents Museum.

In recent months, the University of Nijmegen has started an investigation into the beads of the Princess of Zweeloo. In the context of a broader investigation into beads in late Roman and early medieval graves in the Netherlands, the princess receives special attention. Researcher Wil van der Sluijs has studied all the beads extensively under the direction of Professor Michael Erdrich. Looking for parallels in Europe shows that they are very sparse, and not of a size and an amount as in the case of the Princess Zweeloo. Her beads, and especially those of the large cord she wore around her waist, are on average twice as large as those of the largest string of beads known so far. "Completely unique and, moreover, they have never been found in such a large quantity," says researcher Van der Sluis. Most of the time, it would be one or a few larger beads in a cord consisting of smaller beads. Also these large beads were only worn as amulets. The origin of the large string of beads from the princess van Zweeloo remains uncertain. There are indications that it might come from Trier. Researcher Van der Sluijs, however, also sees parallels with finds from the eastern Mediterranean. It appears that already in the 4th century AD also Jewish and Syrian glass makers settled in Trier. The more study is done, the more it becomes clear that the princess wore something very special. This is further enhanced by the large glass crystal bead found in the grave. This bead with its faceted appearance looks as if it were a piece of natural rock crystal. "You will not find such a glass bead of no less than 3.8 cm in diameter anywhere in Europe," says Van der Sluijs.

The name 'Princess of Zweeloo', invented in 1971, is therefore not for nothing. Maybe we are selling her short with this title. Researcher Van der Sluijs hopes to review in the near future, with the knowledge gained now, the excavated field in Aalden in 1950.

Published as:
Onderzoek prinses van Zweeloo. Drents Museum Journaal 2, 24, 2007.
Translated from Dutch, with minor grammar edits by Susan Verberg, 2018.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Yogurt from store-bought starter

Each spring and summer our homestead produces a bounty of fresh goat's milk from our small backyard herd of Saanen cross goats. While we make many things with the milk - from custard to soft cheese chèvre and even goat's milk soap - my family's favorite is yogurt. There are many methods of making yogurt, often using specialty cultures bought from cheesemaking supplies and specialized yogurt incubators. To avoid having to buy & ship cultures and owning another piece of equipment, I found a fool-proof way of making yogurt with off-the-shelf yogurt and my oven. We now enjoy fresh yogurt whenever we like!

My doe Gazelle with her Saanen x Nubian twins.

Yogurt is a fermented milk product that provides digested lactose and specific viable bacterial strains, typically Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. It is a source of several essential nutrients, including protein, calcium, potassium and vitamins B2 and B12. With the domestication of milk-producing animals like cows, sheep and goats, as well as horses, buffalo and yaks, milk products became a part of the human diet. It is generally thought yogurt, and other fermented milk products, were discovered by accident as a result of milk being stored by primitive methods in warm climates. Milk spoils easily, making it difficult to use. Herdsmen in the Middle East discovered that milk carried around in bags make from intestinal gut would cause the milk to curdle and sour - the rennet from the intestinal juices would preserve and help conserve the otherwise easy to spoil milk for extended periods of time. For millennia, making yogurt was the only known safe method for preserving milk, other than drying it in the form of cheese. The Greeks were the first to write about yogurt at around 100BC, mentioning the use of it by barbarous nations. Genghis Khan reputedly fed his army yogurt - already a staple of the Mongolian diet - because he thought it instilled bravery in his warriors! It is generally thought the word 'yogurt' comes from the Turkish word 'yoğurmak,' which means to thicken or curdle.

The first industrialized production of yogurt started in 1919 in Barcelona by Isaac Carasso – he named the company 'Danone,' or 'Little Daniel,' for his son. While Turkish immigrants had brought yogurt to North America in the 1700s, it did not really catch on until the 1940s. That is when Daniel Carasso, the son of Danone founder Isaac, and Juan Metzger took over a small yogurt factory in the Bronx, New York, renamed it Dannon and quickly introduced yogurt with fruit on the bottom in 1947. The popularity of yogurt soared in the 50s and 60s with the boom of the health food culture and is now readily available in many varieties, including sheep and goat's milk yogurt. The types of yogurt typically available today are influenced by local traditions and lifestyles. For instance, Eastern European and Asian cultures have the milk undergo an alcoholic fermentation to make kefir and koumis. In Spain and Germany, yogurt is typically heat-treated to kill the bacteria, and in the United States as well as other countries, various probiotics and/or prebiotics are added to the mix.

It has been my experience that certain off-the-shelf yogurts work much different than others - they all make yogurt but some of the textures were not what I would call pleasing. From all the different yogurt brands I’ve played with, Stonyfield Organic is the most consistent. It is important to make sure the jars are sterile to avoid contamination with unwanted bacteria and yeasts, and to start with a healthy starter to promote vigorous fermentation of the right cultures. Especially households that make other ferments like vinegar, bread and kefir do well to pay close attention to cleanliness. But once you've got your ducks in a row, the actual process of making yogurt is pretty simple and takes less effort than you might expect!

Yogurt starter, milk and heat – all the essentials for wholesome homemade yogurt!

What you'll need:
- one gallon organic whole milk (I use raw backyard goat milk)
- 1 to 2 cups of Stonyfield Organic Yogurt (I use low fat as I am cow dairy sensitive)
- stainless steel pot or a Dutch oven
- thermometer
- stainless steel wisk
- wide mouth (canning) funnel
- five mason jars with lids
How to sterilize?
There are several methods of sterilizing equipment: anyone who has canned before should be all set. Anything that is in contact with the milk after it is pasteurized should be sterilized; this includes the funnel, the mason jars and the lids.

As I brew as well, I sterilized my mason jars using the brewing sanitizer Star-San and stored the jars on my dishwasher drawer - this is quick and energy efficient.

Method one: run the jars and lids through the hot / canning setting of your dishwasher.
Method two: boil the jars and lids in your water-bath canner for 10 minutes (just like prepping jars for canning).
Method three: use a brewing sanitizer like Star-San, or iodine.
Method four: soak in a sterilizing bleach bath, and rinse very well afterwards.

Step by Step on making yogurt:
- Heat your milk to 182°F (this pasteurizes the milk).

- Let it sit for 10 minutes on low at around 182°F.

- Fill your sink with cold water (add some ice packs if you have them). Put the pan with hot milk in the cold water to cool the milk down to 110-120°F.
- Scoop 2 cups of Stonyfield yogurt into the lukewarm milk. If the yogurt is straight from the fridge, add at 120°F; if it is room temperature, add at around 110-115°F. You want the cultured milk to be at around 110°F.

- Gently whisk the yogurt culture into the milk. If you like, you can dilute it separately in some of your milk so it is less chunky and dissolves easier but this is not necessary.
- Pour the cultured milk into mason jars (use wide mouth funnel) and close the lid.

- Put the mason jars with cultured milk into the oven – leave the pilot or the general light on.

- Leave overnight, the next morning your yogurt is ready for consumption (after that, refrigerate).

Some beautiful fermentation is visible at the rim of the fresh yogurt.

The trick to culturing yogurt is to use a (turned off) kitchen oven as an incubator – it is well insulated and every house has one. If you have an old-fashioned gas stove which lights with a pilot light, that is all it needs to stay all nice and cozy inside. If your oven does not have a pilot light, it should have a regular light bulb to see what is going on inside. Leave that on (with the door closed), and it will keep the oven just as comfortable – a perfect environment for culturing yogurt.

Tip: if you strain your yogurt through some cheesecloth until it is as thick as you like, you just made your very own thicker Greek-style yogurt.


DIY medieval hard white soap.

Castile soap – a well-known olive oil soap with a long-time history, it is named for the city it reportedly originated. Originally made from unfiltered olive oil and lye produced from burning the plant barilla, castile soap still has an all-natural reputation and is perfect for vegetarians and vegans as it is made of vegetable oils only. While in Spain castile soap means soap made in the Castilla area from 100% olive oil, in modern times the term ‘castile’ can have other meanings. Commercially available Castile soaps are often a blend of olive oil with coconut and palm oils, and here castile indicates the bulk of the oils comes from olives. The term castile is also used to indicate vegetable oils-only soaps, and even slightly viscous liquid soap made only with vegetable oil.

Aleppo soap 03.jpg
Aleppo soap at the Al-Jebeili factory, Aleppo, Syria (Creative Commons)

Most people are familiar with the solid bar olive oil soap and some might even know its Spanish roots. But did you know that another soap made from only olive oil, called simply ‘white soap,’ originated in Northern Italy hundreds of years before castile soap appeared in Spain? And the European claim is not even as old as the even older more fabled source – Aleppo soap, made of olive and laurel berry oils. This hard soap originated in the city of Aleppo and goes back at least a thousand years; as well as its cousin Nabulsi soap, made in Nablus, Palestine. It is generally thought that the invading ‘Moors’ of North Africa brought the technology of making hard white soap with them to medieval Southern Europe. With the prevalence of the plant barilla in Southern Europe - an essential ingredient in the making of hard soap - the craft of hard soap making was quickly picked up by the Europeans and evolved into lucrative local soap making centers, like in Castilla, Spain and in Marseilles, France.

Why go through the trouble of making your own soap?
Not all soaps are made alike and unless you know what went in it many olive oil soaps might not be as healthy as you would wish. There are different grades of olive oil, depending on how it is processed. They all work for making soap, though I would advice to stay away from pomace olive oil. While this is cheapest, there is a reason! Pomace means that it is made of the solid remains of the olive including skins, pulp, seeds, and stems, and the amount of oil left is so minimal that it cannot be extracted by pressing, but only through the combined use of chemical solvents and extremely high heat. Cheap filler oils like canola and palm oil are also often included in modern castile soaps. In the case of palm oil: unless it is certified organic and sustainably farmed, I do not use it as standard production attributes to rainforest deforestation. Olive oil-only soaps are readily available from artisanal soap makers but sometimes it’s easier – and a lot more fun – to just go ahead and make your own!

Why make soap in a soda bottle?
The exothermic or heat creating reaction of dissolving lye crystals into water heats the water to (near) boiling and creates a lot of very dangerous caustic steam. Experienced soap makers learn how to work around this, either by making lye outdoors (and being upwind ourselves), by using (partially) frozen liquid, or by using ventilation. The soda bottle method keeps the steam contained as we wait for it to cool down and condense again. Steam, as it is a water vapor, or gas, takes up more room than liquid water, and in a confined area like a bottle will build up pressure. Soda bottles are designed to take this pressure, as long as there is enough space left in the bottle to do so. Using this technique anyone can make small amounts of hard soap without the need for specialized equipment. But do always keep your wits about, as lye will always be a potentially dangerous chemical.

Measuring out the lye, the soap bottle and the water are at the ready.
Measured the oil.
- 2 liter soda pop bottle, with lid.
- 5 gallon bucket
- Lye
- Water
- Ice cubes
- Olive oil
- Funnels (one for water, one for lye)
- Rubber spatula
- Scale, preferably digital.
- Paper Towels
- Household vinegar
- Rubber gloves
- Safety glasses

About the bottle:
PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are not specifically made for extreme temperatures; they are made to withstand pressure very well, and are easy to get as 2 liter soda pop bottles. PET plastic should not contain BPA but might contain traces due to the (recycled) manufacturing process. BPA is not food safe but only releases slowly from contaminated plastic under high temperatures, and while the lye creates high temperatures, it does so only for a short while.  To minimize heat, a bucket with ice water should be at the ready before mixing the lye water.

Do NOT OVERFILL the bottle. Stick to the recommended minimal amount of oil and lye. The empty space in the bottle is needed as a pressure chamber for heat expansion. The exothermic (heat creating) reaction of dissolving lye in water, heats the water to boiling and creates lots of steam. This steam is highly caustic and VERY dangerous, hence the closed-off bottle pressure chamber.

About the lye:
Up until recently, lye would be available in the household cleaning isle of the supermarket and hardware store. Alas, as it is used to make certain other stuff, this is no more. Do not buy liquid lye to make soap, as it is not possible to measure the amount of dissolved lye correctly, plus, there are additives added you do not want in your soap. Food grade lye can be bought over the internet and I get mine from here:

About Safety:
When working with sodium hydroxide lye ALWAYS wear SAFETY GLASSES. It is recommended to wear gloves, and always have household vinegar nearby for the unexpected splash or droplet. Wear closed shoes and long sleeves if possible.

For a nice amount of hard soap for personal use a 10 ounce olive oil batch works well.

Step by step:

  • Measure 10 weight ounces of (room temperature) olive oil.
  • Measure 1.26 ounces of lye.
  • Measure 2 ounces of cold water.

- Fill a 5 gallon bucket with a water and ice mixture.
- Add water to soda bottle with funnel.
- Slowly but steadily add lye crystals to water in bottle with the other dry funnel.
- When done, close lid immediately, and shake gently.
- Stick into ice-water right away when all the lye is dissolved.
- The bottle will start to fill with steam, get scorching hot and swell. Do not touch at the bottom! It should already be in the ice-water.
- After about 5-10 minutes check bottle.
- If the bottle’s bottom shrank, it could benefit from ice-water a little quicker next time.
- The steam should be condensing on the sides and run down in droplets.

 Water droplets condensing on the sides.

A slightly overheated shrunken soap bottle bottom.

- When the bottom of the bottle, with the liquid, feels not cold nor warm (body temperature, also called blood warm) it is time.
- Open bottle cap, and add oil to blood warm lye.

Oil sitting on top of lye water.

      All mixed up by shaking.

- And now it’s time to shake your booty! Do put the cap back on first.
- Shake, shake, and shake some more…
- When the soap starts to stick and coat the sides of the bottle like custard, it is good.

Raw soap at the ‘custard’ stage.

If you like, this is the moment you can pour the soap into a mold, or into a small water bottle to make soap rounds (for instance to make felted soap). Remove the top of the bottle first, and use a rubber spatula to get it all out.

If you do not intend to mold, remove the lid, set it somewhere safe and let it sit open until the sides of the soap are totally firm. Cut off the top of the bottle, and pop out your block of soap!

Cut your soap to size in a week or so (do not wait too long, olive soap is notorious for getting crumbly) Let the pieces dry on a cookie drying rack in a cool and dark place for a minimum of three weeks.

Tip: you can let the soap dry completely in the bottle, but make sure to remove the lid. If dried in a (partially) closed environment the soap can ‘sweat’ a little – this will either go away on its own, or you can dab it dry later with a paper towel.

As with all hand made soap, when in use place the soap on a draining soap dish to let dry in between uses and it will go a long way - a green Scotchbrite pad cut in half makes a fabulous cheap soap dish. As has been said: the longer it sits, the harder it gets, and the longer it stays!

Dunn, Kevin. Caveman Chemistry. Universal Publishers, 2003.
Dunn, Kevin. Scientific Soapmaking. Farmville, VA: Clavicula Press, 2010 (p.58)

About the safety of using plastic bottles:

About castile soap in general:

Creative Commons image;