Dr Theresa Emmerich Kamper

Woman wearing hides she has tanned herself

Dr Theresa Emmerich Kamper is an avid practitioner of traditional living skills and primitive technology of all kinds, and has followed this interest into the academic field of experimental archaeology, in which she holds a Master’s degree from the University of Exeter. She also holds a doctorate (PhD) from the same institution, on the microscopic analysis of prehistoric tanning technologies. She is currently an honorary research fellow with the University of Exeter and teaches practical courses across Europe, North America and the Near East on various tannage technologies as well as continuing to engage in research projects with a broad array of museum and academic institutions.

Theresa has been tanning skins using traditional technologies for over twenty-five years. Coming originally from the state of Wyoming in the United States, she was lucky enough to grow up as part of a family of outdoor enthusiasts. This enthusiasm extended to hunting, fishing and trapping in the vast tracks of wilderness surrounding her home town. Learning to tan was a natural offshoot of the attempt to use as much of the animal as possible and had the added bonus of producing a beautiful end product. Through much trial and error and with the support of very tolerant parents, she learned to brain tan between the age of 12 and 13. Later interaction with other traditional tanners and excellent written information vastly improved the efficiency and quality of her tanning process and end product.

Theresa has taught various tannage types such as fat tan, vegetable tan, alum taw and rawhide production to groups ranging from bushcraft practitioners to university students for the past eight years, drawing on her extensive personal experience to provide a broad understanding of the tanning process. She includes in her instruction a diverse range of information, from skin morphology to helpful hints in dealing with the numerous and frustrating problems which are often encountered when first learning to tan (and often long after!).

Theresa is the author of Determining Prehistoric Skin Processing Technologies: the macro and microscopic characteristics of experimental samples, available from Sidestone Press.

In addition to her specialisation in tanning technologies, Theresa has also taught and demonstrated a wide range of traditional living skills including; the construction and use of traditional weapons, the use of plant and animal fibres, patterning and clothing construction, basketry, clay processing, pottery manufacture and firing, shelter construction and use, friction fire lighting and basic flint knapping and the construction and use of stone tools.

You can find out more about Theresa and her work at theresaemmerich.com

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