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Q: to digsalot-ga- Science Fair ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: to digsalot-ga- Science Fair
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: ciao-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 28 Sep 2003 16:26 PDT
Expires: 28 Oct 2003 15:26 PST
Question ID: 261037
Digsalot, I need to identify the problem to be investigated for my
science fair project.  I really want to use the anthropology of dress.
 Fashions of late antiquity in the city of Byzantium 5th-6th
centuries.  I need your guidence for the declarative sentence
identifying the problem, problem statement, description of my
experimental variables.  Help!Guidence please!

Request for Question Clarification by digsalot-ga on 28 Sep 2003 16:57 PDT
Hello there

I found your question and will put together a history of the time,
what fashion may have to say about that history, etc, etc.  You have
asked for the standard opening for a science project which is good. 
The declaration of goal and goal statement (problem) is half the
presentation and needless to say are seldom one sentence.  (Unless of
course, the rules of whichever science fair system you are
participating in require it to be limited to one sentence.)  In that
case there is no problem either.  Not all science fair circuits are
the same.  Westinghouse wanted one thing, Signet Key another, the
State of Ohio Science fairs yet a third.  I simply designed a
'modular' opening for my project which could be traded off for which
ever circuit I was participating in at the time.

Since you are in the 8th grade, including this year, you should have
five science fair seasons to be active in.  By the time you reach your
senior year, you may be competing for scholarships and awards in
several circuits at once.

While I spend a couple of days putting things together, could you let
me know if the single sentence opening is required or if I should
design a more involved presentation for your problem identity and

One other question, does the fair you are participating in require
more of a verbal presentation or does the project need to speak for
itself (though you should be prepared for either)?  The verbal part of
the presentation (even if the requirement is minimal) is the most
important of the two.  It allows you to guide the judges into areas
you want them to know about, rather than having them just rummage
through things from a static display and letting them draw their own


Request for Question Clarification by digsalot-ga on 28 Sep 2003 18:23 PDT
Well, here we go.

I am going to give you some things in bits and pieces here in the
question clarification section and then at the end put them together
for the answer.  The reason being is that I might need additional
information from you and it is much better to do it this way than to
delve into clarifications after the answer has been given.  If I jump
on an answer thinking I know exactly what you want without clearing
things up with you first, the answer may have you on first base while
I'm still in the dugout - - - - - or even on my way to the stadium.

Let's start off with the fact that your project is going to make
waves.  Byzantine studies are second only to Celtic studies in the
amount of controversy they stir up.  In fact most any science project
dealing with cultural anthropology and history is bound to make waves.

That is to your benefit.  The first thing you have demonstrated is
your bravery, by jumping with both feet, into a subject which many
'experts' have disagreements about.  Where science projects in
chemistry, biology or physics pass before the judges eyes in so much
profusion over the years they become a blur, your project will leave a
mark by its uniqueness.  Where science projects in chemistry, biology
or physics generally repeat what is already known and experienced by
the judges, yours may actually teach them something new.

You will also find that any science project dealing with the cultural
anthropology of the past requires a knowledge of history as well as a
knowledge of science.  One cannot stand without the other.  You will
become a Byzantine expert.

On the "bravery" front, here is some of what you will be dealing with.

Most people, including your future judges, probably think of Byzantium
as the story of a thousand year period of decline ending with its
conquest by the Ottoman Turks on Tuesday, May 29, 1453.  It is a
thought process established in western minds by the English historian
Edward Gibbon in his monumental work on the decline and fall of the
Roman Empire.  When it comes to Byzantium, Gibbon's work was also a
monumental disaster.

Gibbon  tried to establish that Byzantine studies had their origins in
classical studies.  The classic eras of ancient Roman studies,
concentrating on on the late Republic and Early Imperial Period have
long appealed to the western mind because they were times of rapid
change.  In contrast, Byzantine culture changed slowly and classical
secularism so important to the Renaissance and later had no place in
Byzantine thinking.  As a result of Gibbon's  promoting this concept,
we often consider Byzantine culture as no more than a time of
barbarism and superstition.

This common attitude is part of what your project will be challenging.
 It takes some courage to charge ahead against the popular flow.

The reality is that Byzantine civilization was a major world culture. 
As I said, as the medieval continuation of the Roman Empire it is
usually ignored by classicists.  But as the centrally located culture
and the most stable state of the Medieval Period, the development of
western European, Slavic and Islamic cultures would be
incomprehensible without taking it into account.

Byzantine studies are quite complicated and they are full of conflict.
 That is your key to opening the door with your project.  Byzantine
studies are still open to new questions and methods where many other
anthropological sciences and histories have already nearly fossilized
into set ways of thinking.

Just about anything you do as a science project in this arena has a
chance of breaking new ground.  I hope you will follow up with
expanded projects on the same subject for your entire career as a
science project competitor.  Changing projects from year to year
doesn't really get you noticed.  But after a couple of years in a
specialized and 'different' subject, judges and other participants
begin to wonder whether you are going to show up again with something
even bigger and better.

In fact, I hope someday you will become a Byzantinologist. (with a
strong interest in style)

You could find nothing better, or more open and original, than
Byzantine cultural anthropology, beginning with the anthropology of
Byzantine fashion of the 5th and 6th centuries.

Subject: Re: to digsalot-ga- Science Fair
Answered By: digsalot-ga on 29 Sep 2003 06:26 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Since your question is fairly clear, I went ahead and answered it

Your declarative statement can be either a straight statement or it
can even be in the form of a question.  In your case, a statement in
the form of a question may very well be best.  The mere fact you are
doing a "science" project dealing with "clothing style" will put a
question into the judges mind as it is.  By making your opening/title
in the form of a question, you will already be eliminating some shreds
of doubt from their mind as to whether your project is really
"science" or not.  And that will be the question that is more than
likely formost for them.

It is an old sales trick, eliminate the objection before it comes up.

I must also presume these statements are to be used as part of your
notebook presentation.

An example could be along the lines of:

"What does the scientific examination of clothing style and fabrics of
the 5th and 6th century in the city of Byzantium tell us about the
condition of the city and the state of the empire?"

Your statement of the problem is for the purpose of telling what your
project will solve, something along the lines of:

"The evolution of clothing style over a limited period of time and
within a limited region can tell us much about how life was lived at
the time.  Such a study can demonstrate such things as variables of
climate by means of changes in fiber usage, changes in economic and
trade status by means of 'luxury' and imported fibers and fabrics,
advances in chemistry as demonstrated in the art of fabric dying and
cleaning, or even local agricultural practices by means of chemical
analyses and the study of pollens and other contaminants trapped in
the fibers."

Now that seems like a lot.  However, you don't have to worry about all
of it.  Once your statement of the problem has been made, which
demonstrates the breadth of your knowledge, you only have to
concentrate on one aspect of it in order to show the importance of
such a study.  When you demonstrate the importance of just one aspect
of things, it only falls into place that those things which you do not
cover are also important.  One of them could be your project next

Just as a little note for you, since you like style, you will find
that the Byzantine upper classes wore the richest clothing in history.
 It has never been surpassed for grandure either before or since.  The
use of color was magnificent. - - - That is your first clue to a
possible beginning science project.  What does the use of color in
Byzantine fabrics tell us about the knowledge of chemistry, biology
and nature during the 5th and 6th centuries in Byzantium.  Your
experiments and experimental variables would all be related to the
practice of fabric dying in the same manner they did.

If your parents are reading this over your shoulder, they are probably
gathering bricks to throw at me as they envision a house full of
stinking dye pots and splashes of bright colors everywhere they
shouldn't be, such as on the cat.  But I'm sure you can keep that
under control.

You may also mention the use of dying along with the introduction of
new fabrics and fibers during this time frame.  Sericulture (silk
making) came to Byzantium in the 5th century, right in the first
century of your time period.  Dyes used for silk were very rare and
costly, so as an 'aside' you can mention that the fact they were
fairly widely used is evidence that the city was in a prosperous phase
at the time.  Such luxury items are among the first things to go when
there was an economic downturn in pre-industrial societies.

I will give you a little bit of a start with dye materials and their
sources.  Many will be quite exotic but there are enough common ones
you can find to work with AND which are safe to handle.  It is also
somewhat of a shame animals can no longer be used in science projects
since the Byzantines had developed the art of dying wool while the
sheep was still wearing it.  Hamsters would do nicely for such a
science project experiment but I guess the use of live animals has
been banned since my day.

All dyes used then were "naturally sourced," made from plants, animals
and minerals.  The dyer's palette was mainly purples, reds, blues and
yellows.  Other colors were made by over-dying or blending fibers of
two or more colors to get different shades.

Purple, the most sought-after, and precious, color came mainly from
three species of snails.  These dyes were reserved for the Emperor and
high officials because of their expense, rarity and complexity.  It
could take two weeks to prepare a simple dye bath of royal purple. 
Cheaper purples were made with the crimson-purple lichen Orsille, or
by blending red and blue dyes together such as kermes with indigo.

A luxury red came from the insect kermes (Kermococcus vermilio), and
later from lac-dye (coccus lacca), another insect.  A cheaper and more
common red came from madder (Rubia tinctoria)  or from alkanet
(Anclusa tinctoria) which was used mostly in combination with other

Blues came from woad (Satis tinctoria) and indigo.  Yellow could come
from saffron (the pollen of the crocus flower) or from unripe
pomegranate fruit.  Weld (which was an imported product from Southern
Europe was the best of the yellows) and dyer's broom (Genista
tinctoria) was used for overdying woad to produce green.  Safflower
could produce either red or yellow depending of the mordant (a word
you need to learn if this is the direction your project will take),
but it was not a lasting color.  Other greens could come from irises
or buckthorn sap but the best were made by the overdying of dyer's
broom over woad.

Black was next to impossible.  It was mostly a purple black made by
repeatedly dying with madder and indigo.  Some mineral dyes of iron
were also used, but they faded fast and were very harsh on the fabric.

If you used the above as an example, you would have a project
combining cultural anthropology, chemistry and biology all rolled into
one.  Nobody could say it was not a "science" project.

Your experiment could include:

1 - Obtain 4 pieces each of the following fabrics which were used in
Byzantium. - virgin wool fabric, smooth not rough, unbleached and
never dyed - - raw silk, unbleached and never dyed - - linen,
unbleached and never dyed.

If the fabrics are too "off color" you may bleach them in ammonia
which was the same chemical used then.

2 - You will be using three of each in dying experiments.  You will
need three as your experiments should be able to be duplicated at
least three times, getting the same results each time.  The fourth
piece of fabric will be your 'control.'

The dyes would be the constants in your experiment.

The fabrics would be the variables.

Keep the conditions exactly the same for each repetition of the
experiment.  In other words, don't do one dye job on the back porch
and the next one in the basement.  Even changes in light can effect
the way a dye works.

Most of these dyes, or the raw materials from which they are made, can
be obtained from sources which supply school laboratories.  If you
ask, your school may even help you obtain them.  Another way to go
would be to contact the anthropology department of a convenient
university, or the curator of an anthropology/archaeology museum and
explain to them what you are doing.  Most museums are more than
willing to assist a student who wants to know more about their
specialties.  You may even wind up with a curator or museum official
who will lead you through the whole process.  Anthropologists are
eager to get students started on the path.

Keep a detailed log of each experiment.  These logs or diaries will be
very important to the judges.

You may demonstrate how a particular dye may work wonders on one
fabric but do next to nothing for another.   For example, a common red
dye may do well with wool and linen but not work with silk.  Yet, the
Byzantines had red silk.  What does that tell us about Byzantine
trade?  By identifying what the red dye is that works on silk, you can
also identify where it came from.  Was it from someplace close by
within the Empire or was it from the other side of the world?  If it
was from the other side of the world, how commonly was it used.  A
good rule of thumb would be the more common its use, the greater the
amount of trade taking place with that foreign location.

For this type of additional knowledge, you don't need to have another
dye test.  Here your research will be in libraries, on the web, etc. 
All you need do is locate where the dye came from and you have
established a fact about Byzantine trade.  You have already
demonstrated the common dyes found locally don't work.

There may be other variables in the trade story, such as middlemen
etc, which can be addressed in later science projects.  But for now,
this is an 8th grade project and some generalities are to be expected.

Now you can see what I mean.  Something as seemingly unimportant as
the color of a piece of cloth can tell us many things.

Whether you use this suggestion or not, it will give you an outline of
how to determine what your constants and variables will or should be. 
You will find that simplicity is the key with most science project
experiments while the presentation itself can be as complex as a pile
of overcooked spaghetti.

Remember the theater aspect of things.

Also, one last thing.  Even though the natural dyes are safe, they are
still chemicals as far as a science fair is concerned.  You may need
to check whether you can use them as an actual part of your display. 
Some jurisdictions don't permit the display of chemicals or even
plants, at least for the lower grades.  By the time you reach your
junior and senior year in highschool, most of those restrictions are
lifted unless something is truly dangerous.  You should check on
display rules whichever way your project takes you.

If you have any clarification questions, please ask.


Clarification of Answer by digsalot-ga on 29 Sep 2003 07:08 PDT
Just an additional note which may help make things simpler.

Since you are demonstrating the "principle" of how the color of cloth
and the way dye affects different types of cloth and its relationship
to trade, chemistry and biology in the Byzantine world, you can
demonstrate it without using the original dye sources.

You can use commercial dyes you purchase at the market, or even food

The object is to have enough variables in the samples of cloth to
demonstrate that dyes do not affect every fabric the same.  This alone
can show why the Byzantines needed to find differing solutions for
differing dye needs.

In other words, you need to know what the ancient dyes were and how
they were used and include this information in your project.  You can
use current materials to demonstrate just "how" we make these

Thought I had better get this in here before you start squashing bugs
to get red juice out of them.


Request for Answer Clarification by ciao-ga on 29 Sep 2003 07:16 PDT
Dear Digsalot,
Great information to help me get statred.  In answer to your questions
the problem ststement needs to be limited to two or three statements. 
The project needs to basically speaks for itself however, I do have to
write a hypothesis, research apaer, procedures, abstract, and
conclusion.  Any help or direction would be greatly appreciated.

Clarification of Answer by digsalot-ga on 29 Sep 2003 08:00 PDT
Hi again

In that case, the two sample statements above would fit nicely.

The declarative sentence or statement:

"What does the scientific examination of clothing style and fabrics of
the 5th and 6th century in the city of Byzantium tell us about the
condition of the city and the state of the empire?"
And the problem statement:

"The evolution of clothing style over a limited period of time and
within a limited region can tell us much about how life was lived at
the time.  Such a study can demonstrate such things as variables of
climate by means of changes in fiber usage, changes in economic and
trade status by means of 'luxury' and imported fibers and fabrics,
advances in chemistry as demonstrated in the art of fabric dying and
cleaning, or even local agricultural practices by means of chemical
analyses and the study of pollens and other contaminants trapped in
the fibers."

Both of these cover any direction your project wants to take.  You may
want to re-word them for originality or to eliminate the rather clumsy
way I put them together.

If you keep exacting notes, including your online and library
research, the people you speak with, an outline of what you want to
do, etc, you will find that your summaries and abstracts will almost
write themselves when the time comes.

As for your hypothesis, a modification of the problem statement is
usually sufficient.  In this case the hypothesis would be "The use of
the anthropology of clothing and style, especially the use of color in
style, as a determination of economic status and trade in 5th - 6th
century Byzantium"

I know you will re-word that one as it has an awkward sound as it
stands.  But you can get the idea.

The reason I'm pushing you to be a Byzantinologist, is that nice
people become Byzantinologists.  When you tell people what you do,
they will say, "wow, that sounds interesting."

If you become an Egyptologist as I am, then people simply whisper to
each other and say "look out for than one, he must have a screw loose.
 Every night he goes home to his mummy."

ciao-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $20.00
Great detail and direction!  Thanks!

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