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4th-century shoulder bag?
#1
Hello all - I’m just starting out putting together a Late Roman kit (I’m thinking Belgica Secunda, mid 4th century) and looking for info on bags and satchels. I’ve found some helpful stuff searching here already (also some dead links, so I apologize if this has been answered elsewhere, I just couldn’t find it). What is a safe bet for a shoulder bag? Comacchio is a bit early as I understand it, as is the beloved loculus - I’m aware of the overall lack of archaeological evidence for this type of item in the 4th century but want to tread carefully into the realm of speculation. I plan to make a fairly generic round-bottomed leather duffel for spare clothes/cloak, but would a small envelope-style leather bag with a tie closure be appropriate for the odds and ends that are too big to fit in a small drawstring purse? From discussions here that I have read, it seems the larger belt bag/pouch is either “barbarian” or a reenactorism to avoid, but I am looking for a luggage solution for small tools, rations, fire steel/tinder, etc. that one would want fairly accessible rather than rolled up in a cloak.  Thanks in advance for your advice.
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#2
Best thing I know was that stuff was carried in a blanket roll. As far as I know, we don't know of a 'typical 4th c. style bag'?
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
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#3
I dont see a problem with either a reasonably sized squarish leather shoulder bag or a Kit bag, though the latter could easily be made from cloth (linen) rather then leather, or various smaller leather bags which can be simple (or more complex) drawstring bags...


Unlike shoes, bags made from leather dont really wear out, so unless an item is lost its likely to be a rare find (or at least unrecognisable as such) as larger pieces of leather that are still usefull tend to get reused/recycled for other items, even if only for thonging, leaving little but the cut away seam remnants.

There is of course the Helmet? sack from Peel/Deurne in the Netherlands which is 4th century and pretty much the same form as one found in the Commanchio wreck.
Not to forget the Bargercompascuum drawstring pouch from the late 2nd or 3rd century:
https://ugp.rug.nl/Palaeohistoria/article/view/24786

Square shoulder bags (more or less ) continue on after the western empire and there are a few known as well as other forms, but generally these seem to be used for books though there are also bags for hunting in images, but this does at least show some continuity in use for the shoulder bag.

I wouldn't be surprised if there are many items languishing in archives that have yet to be identified.

There are quite a few bags of various types and uses scattered over many centuries from the Bronze age through to medieval where they are much more common finds.

"Viking" period belt pouches are based on the heavily decorated Sutton Hoo belt pouch which contained gold coins, so are not really Viking at all, though other bags do exist from Irish, Anglo Saxon and Frankish finds, one example from Viking age Gotland a money  pouch is not the same form.
But its use is certainly a re-enactorism and dates back to Early Re-enactment, but this is common I think as people have always needed something to hold their packet of ciggys, watch and wallet!, personally I use a budget(bag for books) which holds everything I need, infact I use it all the time.

Tinder is best kept dry so a leather bag which can easily get wet is not entirely suitable, a box (or pot for embers) is better, bear in mind that only a few soldiers in a unit would actually need the full fire raising kit....

It seems likely given the evidence, that barbarian warriors at least carried personal fire lighters and the necesary striking stone, the latter probably in a pouch the former hanging from the belt it seems.

To many sources here to quote them.....

Wink
Ivor

"And the four bare walls stand on the seashore. a wreck a skeleton a monument of that instability and vicissitude to which all things human are subject. Not a dwelling within sight, and the farm labourer, and curious traveller, are the only persons that ever visit the scene where once so many thousands were congregated." T.Lewin 1867
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#4
(02-11-2019, 07:54 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: Best thing I know was that stuff was carried in a blanket roll. As far as I know, we don't know of a 'typical 4th c. style bag'?

Yeah, I didn’t think there was anything reliable upon which to base a reconstruction. It just seems like a pain to have to unroll a blanket roll every time I need a snack or whatever.  There’s also the problem of what to do at an event where I’m not necessarily carrying full marching kit but might need to carry a few random items.  It seems that others here are using Comacchio replicas for 3-4th c. impressions - would you recommend that as an option?
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#5
(02-11-2019, 02:17 PM)Sebastianus Wrote:  It seems that others here are using Comacchio replicas for 3-4th c. impressions - would you recommend that as an option?


No problem with that! As Crispianus already remarked, plenty of bags probably in use.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
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#6
That's a great point re: why bags might not survive intact.  And yes, I am pretty familiar with the extant finds from a few centuries later - definitely don't want to do the Migration-period "maybe-tinder-pouch" belt bag thing.  I keep various items like dice, tweezers, sewing kit etc. in smaller drawstring leather or linen bags, so really just need something to keep all those in.  If I can't find something documentable, I'd like it to at least be unobtrusive - sounds like a simple, squarish bag in the 25-30cm range might work.  Thanks!
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#7
(02-11-2019, 03:57 PM)Sebastianus Wrote: That's a great point re: why bags might not survive intact.  And yes, I am pretty familiar with the extant finds from a few centuries later - definitely don't want to do the Migration-period "maybe-tinder-pouch" belt bag thing.  I keep various items like dice, tweezers, sewing kit etc. in smaller drawstring leather or linen bags, so really just need something to keep all those in.  If I can't find something documentable, I'd like it to at least be unobtrusive - sounds like a simple, squarish bag in the 25-30cm range might work.  Thanks!

The only other bag I can think of at the moment is this one from Barhill so of Antonine date mid-late 2nd century its very fragmentary but also very simple the method of "herringbone" lacing is pretty common, the form is a folded piece of thin leather approx 45x30cm (so 45x60 before its folded), a medium sized goatskin would supply all the material necesary, the offcuts would be used to make the lacing, calf could also be used.

   
Ivor

"And the four bare walls stand on the seashore. a wreck a skeleton a monument of that instability and vicissitude to which all things human are subject. Not a dwelling within sight, and the farm labourer, and curious traveller, are the only persons that ever visit the scene where once so many thousands were congregated." T.Lewin 1867
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#8
I also use the Commachio bag due to the lack of evidence from the 4th century for shoulder bags. Also, there is one type of belt pouch that has been identified that seems to appear in Germania in the late 4th century and spreads into the Roman empire by the mid-5th century, but it's not the same type as the later Sutton Hoo style ones. I have the paper on them but I need to dig it up, can't remember the title.
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#9
(02-12-2019, 01:13 PM)Crispianus Wrote: The only other bag I can think of at the moment is this one from Barhill so of Antonine date mid-late 2nd century its very fragmentary but also very simple the method of "herringbone" lacing is pretty common, the form is a folded piece of thin leather approx 45x30cm (so 45x60 before its folded), a medium sized goatskin would supply all the material necesary, the offcuts would be used to make the lacing, calf could also be used.

Thanks for the tip - I have a veg-tanned goatskin that is about the right size.  Looks like the proposed "handle" would have been to hang from a furca?  I'll try to track down the report this comes from, but maybe a braided shoulder strap would work.  I imagine for the seams, it's essentially worked like a crocheted chain through the lacing holes at the sides of the bag?
Sebastian 
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#10
Its From "Barhill A Roman Fort And its Finds" Robertson, Scott and Keppie BAR16 1973 pg90, the position of the "handle" appears to be influenced by Trajans Column, but there is no evidence for attachment, so.... it could have been something different.. perhaps even a shoulder bag...

Wink
Ivor

"And the four bare walls stand on the seashore. a wreck a skeleton a monument of that instability and vicissitude to which all things human are subject. Not a dwelling within sight, and the farm labourer, and curious traveller, are the only persons that ever visit the scene where once so many thousands were congregated." T.Lewin 1867
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#11
From Carlisle, Castle Street circa 100ad, said to be a leather pouch for Vindolanda wooden tablets so a kind of envelope(its just the right size) made from thin leather sticthed round the edge and then turned approx 135x125mm.

   

From the Microfische in Roman Waterlogged Remains at castle street, McCarthy CWAAS research series 5.
Ivor

"And the four bare walls stand on the seashore. a wreck a skeleton a monument of that instability and vicissitude to which all things human are subject. Not a dwelling within sight, and the farm labourer, and curious traveller, are the only persons that ever visit the scene where once so many thousands were congregated." T.Lewin 1867
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