Mesoamerican Spindle Whorls from a Technological and Ideological Perspective

Author(s): Gabrielle Vail; Jeffrey Splitstoser

Year: 2017


An important aspect of textile production involves the preparation of fibers, an activity that is represented in the archaeological record from Mesoamerica primarily through the presence of spindle whorls made from a variety of materials, most commonly pottery, but also stone, wood, shell, and gourds. Although occasionally recovered from primary contexts, spindle whorls are more often found in secondary depositions such as burials and caches, or in middens. This paper focuses on spindle whorls from two interrelated perspectives—i.e., the technological aspects that were of importance to the production of different types and grades of cloth, and the ideological aspects suggested by the presence of elaborate incised motifs on mold-made spindle whorls from the northern Maya lowlands, depicting birds, flowers, and other quadripartite motifs, as well as their connection to a series of female deities who have associations with childbirth, fertility, and the life cycle. Our analysis seeks to address both aspects of these important tools and to examine the interplay between them within the context of weaving as a symbolic—as well as a functional—domain.

Cite this Record

Mesoamerican Spindle Whorls from a Technological and Ideological Perspective. Gabrielle Vail, Jeffrey Splitstoser. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431863)


Textiles Weaving

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15473