Bronze Age Textiles: Men, Women and Wealth

By Gleba, Margarita | The Historian, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Bronze Age Textiles: Men, Women and Wealth


Gleba, Margarita, The Historian


Bronze Age Textiles: Men, Women and Wealth. By Klavs Randsborg. (London, England: Bristol Classical Press, 2011. Pp. 179. $27.00.)

The past few years have witnessed major dynamism in the field of archaeological and historical textile research in Europe. Klavs Randsborg's volume contributes to this new and exciting body of scholarship by providing "a new discussion of Danish Early Bronze Age textiles: in a cultural, social and economic perspective" (11). In contrast to most studies on Bronze Age economy and exchange, which concentrate on metals, the author argues for the importance of textiles in regional and long-distance economic exchange and suggests that textiles were the major trade item (not amber) exchanged for metals and contributing to the wealth of the north during the Bronze Age (103). The author is to be commended for setting prehistoric textile research into a wider context.

The book is organized into six chapters, each with subheadings, which cover the background and issues raised by the book, description and discussion of the material, its analyses, cultural aspects, comparative material from the wider European region, and conclusions. Figures and tables are grouped in the center and the back of the volume respectively, and one is forced constantly to flip back and forth through the book. The black and white figures are rather poor, and it would have been useful to have pictures of all the costumes and iconographic images discussed in chapter 3, especially considering that excellent new photographs of the Bronze Age costumes and much of the comparative material have recently been made available by the National Museum of Denmark on http:// oldtiden.natmus.dk/.

The study is based on the work by Danish textile historian Margrethe Hald published between 1930 and the 1950s. The author notes, "A fresh detailed and methodologically inventive first-hand study of the Bronze Age textiles is also needed," so it is lamentable that he has not deemed it worthwhile to find out about the new research being carried out since 2006 at the Danish National Research Foundation's Centre for Textile Research, based in his own institution (14). …

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