Tradition and Innovation in Textile Technology in Bronze Age Europe and the Mediterranean

Posted on March 3, 2017


Enjoy videos from a EAA session, that we filmed, over this weekend:

Saturday, 3 September 2016, 09:00-16:00
Faculty of Philosophy, Room 207
Author – Ulanowska, Agata, Polish Academy of Sciences, Łódź, Poland (Presenting author)
Co-author(s) – Siennicka, Małgorzata, The Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research, SAXO Inst, Copenhagen, Denmark
Keywords: Bronze Age Europe, Bronze Age Mediterranean, textile production

The textile craft, with its complex technology and socio-cultural significance, has been a key craft in the societies of Bronze Age Europe and the Mediterranean. Although complex and socially and economically important, textile technology has been often considered rather traditional and noninnovative throughout many centuries of the Bronze Age.
The present session aims to examine textile technology in search of its traditional and innovative elements, by investigating the evidence of archaeological textiles, textile tools and their changes over time, the botanical and faunal environment, textual sources and the imagery of textiles and cloths. The session will focus on the Bronze Age in Europe and the Mediterranean, although papers on transitional periods from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age, and from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age are also welcome.
We particularly welcome all papers discussing the various aspects of traditions and innovations traced in textile technology, especially those regarding raw materials and their processing, textile techniques, textile tools and equipment, the organisation of textile production and the dynamics of its specialisations, cross-cultural and cross-craft interactions, and changes in the textile craft in relation to socio-cultural transformations of the past societies.

Bronze Age wool economy: production, trade, environment, husbandry and society

Author – Dr. Sabatini, Serena, Gothenburg University, Göteborg, Sweden (Presenting author)
Co-author(s) – Bergerbrant, Sophie, Gothenburg University, Göteborg, Sweden
Co-author(s) – Frei, Karin M., National Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark
Keywords: sheep-husbandry, society and economy, wool production

This paper aims at discussion the significance of wool production in the European Bronze Age. The focus is on discussing which archaeological and archaeozoological material best is used in order to identified, and interpreted the impact wool production had on the society, and the environment. The basis for this paper will be well-documented material from Hungary (Benta Valley) and northern Italy, areas that have clear indications of extensive wool textile production.
The available contemporary written sources from the Mediterranean and Near East bear witness to the fact that sheep husbandry was a vital component in wool based economies. In Europe only archaeological material can guide us to understand the importance of sheep-husbandry and woollen textiles. Strontium isotope analyses that has been conducted on the wellpreserved textiles from Scandinavia shows that wool in the same textile came from various geological areas, both probable local and none local. This shows that a complex system of production and trade must have existed in Europe during the Bronze Age. This paper aim discussing the cultural, economic and social role of wool production in the above named regions.

Manufacturing Traditions in Textile Archaeology

Author – Dr. Banck-Burgess, Johanna, Landesamt für Denkmalpflege, Esslingen, Germany (Presenting author)
Keywords: Manufacturing Traditions, pile-dwellings, Textile Archaeology

Research results of the past 20 years have made it possible to recognise traditional manufacturing techniques of textile production from the Neolithic to the Iron Age, representative of the significance of textile products in prehistoric Central Europe. This significance displays a degree of appreciation which goes beyond the ideas we would associate with textiles from a modern standpoint. Within the scope of a large exhibition on 4000 years of pile-dwellings, on display in Baden-Württemberg from 16.04 to 9.10.2016 (, a key textile find from Pfäffikon-Irgenhausen (CH) has been analysed and reconstructed afresh. The patterned textile fragment has been radiocarbon-dated to the Early Bronze Age. It occupies a key position in the textile production between the Neolithic and the Early Iron Age. While correctly identified as brocade in research of the 1930s, more recent publications arrived at erroneous identifications of the technique employed in the manufacture of this piece of fabric. New analyses and a reconstruction of the piece of fabric attest to a combination of weaving techniques which demonstrate the immense significance of textile manufacturing traditions in prehistoric textiles; manufacturing traditions, which did not reduce the textile to a mere carrier of decoration, but which instead recognised appearance and manufacturing technique as a unity.

Textile impressions on ceramics from the late Neolithic to the early Iron Age in Central Europe

Author – Schaefer, Stefanie, University Kiel, Kiel, Germany (Presenting author)
Keywords: Bronze Age, Central Europe, Textile ceramic

Due to their bad preservation conditions, textiles represent an unusual find in archaeo logical find contexts. Impressions of textiles on ceramic appear, however, more often and provide information about textile technology and raw materials. The so-called textile ceramics occur worldwide in all time steps. The objective of this paper is to analyse this phenomenon from the late Neolithic to the early Iron Age in Central Europe. The function (function al ity versus ornamental art) as well as the analysis of used raw materials and techniques are up for debate. Silicone impressions, experimental archeology and group ing procedure serve the investigation. In a case study the production technology, the materials and the usage will be analyses in the social context of the Bronze Age settlement Bruszczewo in Poland. This central settlement was integrated into a commercial network and had many different raw materials. The socio-cultural meaning of textiles was probably far more important than we can imagine today, living in a world of textiles mass consumption. Grave findings of web weights illustrate this. This contribution’s intention is also to examine the value of textiles in general.

Innovative or traditional? Diachronic approach to weaving technology in Bronze Age Greece

Author – Dr. Ulanowska, Agata, Centre for Research on Ancient Technologies, IAiE PAN, Łódź, Poland (Presenting author)
Keywords: Bronze Age Greece, textile production, weaving technology

Weaving in Bronze Age Greece has been acknowledged as highly advanced technology resulting in greatly valued products of supreme quality and high importance to local economies and external trade. Because of the notably time-consuming character of the textile craft and its overall complexity, it is assumed that even slight changes in textile technology (including weaving) must have had a direct impact not only on the properties and presumably the aesthetic qualities of textiles, but also (by affecting the amount of the necessary workload) on economics and social life of past societies.
Traditional and innovative elements in the weaving craft throughout the Bronze Age are not easy to understand based on the archaeological evidence. They may be grasped in presumably progressive changes in the forms of textile tools (namely loom weights) and their distribution which may have reflected the transfer of technical novelties, skills and techniques, and they can be observed in the iconography of fabrics and cloths.
In this paper, diachronic changes and the long-lasting traditionalism of certain types of loom weights are considered and analysed in search of gradual development and ground-breaking novelties of the Aegean Bronze Age weaving technology.

Tradition and innovation of textile manufacture in Early Bronze Age Greece

Author – Dr. Siennicka, Malgorzata, University of Copenhagen, København S., Denmark (Presenting author)
Keywords: Aegean, Bronze Age, textile production

The manufacture of textiles and garments had a long tradition in the Aegean already prior to the beginnings of the Early Bronze Age. Numerous textile tools, especially spindle whorls and loom weights, are preserved from the Neolithic sites which demonstrate that spinning with spindle whorls and weaving on the warp-weighted loom were commonly practiced. Plant fibres, particularly linen, seem to have been the main material for the production of cloth and textiles during this period. At some point, most probably during the Early Bronze Age, animal fibres (sheep wool) began to be used in the Aegean on a wider scale. Since hardly any Neolithic and Early Bronze textiles are preserved from the Aegean, we can study textile tools made of stone, bone and clay in order to comprehend technological traditions and innovations in textile production.
Diachronic changes in the use of spindle whorls and loom weights (their weights, dimensions and shapes) may shed some light on alternations in not only fibre use, but also in various spinning and weaving techniques. In this paper I would like to focus on chosen aspects of textile implements from Early Bronze Age Peloponnese.


Beyond textiles: alternative uses of twisted fibers. Evidence from Akrotiri, Thera

Author – Dr. Vakirtzi, Sophia, University Of Crete, Athens, Greece (Presenting author)
Co-author(s) – Dr. Georma, Fragoula, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, Ephorate of Antiquities of Corfu, Corfu, Greece
Co-author(s) – Dr. Karnava, Artemis, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, Inscriptiones Graecae, Berlin, Germany
Keywords: Aegean, Bronze Age, Fiber crafts

Fiber crafts are among the oldest technological practices of mankind. Although commonly associated with textile manufacture, twisted fibers in the form of threads have always had a wider range of use in everyday life. Strings and ropes constitute a humble but essential category of fiber products deriving from the same technology and organic matter as threads. Due to their organic nature, however, they rarely survive in the archaeological record, unless special environmental conditions occur. This paper discusses the alternative uses of twisted fibers in the Bronze Age Aegean, with particular reference to the settlement of Akrotiri in Thera. The primary focus of the paper lies on impressions of threads, strings and ropes preserved on objects made of clay and on wall paintings. We will attempt an examination of the technical properties of these products on the basis of their impressions and we will consider their use for a variety of purposes. Our observations compare to another set of data, namely the actual strings and ropes that have been exceptionally preserved and published from the same site.

Does anybody still wear that? Notes on (representations of) Minoan female dress in Mycenaean Greece Author – Thaler, Ulrich, German Archaeological Institute, Athens, Greece (Presenting author)

Minoan and Mycenaean wall-paintings, as most recently documented in B. R. Jones’ monographic study ‘Ariadne’s threads’,
form the most central category of evidence in reconstructing Aegean Bronze Age textiles and costumes. They are not, however,
without their own interpretative challenges, amongst which, particularly for Mycenaean mural art, a pronounced conservativism
is particularly noteworthy, as is, arguably as a collateral phenomenon, the occasional less-than-artful rendering of motifs when
a painter diverged from the templates of actual or conceptual pattern books. Judging the conservativism or innovative nature
of forms of dress from their representations in an inherently conservative medium may not, at first, seem the most promising of
approaches. It may, however, produce highly interesting results when evidence can be adduced that the conservativism of the
representation may have surpassed that of what was represented.
Precisely this may well be the case for Mycenaean representations of the traditional Minoan women’s dress of flounced skirt
and open-fronted bodice. While there is general agreement that it was borrowed as a complete package without any noticeable
selectivity on the part of the mainlanders and that it can be associated with ritual or festive occasions and possibly only with
wearers of a certain social status, there has been a long-lasting debate whether or not this female dress was actually still worn
on the mainland in the 13th century B.C. Its survival only in wallpainting iconography has been suggested as an alternative
explanation of the extant evidence, which has recently been complemented by important new wall-painting finds from the site
of Tiryns in the Argolid. These include, in at least one and possibly repeated instances, a very unusual rendering of the bodice,
which – unless it were explicable as a purely local form – provides a new vantage point to address an old and as yet unsolved
question in the proposed paper.

Technical Innovation in Flax Yarn in the Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. The Spinning Bowl Author – Doctoranda Ruiz de Haro, Mar a Irene, Escuela Internacional de Posgrado- Universidad de Granada, Almuñecar, Spain (Presenting author)
Keywords: innovation, Linum usitatissimum, spinning bowl
This paper will discuss two basic concepts in addressing the archaeological documentation of a new technological element, in
this case the spinning bowl documented in the Castre a culture located in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Late
Bronze Age to the entrance of the Romanization. These two basic concepts are innovation and technological loan. Through
these conceptual tools that enable us to face a research methodology on spinning bowls, which help us answer arises why this
innovation and its spread to other areas, although this study will focus on documenting spinning bowl in Castre a cuture. To
explain his presence in this geography and chronology, we will investigate on issues related to the use of Linum usitatissimum,
textile raw materials relates to this innovation and secondly to open the investigation to their role within the tecnical chain
embodiment of linen thread in the phase of the splicing techniques.

Woolen textiles from the times of Roman influences, the site in Grudna, Poland Author – PhD Grupa, Malgorzata, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun (NCU), Torun, Poland (Presenting author)
Keywords: import, textile, wool

Textile samples (with sizes not exceeding 2 x 3 cm), sent to The Laboratory of Archaeological Monuments Conservation of the
Institute of Archaeology of NCU in Toruń were exceptionally interesting when it turned out that they were made of woolen fibres in
sprang technique, while the other part imitated, known in later ages, so called gauze, made in weave 1/1. Technological analyses
of the fibres proved their high quality. However, having very few examples of this type of textiles in Poland, we are not able to
answer the basic question: is it an import or local production? Information collected from Europe suggest the imported material,
but here another question arises – from which direction?

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