Textiles through Society

The mechanism and organisation of production, distribution etc.

Hero Granger-Taylor

If we are asked about any period, “Was production domestic or industrialised?” or “Were textiles produced by men or by women?”, can we answer these questions using information inherent in the textiles themselves? If the textiles tell us about the looms and other equipment used to make them, does this information help us assess the compatibility of textile production with family life? What were the proportions of the textiles as made – long or short, broad or narrow, in sets or singly? – and what does this tell us about the organisation of their production? Can we learn about production from the different fibres employed - linen, wool, goat-hair, etc – and is it even possible that, with the increasing use of wool in the later Bronze and Iron Age, that textile production became less industrialised rather than more so?

These questions will be considered with reference to the papers offered this morning and in relation to recent research in general.

Textile industry and the Minoan Palaces: a view from the Messarà.

Pietro Militello

The importance of textile industry for the Minoan palaces has been recently reaffirmed on the ground both of indirect iconographic evidence (Blakolmer) and of more general considerations concerning also the well-known role of textile industry in Mycenaean Crete (Burke). On the other hand, the surviving evidence is scanty, due to the perishable nature of the material, and the quoted assumptions are still hypothetic.

In the Messarà area a kind of palatial involvement in weaving is confirmed by the wide diffusion of loom-weights and other similar items in palatial contexts, also in relation to other economic activities (such as stone and seal production, bronze working, and pottery production).

The extent and the nature of palatial control is however difficult to detect. In my paper I will attempt to discuss in particular the following aspects:
1) Tool storage in the MM II Palace of Phaistòs (South-West Quarter) or in the LM I Villa at Ayia Triada (the so called Servant Quarter) suggests that the central authority owned the instruments of production. At the same time it does not tell us if they were used inside the palace, or given to workers outside the palace, such as suggested by a few of the better known contexts.
2) Given for grant the existence of a production directly depending upon the Palace, if not woven in the Palace, does it exhaust all the centrally controlled textile industry, or was it only part of a more complex system involving also material woven in factories distributed all around the area?
3) Did the Palace directly control only some of the links of the textile chain, while others (like spinning) were only acquired as a finished product?

In the Messarà area some specific patterns can be detected, giving the possible answers. The amounts of wool registered in Linear A tablets from Festòs and Ayia Triada were not enormous, and the first steps of textile production (such as sheep breeding or linen cultivation) are completely lacking. This situation can be partly explained with an economic system based more upon incoming finished raw material through taxation than upon a thorough control of all the chains of production (as already proposed by Schoep). In the same direction can lead the absence of spindle whorls in MM I-LM IIIA strata, to be explained, perhaps, as a proof that spinning activity took place outside the palace. The problem remains, if and how a market orientated mass-production of clothes took place in the Minoan palaces, and what was the relation with the following well-known system of textile production in Linear B.

Under canvas

Susan Möller-Wiering

From Viking times onwards, seaborn trade increased rapidly on the North Sea and the Baltic. Similarly, the knowledge about these ships of trade also increased a lot during the last decades. However, little is known about their sails even though the amount of sail cloth needed must have been immense.

The aim of this paper is firstly to give a survey about which information can be drawn from different sources like pictures, documents, ethnographic parallels, archaeological material and experiments. Besides the abundance of details, the analysis of these sources leads to the description of different traditions of sail making. Secondly, a catalogue or check list will be presented which is based on the analysis just mentioned and is supposed to help archaeologists to distinguish fragments of sail cloth amongst archaeological textiles.

Textile Production in Protohistoric Italy: the “Missing” Craft

Margarita Gleba

In this paper, I examine certain aspects of textile production in protohistoric Italy (tenth through seventh century BCE). This period in the Apennine peninsula is the time of development from small villages of mostly egalitarian type, to large urban centers with social stratification and specialized production. Organization of production intensified significantly during these centuries, as did exchange throughout and beyond the Italic sphere. Unlike many other specialized crafts that appeared in Italy during this period, textile production was not a new craft. Instead, part of the production shifted from the making of subsistence products to the manufacture of non-essential, luxury and surplus goods. As such, textiles present a special case in the development of the production system of ancient Italy. Since textile manufacture was practiced on all levels of society and was the most labor-intensive of all occupations, it was an industry of great cultural and economic importance and has to be considered in order to make a balanced assessment of the ancient economy. However, discussions of textile production have been practically absent from all studies of technology and economy of settlements in ancient Italy. The reason for this significant gap is the extremely poor preservation of fabrics. Unlike the case of other crafts, such as pottery production or metallurgy, neither raw materials nor textile products survive in the archaeological record of Italy, apart from exceptional cases. However, some aspects of the economic role of the textile craft in Italic society can be reconstructed by means of a study of the implements used for textile manufacture, such as loom weights and spindle whorls. A study of the number, distribution, and morphology of these and other implements provides information about technology and scale of production, as well as the raw materials and the final products.

Since textile craft is conservative by nature, a large geographical area of study is more likely to show technological and chronological variation than a small one. The relative isolation of Italy from other cultural spheres of the Mediterranean makes it a good candidate for the study of developments in textile technology. This isolation also allows tracing the possible influences on the peninsula from other areas of the Mediterranean, as well as Continental Europe.
Although the most important questions in textile studies are how they were made and of what, technology cannot be understood apart from society. My goal is, thus, to set a specific class of artifact in their social context and to examine how textile technology relates to such important concepts as urbanization, craft specialization, gender, trade, and agricultural and cultural development in Italy during the protohistoric period. A consideration of the available evidence, will make possible the reconstruction of this “missing” craft in the context of the early Italic economy.

The Midas Touch:Textile production in Gordion

Brendan Burke

Concentrated within one part of the fortified citadel at Gordion, in central Turkey, are large workshop buildings containing evidence for a centralized Phrygian cloth industry of the late 9th century BC. Based on recent changes in our understanding of Phrygian chronology, this material from Gordion should not be associated with the historical King Midas of the late 8th century, yet it does provide archaeological evidence demonstrating that textiles were a vital source of power, prestige, and wealth, supporting the powerful Phrygian kingdom. The site of Gordion provides an almost ideal opportunity to study the organization of a well-developed textile industry and how this craft functioned in the political economy of first millennium Anatolia. This paper will discuss the organization of cloth production at Gordion, giving particular attention to the Terrace Building and Clay Cut workshops. I will also illustrate various types of Phrygian textiles, including wool and linen garments from the monumental Tumulus MM (the Midas Mound). These finds demonstrate that textile arts were a major feature of the Phrygian royal economy at Gordion and that it was an important source of wealth for the Phrygian elite during the Early Iron Age.

Clothing patterns as constructs of the human mind

Elizabeth Wincott Heckett

In the use of clothing certain patterns seem to persist over long periods. Some changes in shape may occur over the centuries. In a specific time period there are clear concepts of the 'correct' way in which a particular garment should be made. These factors are also seen in other artefacts but the insistence on patterns can be clearly seen in clothing. Indeed in modern times we are so insistent on patterns that advanced computer programmes make up very accurately graded models for commercial production. However the traditional European professional dressmaker even in the 1950s could copy perfectly a Paris couture dress from a photograph and her mental construct of that gown.

Origins of mental constructs
The concept of patterns or templates held in the mind that dictates the physical form of a particular artefact is an integral facet of human behaviour. People have evolved a process of mentally sifting and grading information into specific constructs so that artefacts are not made in a random way in a particular culture but conform to sets of rules in different times and cultures. This is, of course, the premise on which typology, the old archaeological method of dating, is based. It seems that the chaos theory does not reign in human productivity!
From very early times humans have had the ability to hold in their minds a preformed construct of how they require a particular artefact to be made and how it should look. Between 1.4 million years ago and 100,000 BP Early Humans made the ubiquitous stone hand-axe in many parts of the world. This implement is the earliest example of humans imposing a specific form onto an artefact in that the raw materials used were very diversely shaped stone nodules. These were worked so that symmetrical hand-axes of a specific recognizable form were routinely produced (Mithen 1998, 130-6).
Clearly this type of behaviour, working from a series of preconceived mental templates, is deeply rooted in human society. Equally it is evident that no organic remains survive from these early periods so, as textile people, we can do no more than note with interest how early in our prehistory this behaviour occurs. The inference that can be drawn from this information is that humans have no problem holding an abstract concept in their minds as to the 'right' or 'correct' way of making an object. Long before people made drawings, notations on sticks or, perhaps, communicated with each other the idea of a pattern to which an artefact should conform was part of the human psyche.

Patterns in cloth and clothing.
In relating this form of behaviour to the making of clothing some other concepts have to be discussed. These are concerned with the raw materials from which clothing is made, whether animal skins or woven and netted cloth. Seminal work in setting out the parameters of such studies was carried out by Margrethe Hald and Dorothy Burnham (Hald 1980, 313-392, Burnham 1973). There the hypothesis is that the forms of the skin and of the loompiece dictate the shape of the clothing. This is clearly true on one level of understanding, and examples might include a reindeer skin used in its entirety as a child's coat and hood (Evenki people, Siberia) and rectangular wool or linen pieces wrapped and/or sewn into pre-industrial European countrywomen's skirts, aprons and shawls. However it must also be noted that the skins of small mammals can be manipulated at will into many other shapes. Another important dimension to be considered is the shape and size of the human body, and the range of movements and activities undertaken by men, women and children.
Considerations other than utilitarian enter into the formation of the mental template; these include moral and social attitudes, and the vaguer concept of whether a garment is considered 'correct' or 'right' by society for a particular human situation.
To move from the abstract to the concrete, or the general to the particular, the following points may be considered. The technology of producing clothes does seem to have been pattern-based from the time that representations occur. Elizabeth Barber has discussed the history of the female string skirt that is first seen on Upper Paleolithic "Venus" figures of about 20,000 B.C., and these skirts certainly seem to be concept based (Barber 1991, 255-259). It is this same pattern that persists in Danish Bronze Age skirts.
In a modern setting it can be seen that the particular shape of some Ethiopian priestly vestments, now made in silk cloth, still are shaped like the big cat skins formerly worn with the long forepaws hanging down either side of the front body.
The specific 'rules' for making Viking Age caps in tenth century Dublin, York and Lincoln can be illustrated from examples made from both wool and silk (Wincott Heckett in press).
The case study of the bog body and its clothes from Clongownagh Bog, Baronstown West, Co.Kildare (2nd-4th century A.D.) can be used to illuminate earlier and later outer garments (Wincott Heckett 2001). A semi-circular leather cloak and an almost square woven wool cloth were found with the body. The first item can be linked to Roman secular dress and Christian sacred vestments. The antecedents and descendants of the semi-circular cloak can be explored. The same pattern provides the casula, paenula and byrrus of the Rome and the provinces and the chasuble of the European Christian church. Equally the Roman toga and the Christian cope comes from the same source.
The square/rectangular loompiece is used as cloak and blanket, tunic or skirt. The Irish Scottish tradition of this garment, whether of plaid or plain cloth has a well-documented history, and persists to this day. In 2002 we see quite frequently on the television the pastu of the Afghani used so widely as a warm covering for both day and night.

Finally the linguistics of the English and French words for patterns may usefully be considered. Pattern and patron are related to the Medieval Latin patronus or patron, hence something to be imitated because it is worthy of respect. A patron is defined as anyone who supports, protects or champions (Middle English, patroun, Old French patron. Patronus is from the Latin defender or advocate from pater (father). It is perhaps useful to consider the resonances associated with these meanings when reflecting on the role played in our lives by the preconceived constructs we carry so clearly in our minds.

Textiles from the First Century CE in Jerusalem

Orit Shamir

Although the grave at Hinom Valley in Jerusalem had been visited by robbers, there was a single closed loculus. On opening this grave a nondescript black mass of material was found and some assorted bone fragments. The mass itself appeared to be made up of fabric and human hair. On being sent to the University of Arizona, carbon 14 dating showed that the fibers dated to the first century CE, immediately suggested comparison to the Turin Shroud, an important relic of the Catholic Church.
This loculus was sealed and the bones had not been gathered for secondary burial as was the custom for Jewish burials at the beginning of the first millennium. In addition to being sealed, a crack above the loculus was probably responsible for the relative dryness of the site, since it funneled the water off from the material, and was probably a major determinant in preserving the site.
The research is multi-disciplinary, entailing cooperation between many scholars – archaeology and burial practices, forensic analysis of textiles and hair; medical science; analysis of soil and bone; results of DNA analysis of bone and textiles and anthropological material.

The deceased
The deceased was found to be male and has a mtDNA type that doesn’t match any other of the four individual within the tomb. He was suffering from leprosy and tuberculosis. Leprosy, on its own, doesn’t kill, but it does cause immuno-suppression, which allows opportunistic organisms, of which tuberculosis is a prime example, to kill the individual.
Leprosy, and the fear and revulsion this created, seems to provide an explanation for the sealing and isolation of the loculus.

The hair
The hair was brown in color and appeared very clean and may have been washed in close proximity of death. No insects, head lice, or lice cases were observed. There were a few cuts on the distal ends of the hair shaft, which may indicate that the hair was cut shortly before death.

The Textiles
The textiles were spread along 1.6 m of the tomb. Some parts of the deceased were covered in a number of textile layers. One delicate layer of textile adhered to the hair and seems to surround it. It is the largest piece, measuring 16 x 16 cm.
All the textiles are made of wool in plain-weave technique. The warp is Z-spun medium. The weft is almost not spun (I-spun) thicker than the warp. There are 19 threads per cm in the warp and 16 in the weft, with remains of closing cord.
Microscopic examination exhibited no birefringence in polarized light, indicating that their organic material had decomposed.

The lecture will discuss the use of the textiles, The importance of the textiles and their origin.

Flax and Linen Textiles in the Mycenaean palatial economy

Francoise Rougemont

Flax is one of the oldest domesticated species in the Near Eastern, since evidence from the end of the 8th millenium BC has been found both for seeds as well as for linen textiles, respectively in Palestine (Ramad) and near the Dead Sea, in the cave of Nahal Hemar). Flax was cultivated in Messenia, Greece, and probably also in Crete (though the mentions are scarce) during the Late Bronze Age, and we know from the Pylos and Knossos tablets that its fibers were collected, and used to make linen textiles. It is designated either by the word ri-no, /linon/ , or by the syllabogram SA used as an ideogram (and probably an acrophonic abreviation of a prehellenic word for linen, unfortunately unknown ; the hypothesis of RI as another acrophonic system to indicate flax has been proposed by L. R. Palmer, especially since it is well attested in the taxation documents from Pylos, but it has been criticized). We also know some women or groups of women qualified as ri-ne-ja, specialized in the fabrication of linen textiles, again at Pylos. From the LB texts we know almost nothing about the transformation of the fibers into thread, but we have some mentions of linen textiles.

My aim in this paper will be to bring together the epigraphical data and to compare them with other possible sources of information.

Late Roman and Byzantine Tunics in the Louvre Museum

Roberta Cortopassi

I wish to present here the initial results from a study which started c. one and a half years ago based on around 90 pieces chosen from the collections of “Coptic textiles” belonging to the Department of Egyptian Antiquities. Someof the garments chosen for this study are whole or almost whole, but large fragments of particular interest were also selected.

The analysis of each item comprised three different areas:
* first, the fibres and the threads
* then the fabric under construction: orientation of the warp, construction in one or three pieces, selvedges, the method for in weaving tapestry motifs, neck opening, and presence of selfbands or twinnings.
* finally, the treatment of the tunic after the weaving: finishing borders, sewing, applying decoration such as woven apart tapestry bands which are also analysed.

At the end of this first phase, the pieces have been put into various categories based on their principle characteristics (fibres and orientation of the warp, construction, the presence of inwoven tapestry), thus obtaining small groups.

Identifying textile workshops is unlikely if one considers that, with the exception of the tunics found at Antinoë, the provenance of the majority of pieces is unknown. On the other hand, these characteristics might allow a better understanding of the different weaving traditions.

An iconographic study of the tapestries has not been one of the goals of the study, but the techniques employed certainly affect the 'style' of these images. So iconographic and technical analyses can match.

Finally, 14 C analyses gave us information about chronological marks.

Picturae in textili on the shoulder busts in hellenistic Sicily.

Antonelle Pautasso

The series of painted fictile busts of Hellenistic Age found in South Sicily are closely connected with the cult of Demeter and Kore. The figures wear mostly a red-purple chiton, sometimes the neckline is hemmed by decorated bands and, over the breast, a rectangular pink painted panel has some figured scenes. This rectangular panel involves many problems:
1) what does this rectangular panel represent? Probably a piece of embroidered cloth applied over the chiton.
2) Was this decorated “pectoral” a characteristic part of the dress of the cult statue?
3) Is possible to better understand the figurative scenes, now lost, with the infrared and ultraviolet photography? We are working in this direction.
4) Finally, how does a possible production of embroidered and probably precious clothes fit in the craftsmanship of Hellenistic Sicily (Cicero writes about the picturae in texitli, in Verr. II, 4,1,1)?

Christian influences and symbols of power in textiles from the Viking Age

Anne Hedeager Krag

Archaeological textile evidence from Viking graves combined with tapestries and Gotlandic picture stones tell us that ranked women of Viking Age Scandinavia wore a symbolically significant costume. This costume can be linked to the Christian illuminated manuscripts and Latin written sources of this period. Two women graves from Hvilehøj and Hørning, Denmark, at the end of the tenth century, seems to have been dressed in a garment that followed a European model. The precious imported gold- and silver threads, which have been found in the graves, were probably used in locally produced braids, while the small amount of silk revealed that silk had been cut into strips and then appliquéd to presumably wollen cloth. Danish women prabably economized with the precious cloth, using small pieces of silk to symbolize their status.

The men also wore a ranked costume in the Viking Age. From Denmark two graves shows contacts with Europe: Mammen and Ladby. In Mammen there are symbols of power in armrings made of silk, and in Ladby there are Byzantine influences in some passementerie made of gold- and silverthreads, which often had models to the south-east areas in and around Russia.

Often we find Byzantine influence in the Viking Age textiles.The Mediterranean silk trade undoubtedly played a major role in the transmission of Byzantine influence to the west and north Europe. The Book of Prefect suggested it was usual for foreign merchants to travel to Constantinople to buy silks. The marriage of Otto II and of the Byzantine princess Theophanou in 972 played and important part in Byzantine influence in Western Europe at this date.

Medieval archaeological textiles in Turko, SW Finland

Heini Kirjavainen

The textiles from the 14th snd 15th centuries, in the town of Turku, will be discussed here. They were archaeologically excavated in 1998. Textiles found had been woven in 2/2twill-, 2/1twill- and tabbyweave. Some of them had been felted and sheared also. It was supposed that amongst the textile fragments were foreign and professionally made fabrics but local and domestic ones were found too. The main focus is between on the quality study of textiles and the fibre analysis. The textile types like cloth (kläde), coarse woollen cloth (vadmal), twill and plain woollens corresponded with the fibre analysis and there were found local professionally woven fabrics too.

'She worked in wool': Roman wool-work and female virtue

Lena Larsson Lovén

Wool was the most important textile material for the Romans. As in many other cultures and periods there was a close connection between women’s work and textile work. The stages in textile production traditionally ascribed to Roman women were, above all, spinning and weaving. By tradition, these tasks were also to be performed in the domestic sphere, as female work in general was supposed to be.
A women working with textiles, and especially with wool, was a long-lived ideal in Roman society and is reflected in literary as well as in both epigraphic and iconographic sources. This presentation deals with the issue of textile work/wool-work as a symbol of female virtue.

Seeing Through Aegean LBA Clothes: The Language of Dress

Ariane Marcar

As we know, if it were not for the LBA pictorial representations of dress from Crete, the Cyclades and mainland Greece, we would not know much about the range of garment types that Aegean peoples produced and wore. Iconographic studies have demonstrated that the garments are essentially those of the elite. Their often rich and colourful patterning combined with the absence of depictions of artisans and labourers appear to confirm this, as does the fact that most of the figurative frescoes are primarily issued from palatial contexts. Combined with the textile evidence provided by the Linear B tablets, which consist of fragmentary palatial accounts, we know that Aegean society was hierarchical and bureaucratic in nature, and that dress played an active role in marking rank. The prevalence of festive and cultic scenes, in which women often dominate, has also led to the suggestion that many of the garments represent ceremonial rather than daily wear. The palatial accounts do indeed confirm that textiles and garments were destined for cultic and festive occasions. The rich materials and the social organization needed to produce these elaborately decorated garments are a further indication that we are dealing with elite wear. Unfortunately, although we recognize that the costumes are socially meaningful, used principally to signal status and gender, with hairstyles perhaps marking age, little else is known about them. For instance, the salient question of whether dress was used to mark regional identity in the Aegean remains to be answered. This is partly due to the fact that the garments and the dress motifs have never been categorised and analysed as a group, until recently. Based on the findings of my comprehensive study of Aegean dress, the aim of the present paper is to stress that although these costumes and hairstyles are effectively a window through which we can examine Aegean social identity, gender construction, and the notion of age-groups, in our search to identify the individuals depicted in Aegean art it is also important to look at what social attitudes, beliefs and values are being expressed through these clothes.
In my opinion one of the first steps towards decoding Aegean dress, and so determining whether women are being regularly depicted in ceremonial wear, must begin with us asking why we have such a longstanding, restricted and relatively uniform garment range, particularly evident in womenswear, throughout the LBA. If we are to decode these costumes as accurately as possible, we must in addition to taking the garment types and their context into consideration, look at the dress motifs and associated accessories. Having briefly examined certain aspects of this distinctive dress style, I will examine the range of dress motifs with the aim of showing that the evidence points toward these being socially meaningful, and not just decorative.