Threads across Time and Space

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

These papers take a comparative approach to the study of woven cloth viewed from the perspective of textile materials, tools and texts available in archaeological contexts. Spatially and chronologically, the papers comprise evidence for cloth production from the New and Old Worlds in both the prehistoric and proto-historic periods. Our approach draws on an anthropological tradition in which cloth has been viewed throughout history for its value as a medium of exchange and gift giving, as a signifier of interaction among societies and cultures, as a means of reinforcing kinship and religious relations and enhancing the authority and power of political elites, or distinguishing between urban vs. rural producers. The papers demonstrate the ways in which these social aspects of cloth are embodied in the making and crafting of textiles, through spinning, weaving, and cross-craft collaboration among allied technologies, such as agriculture and fiber processing and the social and environmental contexts in which their technical aspects of production have developed.

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  • Documents (6)

  • Classic Maya Textiles and the Crafting of Communities (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Megan Leight. Christina Halperin.

    One of the striking features of contemporary Maya textiles is that their production techniques and aesthetics can be highly regionalized. These textiles manifest strong village, town, and community identities while simultaneously reproducing other identity formations (e.g., gender, ethnicity). Likewise, Classic period Maya (ca. 300-900 CE) political formations were highly regionalized with multiple, shifting centers of gravity. Nonetheless, relatively little is known about the variability of...

  • Fringe Identities - Costume in the Mixtec Codices (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sharisse McCafferty. Geoffrey McCafferty.

    The Mixtec codices depict costumes from Postclassic Oaxaca, including clothing, face paint, hairstyles, footwear, and jewelry. Contextualized in religious, military, and other social rituals, costume played an important role in framing the action as well as representing individuals in a variety of social identities. This paper focuses on styles and patterns of clothing as they were used to characterize gender, status, ethnicity, occupation, and religious and political roles. Specifically, we...

  • Globalization, trade, and magic: Weaving the threads of Iceland's Viking Age textiles. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michele Smith.

    Icelandic Viking Age (9th-11th century) textiles are less frequently reported than their medieval counterparts, yet mineralized pseudomorphs adhering to copper alloy objects from burial contexts and a small number of items that survived in their organic forms suggest that this North Atlantic colony's textiles filled multiple roles and were produced through technical approaches with diverse origins. In the North Atlantic's Viking Age, some textiles were used as a form of currency within a...

  • The intersection of clay and fiber in central Eurasian prehistory: Methods for evaluation (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Paula Dupuy.

    This presentation focuses on analytical techniques for evaluating cloth and fiber characteristics imprinted on ceramic vessels, and how reconstructing textile industries contribute a social reading of Eurasian prehistory. Inner Asian Bronze Age pastoralists of the 3rd - 1st millennium BC employed textiles to mold clay vessels as shown through woven fiber impressions coating the insides of containers. Although this production technique has preserved an otherwise marginally documented industry of...

  • Mixed metaphors and mixed media: using commodity chains and commodity circuits to better understand Aztec textile production (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John Millhauser. Lisa Overholtzer.

    Archaeological and ethnohistoric investigations of Aztec textile production have shown how women’s labor and domestic economies were interwoven with the imperial political economy. However, remarkably little attention has been paid to the people involved in affiliated industries—like cotton growers, dyers, and spindle-whorl-makers. Material evidence of these people is often ephemeral or isolated, but it is available. In this paper, we draw on theories of commodity chains and commodity circuits...

  • Weaving Meaning into Mississippian Ritual (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Susan Alt.

    Fabric is rarely recovered from Mississippian sites, although there have been a few spectacular finds. There are however other lines of evidence that speak to the use and meaning of fabric in the Mississippian world. We have recovered the charred remains, or at times structured ash of what were once bags, mats, baskets or other fabric items during excavations at a few Cahokia related sites in the American Bottom region of Illinois. The Emerald Shrine Center in particular has produced these...