First Textiles – University of Copenhagen

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Early Bronze Age loom weights from Tiryns, Greece. Photo: Małgorzata Siennicka

First Textiles

The Beginnings of Textile Manufacture in Europe and the Mediterranean


Research Project 2013-2017
Directed by Dr. Małgorzata Siennicka

This project concerns the beginnings of textile manufacture, tools and techniques, with a focus on the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age in Europe and the Mediterranean. Despite our extensive knowledge about late prehistoric textile production (especially in the Middle and Late Bronze Age) supported by numerous archaeological, textual and iconographic evidence, the very beginnings of thread and fabric manufacture still need to be explored.

Methods

Application of varied interdisciplinary methods of systematic analysis of textiles, such as studies on ancient textile remains, basketry, mat and textile imprints in clay, textile tools (e.g. spindle whorls, loom weights, needles, shuttles), experiments with copies of ancient textile implements, or recently developed scientific methods of analysing textiles and recognising the provenience of animal fibres, e.g. through DNA analysis, strontium-, and isotope-tracing will offer important insights into the oldest textile techniques, their beginnings and development throughout prehistory. 

One of the main objectives of our research is to review and systematize the recent achievements in the research field of the most ancient textiles and textile techniques and to set the agenda for further research.
In the project, various approaches and data will be combined: studies of actual remains of the ancient textiles, prehistoric textile implements (e.g. spindle whorls, loom weights, needles, combs), iconographic sources, impressions of textiles and mats/baskets in clay and other materials, experimental archaeology and archaeological reconstructions. More specifically, the programme will focus on the following questions:

  • When were the first threads and fabrics made? What sources are available to study them?
  • What were the first textile techniques and how did they change and develop during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age?
  • When were the spindle whorls and loom weights invented and attested, how did they spread through distant regions and cultures and how were they used?
  • What fibres were preferred during the early prehistoric periods? Which scientific and other analytic methods are available to recognise them?
  • What can the first textiles or textile implements tell us about the society, household production, work organisation and specialisation, social status, gender?
  • Can textile implements and techniques tell us more about the cultural changes during the prehistoric times?

Network of international researchers

The purpose of the project is to create a dynamic network of international researchers, Ph.D. students and students who wish to exchange their knowledge and present recent advances in the study of the beginnings of textile manufacture. The project will provide a platform for all members of the academic community who share an interest in archaeological textiles, ancient textile techniques and tools.

The research project will group scholars from different counties, institutions, museums, and universities. The director of the project Dr. Małgorzata Siennicka (University of Warsaw) was awarded a Marie Curie Mobility Fellowship for 2013-2017 and works as associate professor at CTR. Her research project, Greek Textile Tools. Continuity and changes in textile production in Early Bronze Age Greece, deals with textile production in the Aegean during the Early Bronze age.

Activities in 2013-2017

International workshop in Berlin

Participation in the international workshop (17-18 February 2014) The Distinction of Fibers: Methods and Approaches organized by TOPOI-Research Group ‘Textile Revolution’.

EAA Istanbul session on Textile production in Europe and the Mediterranean in the 4th and 3rd millennia BCE

A regular session, Textile production in Europe and the Mediterranean in the 4th and 3rd millennia BCE, will take place on 13. September 2014 at the conference EAA (European Association of Archaeologists) in Istanbul. The session is organized by Dr. Małgorzata Siennicka (University of Copenhagen/University of Warsaw), Dr. Lorenz Rahmstorf (University of Mainz) and Ph.D. candidate Agata Ulanowska (University of Warsaw).

The session will provide the opportunity to connect international scholars working on ancient textiles, textile tools and techniques, and will present new discoveries and data in the field, as well as discuss new approaches and perspectives. The session will also set the agenda for the First Textiles conference that is planned for spring 2015 at CTR. 

Please see the preliminary programme of the session.

Conference "First Textiles" at CTR – May 7th-8th 2015

A two-day international conference "First Textiles. The Beginnings of Textile Manufacture in Europe and the Mediterranean" will take place on May 7th-8th 2015 in Copenhagen.
The aim of the conference is to present and discuss the recent achievements in the research field of the most ancient textiles and textile techniques in primarily Europe and Asia in the Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age (ca. 8th-3rd millennia BC); the application of varied interdisciplinary methods of systematic analysis of textiles, such as studies on the most ancient textile remains, basketry, mat and textile imprints in clay; textile tools (e.g. spindle whorls, loom weights, Spinning bowls); experiments with copies of ancient textile implements; and recently developed scientific methods of analysing textiles and recognising the provenience of fibres. These all offer important insights into the oldest textile techniques, their beginnings and development throughout prehistory.

Programme
Abstracts
General Information
Maps

Publication of the proceedings of the EAA session and First Textiles conference (2017)

The proceedings of the regular session at the conference EAA in Istanbul (September 2014) and of the conference at CTR (May 2015) is planned to be published in 2017 as a joint volume (edited by Małgorzata Siennicka, Lorenz Rahmstorf and Agata Ulanowska) in the Ancient Textile Series edited by Prof. Marie-Louise Nosch of CTR and published by Oxbow Books.