Tools and Textiles, Texts and Contexts
by Marie-Louise Nosch and Eva Andersson
The research program Tools and Textiles - Texts and Contexts is directed by historian Dr. Marie-Louise Nosch and archaeologist Dr. Eva Andersson. Other team members are Dr. Marta Guzowska, Dr Brendan Burke, Dr. Lorenz Rahmstorf, Dr. Margarita Gleba, CTR, hand-weaver Anne Batzer, hand-weaver and archaeologist Linda Mårtensson, and Dr. Susan Möller Wiering.
The geographical and chronological framework for the program is the Central and Eastern Mediterranean in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. This was the period when, for the first time in history, textile production rapidly developed from household production to standardised, industrialised, centralised production, on the basis of a division of labour. It was during this period that sheep developed a white coat/wool through selective breeding, which then provided the dynamics for the development of dye industries, colour extraction and intensive use of colour symbolism in dress. Within this area we also have development of palace economies, new means of production, inscriptions with extensive records on production management, tools, glyptic, fresco, and relief iconography in which various types of dress are visible, and special organisation of production from excavations. This study will analyse and discuss the parameters for the development of this intensive, industry-like production of textiles, and its impact on society. We will aim at revealing how tools and technology developed to meet the new demands, because in many previous studies the approach remains descriptive. In the absence of archaeological textile remains, in order to grasp the real production processes, it will be necessary to join forces and combine specialist knowledge, not only from the region itself, but also developed elsewhere, such as in the Scandinavian tradition. In the Mediterranean area, there is a great deal of confusion concerning the definition of textile tools, as the main analyses are frequently based on shape and decoration rather than on function. Further problem is that analyses of textile tools are rarely discussed or published systematically. The first source group to investigate is thus the tools, but utilising a functional approach: How did they function? What were their qualities and limits? How time demanding are the various stages in the textile production? It has been demonstrated that variations within a tool group determine variations in the final textile product. The variations in the tools thus inform us about very specific qualities in the cloth or thread, and suggest the type and quality of textile production in a settlement. Uniformity, number and distribution of tools can provide valuable information about the organisation of production and its role in ancient economy. It is also important to include all information that is or can be available from archaeological finds of textiles from this period and area.
The research program encompasses two projects: Tools and Textiles - and - Texts and Contexts. In the first part of the research programme, Tools and Textiles, the mission is to conduct a systematic study of textile tools, based on their function, in the 2nd mill. BC in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, with clear parameters for their identification. Three approaches will be combined: tool studies, experimental testing, and context studies A wider mission is further development and systematisation of experimental textile archaeology as a scientific method. in order to gain new knowledge of textile production in the Bronze Age. In the written records of the Mediterranean area in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC, we have references to a complex terminology of textiles, tools and techniques, decoration and specialised textile occupational titles. However, we often lack the precise meaning of these. The second part of the research programme, Texts and Contexts, will investigate textile terminology diachronically (3rd to 1st mill. BC), and in a comparative approach. This stage will also profit from the knowledge of textile quality and types gained from the typology research in the Tools and Textiles project. When the technical analyses of tools and archaeological textiles are woven together with the historical, ethnographical, and anthropological knowledge and theoretical frameworks, the result will be not only a stimulating collaboration but also new knowledge.