Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Synopsis

2500 years ago, the women of Athens slaved at home, virtual prisoners of their husbands, expected to provide the cloth and clothing for their family. 4000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, there was a very different picture: respectable women were in business, weaving textiles at home to be sold abroad for gold and silver. Going back even further, 20,000 years ago women began making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibres. Indeed, for over 20,000 years, until the Industrial Revolution, the arts of weaving belonged primarily to women and were the principal vehicle for demonstrating their various roles as mother, provider, worker, entrepreneur and artist.

Excerpt

My mother liked to weave and sew, so I grew up with interesting textiles all around, learning to sew and weave for myself at an early age. I was constantly being made aware of the form, color, and texture of cloth. Textiles have a particular crossing structure that dictates what sorts of patterns will be easy and obvious to weave or, conversely, hard to weave. Thus later, when I began to study Classical and Bronze Age Mediterranean archaeology at college, I soon noticed decorations on durable things like pottery and walls that looked as if they had been copied from typical weaving patterns. But when I suggested this idea to archaeologists, they responded that nobody could have known how to weave such complicated textiles so early. The answer was hard to refute, on the face of it, because very few textiles have come down to us from before medieval times, outside of Egypt, where people generally wore plain white linen.

Unconvinced, I decided to spend two weeks hunting for data on the degree of sophistication of the weaving technology, to see at least whether people could have made ornate textiles back then. I expected to write my findings into a small article, maybe ten pages, suggesting that scholars ought to consider at least the possibility of early textile industries.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.