A History Of Textiles

Aug 19, 2003
We don't seem to a Thread devoted to ancient textiles so lets spin the yarn here.

Textile archaeologists use ancient tools to weave a tapestry of the past
From clay artifacts, scientists learn how fabrics were made long ago

Norse sails loomed off the shores of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, along the northeastern coast of Great Britain, on June 8, 793. The seafaring invaders sacked the island’s undefended monastery. The Viking Age had begun. For more than 270 years, the sight of red-and-white-striped Viking sails heralded an incoming raid. Those mighty sails that drove the explorers’ ships were made by craftspeople, mostly women, toiling with spindles and looms.

“There would have been no Viking Age without textiles,” says archaeologist Eva Andersson Strand, director of the Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen, in old Viking territory.

Yet textiles have not received much attention from archaeologists until recently. Andersson Strand is part of a new wave of researchers — mostly women themselves — who think that the fabrics in which people wrapped their bodies, their babies and their dead were just as important as the clay pots in which people preserved food, or the arrowheads with which hunters took down prey.

These researchers want to know how ancient spinners and weavers, from Viking territory and elsewhere in Europe and the Middle East, fashioned sheep’s coats into sails — as well as diapers, shrouds, tapestries and innumerable other textiles. Since the Industrial Revolution, when fabric crafts migrated from hearth to factory, most people have forgotten how much work it once required to create a tablecloth or wedding veil, or 120 square meters of sailcloth to propel a longboat across the water.



Piffle Prospector
Aug 2, 2001
Somewhat coincidentally, I was recently reading a 19th Century account of industrial diseases.

It is not, perhaps, surprising that Sheffield fork-grinders suffered horribly from lung disease. The Victorians were very well-aware of occupational hazards and took the trouble to document the life-expectancies of workers, more for insurance purposes than to alleviate suffering by interventions in the trades.

Thanks to Lewis Carroll, we are probably all aware of the problems faced by hatters. Fabric-workers, more generally, were exposed to lung-diseases. In recent times, byssinosis has been associated with cotton, especially in the areas it is produced. In Great Britain, it was linen which gained notoriety for inducing respiratory disease.

An interesting paper here on byssinosis in Ulster.:(