“Webs of Knowledge: Untangling Textile Production in Ancient Greece”

“Webs of Knowledge: Untangling Textile Production in Ancient Greece”


Good evening, everybody. My name’s Pete [INAUDIBLE]. I’m here speaking as
director of the [INAUDIBLE] Institute to introduce
Professor Lin Foxhall. Very, very pleased to
introduce Lin here, to speak. Lin comes to us, in
general, from the University of Liverpool,
where she currently heads the Division of Histories,
Languages, and Cultures– so in a way, all the things
that matter at a university. Before that, she was educated
at Bryn Mawr University in [INAUDIBLE], her doctoral
work at Penn University. But then, halfway, she
transferred her studies and her life to the UK,
where she eventually graduated at Liverpool. And from Liverpool, she moved
on for nearly two decades to talk at the
University of Leicester, as a professor at the School of
Ancient History and Archaeology until the end of last
year, when she transferred to the University of Liverpool. Back on the formal side,
in terms of content, Lin is one of those
few persons who are versed in ancient history. And so you will
see from the talk, as she was, earlier, just
saying, the most [INAUDIBLE] I think? 57, yes. It’s going to come up. Again, a physical
demonstration of [INAUDIBLE]. Precisely. So the sources [INAUDIBLE] the
ancient authors are coming up. The archaeology
is there, as well. But on top of that, Lin
also has a strong background in anthropology– so really,
one of those people who [INAUDIBLE]. And these three fields, she
has been roaming, basically, to [INAUDIBLE] interests
that are [INAUDIBLE] gender– the ancient economies were
more generally feudal. So more specifically, with
the [INAUDIBLE] and all these elements coming together. She has directed in the
past– what was it– six or seven years
[INAUDIBLE] project based [INAUDIBLE] on
ancient crop predictions, and has been conducting field
work in Greece, but also– for the last decade or so–
field work in [INAUDIBLE]. Well, still sort of
ancient, greater Greece, in a way– [INAUDIBLE]
Italy, of course. And it’s on all those aspects–
[INAUDIBLE], gender, economy, [? rural work ?]– all of these
aspects she’ll be touching on in this particular talk,
the title of which is Webs of Knowledge. Yes. I’m sorry it’s slightly changed. But it’s the same talk. Well, Webs of Knowledge is
a very intriguing title. So Lin, I’ll leave
it there to you, to– Great. Thank you very much. Well, thank you very much,
Peter, for your very kind introduction. Can everybody hear all right? The microphone is working, good. And thank you, I’m very
grateful to the [? Dukovski ?] for having me and letting
me give a paper here at what is clearly an
incredibly busy time for you, even by the standards
of your incredibly vibrant and active institution. It’s just such a
fantastic place to be. And I’m also grateful, as Peter
said, to [? the League of ?] Human Trust, who’s funded a lot
of the research that underpins the paper I’m giving tonight. Now, textile
manufacture– that it was women’s work in the ancient
Greek world is widely accepted. Sorry, I’m just making sure
I don’t burble on too long. That textile manufacture
was women’s work in the ancient Greek
world is widely accepted. And though this, along with the
character of textile production itself, has recently
been questioning in classical Athens–
and that’s where I’ll start the paper tonight,
with that questioning. But the hard evidence
that survives for an art that is,
for the most part, very ephemeral– it’s all
on perishable materials– is much trickier to interpret
than has often been recognized. And scholars of
the ancient economy have often collapsed many
different aspects of textile manufacture–
different techniques, different processes– all
put them into the same lump. And I want to un-pick that
a little bit in this talk. That’s one of the things
that I want to look at. Of course, it’s also
often been relegated to a back corner of
ancient economies, as something that isn’t very
important because it’s just women’s work. And one of the aims of
this paper, tonight, is really to look at the way
in which making textiles is a much more complicated
process than one might think, at first glance. And I want to look at
the context of making and distributing textiles,
and the contexts in which this is done, to consider a much
more complex and nuanced picture of that activity so
central to women’s work. So I want to start
with a recent book. And can I say at
the outset, I’ve just talked to [? Katherine ?]
about it this afternoon and we agree. It’s a terrible book. So I’ll just be right up front
about that, from the start. I want to start with this very
recent book by Peter Acton, Poiesis: Manufacturing
in Classical Athens. Now, Acton’s mission
is to highlight the importance of
manufacturing in the economy of classical Athens. And that’s actually
something that’s a really interesting thing
to do, and very welcome. But he’s writing from a
perspective of modern business strategy, based on
his own experience with a consultancy firm. And he attempts to
show how the principles of competitive advantage,
in tandem with potential for differentiation
and barriers to entry, structured Athenian
manufacturing. Now, in my personal view, there
are a huge number of problems with his methodologies anyway,
and certainly with the data that he’s drawing on. And on textiles, I think this
comes out very, very clearly, indeed. So Acton suggests that
households could not have produced all the clothing
and textiles that they needed. And he argues, therefore,
that textile manufacture was carried out, not only
in domestic settings, but also in numerous large
commercial workshops, regularly involving large numbers of
male weavers, as well as women, and supplying a
lively retail market. And he presents textile
making as a craft that needs minimal skill,
so that anybody could enter the trade with
little training or capital. So he sees it as very
rock-bottom, unskilled labor. Now, I think this picture is
both distorted and unrealistic. And one of the problems is
that he’s really fundamentally misunderstood a lot of the
primary source material and the archaeological data. And because of that,
he hasn’t really got a very good grip on the
basic learning, and skills, and processes in
their social context, and this very complexity
that I want to explore. So in a way, we’re
starting with the negative. So I want to start
with what is actually very good question
to ask, and that is: we always think textile
making, women’s work. Well, was it really
women’s work? Maybe we should
look at that again. Now, this was a question
that was raised back in 1982 by Wesley Thompson. And on your handout– sorry
about the capacious handout, but I thought it
would just be easier if we had the texts, as well. There’s handouts out the door,
if anybody doesn’t have one. On the back, I’ve actually
put the references of things that I’m referring to. So back in 1982,
Wesley Thompson argued for the presence in Athens,
and in the Athenian economy, of numerous male weavers–
largely on the evidence of Plato and Aristotle. And Acton picks
up this and says, we know of lots of male
weavers, and goes on to assume that commercial
weavers are largely male. So I thought, that’s weird. And I went back, and I
looked at all those passages. And it turns out
to be, actually, really interesting–
more interesting than I thought it would be. Because– and I’ve just
given one example, here. But there are many more
that one could cite. So the first passage on your
handout, from the Republic– it turns out that where
Plato, apparently, refers to male weavers– and
this passage from the Republic is one of them– in fact, it’s
these very abstracted passages, where craft specialization
is being used as a metaphor to explain other principles. And it’s used on a
kind of very high, up-in-the-sky kind of level. So it’s used to explain
things like, in this passage, the minimum necessary skills
to support the ideal city, or how the naming of things
relates to their functions and affordances, or to different
kinds of relationships. So in this particular
passage, you can see that Plato is going
back to first principles on, what do you actually
need for existence? Well, you need food. You need housing. You need clothing. And so you need producers
of these things. And so they’re just
being, in the abstract, generalized as male gender. He’s not talking about,
really, real weavers. He’s talking about them
in this abstract way. And the other passages
that I’ve looked at, they do the same
thing– which is kind of cool, because
that contrasts really, really radically
with the next passage of Plato, where he
actually gets to talking about the actual skills and
capacities of men and women, where he observes
that men, of course, are better at everything
than women are, except for weaving and cooking. And of course, they don’t
matter so much, really, because they’re
just women’s work. But there, it’s very clear that
the people doing the weaving are women, because it’s
an explicitly gendered and gendered work discussion. So even within Plato,
it’s very inconsistent. So he’s not talking about
real weavers doing real jobs. He’s talking about, in that
first passage, suppliers of things, in this
kind of abstract way. So I think one has
to look very, very carefully at that
kind of evidence that Acton and Thompson cited
for so-called male weavers. They’re in philosophical
discussions. They are not talking about,
in those passages, anything to do with real life. We are after all, here,
dealing with literary slash philosophical texts. Now, where we do have weaving
establishments described as headed by a
man– for example, in the [INAUDIBLE]
passage that’s the next one on
the handout– it’s made clear that the work
is being done by slaves, whose gender we don’t know. And to what extent
the male manager– there is a male manager here–
engaged in the actual work isn’t actually clear. But this passage is
interesting for other reasons. And I’ll come back
to it, at the end. But where in other instances–
like the [INAUDIBLE] passage, next on the handout, where
there is, indeed, a male textile worker– this is a passage where
we have a male textile worker who is, in fact, a slave. And where we have
male textile workers, they almost all do
seem to be slaves and/or foreigners, which
is quite interesting. So there are, in
fact, many reasons to think that women were the
dominant producers of textiles. And there’s a lot
more supporting evidence for women as
weavers than for male weavers or male-dominated workshops. Where you have
male weavers, they are exceptional,
which is interesting. So that’s not to say that
they’re not there at all, but that’s not where
it’s really happening, for textile manufacture. And I hope you’ll believe
me by the end of the paper. And certainly, symbolically,
and socially, and conceptually, textiles are very, very clearly
associated with women, not with men. So for example, the many
dedications of clothing that you get in the
Temple of Artemis at [INAUDIBLE], where it’s
recorded on inscriptions, some bits of which are
in [INAUDIBLE], but there are copies, also,
on the Acropolis. All the clothing
dedications, the dedications are all being made by
women, even when it’s male clothing that’s
being dedicated. And [INAUDIBLE] is also
full of weaving equipment and loom weights, and
other weaving tools. These show up in many
other sanctuaries, as well. And I’m pretty sure they’re
not male dedications. It would be very
surprising if they were. So I think there is a
lot of good evidence for that conceptual, as it
were, ideological association of women and weaving. And indeed, one could
easily think of textiles as being stored female labor,
so that the most obvious way for women to produce
wealth from their own labor is via textile
manufacturer, since– and this is another paper–
virtually all other forms of craftsmanship
and crafts working seem to have excluded
women, at least insofar as they are identified. Now, that’s not to say they
never worked in crafts. But they’re not running the show
in a lot of craft production, which is quite interesting. And that’s another quite
complicated argument that I won’t go into now. But for example, the Gortyn
code is a really interesting example, where a divorcing
woman not only takes her dowry with her if she divorces,
but half of what she has made within–
i.e. the textiles. So that’s another
interesting one. So if you have lots of
female labor in a household, making textiles is actually
a good thing to do with it. It’s a good way of
using that female labor. And I do think these women
are doing exactly that. Now, names and
occupational names are quite interesting, and
also quite problematic. Because they’re
either identifications put on somebody
by another person, or they’re self-identifications
in some kind of relatively
public sense, which means that you would explain
what you would describe yourself to others, using a term
that is publicly acceptable. But you might self-identify
in other ways, as well. So I don’t think you
can read these terms anything like at face value. But Ed Harris, in his 2002 study
of occupational designations– again, reference on the
back– assembled a whole load of these occupational names. But he didn’t actually
look at them by gender. And one of the
interesting things is that although you have
173 occupations appearing in masculine forms,
as men’s jobs, only 27 have feminine forms
or are clearly in contexts where they’re being
done by women. And of those 27, nine
have corresponding forms, but the other 18 don’t. Now, at least insofar
as you’re looking at the description
of occupations– in other words, what’s
in people’s heads, as opposed to what
people really do, which might be
slightly different– there is a really
clear separation in occupational names,
between women and men. That you have that little
overlap is quite striking. And of of the 18 solely female
occupations that you have, the largest and
most common category are various kinds of textile
working, which is clearly a skill that all women
were expected to acquire, and, as I said, practically
the only craft regularly open to women. And that’s a really interesting
difference from the Roman world, because you
do have much more in the way of male weavers
in the Roman world, or men involved in textile
manufacturer. In the Greek world,
it’s really– if they’re there, honestly,
they’re almost invisible. They’re the exceptions. They’re very hard to see. So I know this evidence
is problematic, but it’s still
really interesting. And this is just,
really, to show some of the kinds of things that
you get with these [INAUDIBLE], which may or may
not have something to do with manumission. These are very problematic,
and it could be interpreted in a bunch of ways. But from my point
of view, whatever they are– things
like these terms, like [INAUDIBLE], OK– there. And again, you get a whole
bunch of these women identifying as wool spinners, spinster. It’s almost like
that English term, old-fashioned English term,
spinster– textile workers of some sort. Now, these are very problematic,
because it’s very much debated whether this is a kind
of cover for people who were in the sex trade. It could be. I feel very torn about this one. It certainly could be,
because women never do self-identify
in these documents as being in the sex trade. And many of the women
in this were clearly– these women are clearly
slaves– originally, at least. And it’s not surprising
they don’t self-identify in a public document by saying,
I’m a prostitute– well, surprise. On the other hand, they may be
exactly what they say they are, and that is people
who work wool. We just can’t be
absolutely sure, and it’s extremely problematic. But the fact that there are
so many of them identifying that way– and of course,
textile workers and prostitutes need not be mutually
exclusive categories. That’s also, of
course, been argued. But it’s a very good reason for
thinking that these things are very complicated. So it is interesting to see. But it only gets you so far. Now I want to turn to the
process of learning to weave, because I think this is
one of the areas where Acton goes horribly wrong. It’s a much longer and
much more socially-embedded process than Acton or
most other people suppose. This is not a skill
that any old person could pick up in two hours. It’s something that really
took many, many years to learn, and it was done through
a very complicated, socially-embedded
kind of process. Now for a start,
it’s very, very clear that weaving– full stop–
was a group activity. And I use this vase, but it’s
obvious from other things, as well. And one of the reasons– there
are many reasons why I think weaving was a group activity. And I think there
are many reasons why it was a group activity. But for one thing, it’s
the sheer practicality of actually trying to weave
with a warp-weighted loom. And there are some really
useful ethnographic examples that help us on this
one, one of which I think I have, actually,
put on your handout. Yes, I have. Now, one of the things
that’s actually useful that Plato says, which is just
after the [INAUDIBLE] code, is a really interesting
little sideline on how people learn
crafts, including weaving. And surprise, surprise, an
awful lot of craft traditions appear to be learned within the
household, within the family. And this fits in very, very
interestingly with lots of ethnographic
accounts of how people learn crafts, learn
how to do things, including learning how to weave. And there are two very nice
recent studies– again, both on the back
of your handout– one by Anna [? Portish ?] and
one by Miriam [? Nagee– ?] on learning to weave in
ethnographic societies, where people are still
weaving in domestic settings. And it’s very clear
from these studies that becoming a
skilled textile worker takes many, many years of
practice and apprenticeship. Now, Anna
[? Portish ?] from whom I’ve quoted a little bit,
right there– because I just think it’s such a
nice description– studied textile production
among Kazakh women in Western Mongolia. Here, textiles are made
at home for domestic use, and are particularly important
components of the wealth exchanged on marriage. And girls started learning
to make textiles as children, gradually informally
helping out their mothers and other female relatives. Children running
around with the sheep, picking burrs out of fleeces,
and things like that. And although men, occasionally,
help out with specific tasks, the overall responsibility
is in the hands of women. So little children, they
imitate what parents are doing. They look after sheep. But it’s not until they’re
large and strong enough, at the age of about
12 or 13, that girls begin to help with the
actual preparation of wool for felt and weaving. And this task is
done as a group, with each individual
adjusting their movements and their rhythm to
synchronize with each other, sometimes to the accompaniment
of songs and speech. And so by 14 or 15, girls are
helping out with spinning. They’re fluffing out
wool for making it ready for spinning into thread. They wind the spun
wool, then they practice spinning on their own. And then they start to
learn sewing and quilting. But even when they
marry, they’re continuing to work under the
direction of a mother-in-law. Now, among the Berber
carpet weaving families of the [INAUDIBLE]
Mountains in Morocco, [INAUDIBLE] found that the loom
was a semi-permanent fixture in houses. Babies and toddlers play around
it when they’re very small, but boys gradually distance
themselves from it. And little girls, however,
imitating their mothers, they learn the right ways
to sit, and stand, and hold their body. So these children
in these societies, they are literally
embodying the movements by looking, and
watching, and being part of the society of how
you do it, as you grow up. Little kids imitate. That’s their job, and
this is what they do. And so by the time
they’re grown up, they have all of the correct
positions and movements, and they can blend in with
the movements and gestures of other weavers
to work in a group. And I would argue that, again,
artistic license allowing– and there’s much artistic
license in the representation of weaving on vases, that
you can’t read it literally. But this weaving in a group and
doing these things in a group, that, I think, is
not artistic license. And one of the things
about warp-weighted looms is that you have to be
big and strong, actually, to use a warp-weighted loom. Six-year-olds cannot do this. They are not physically
large or strong enough. And if you look at those nice
Norwegian ladies up there, you can see they’re
standing on a bench to be able to
[? beat ?] upward, which takes a serious amount of
physical strength and effort. And I think this– whereas,
say, when you see them in pots, these younger women,
they’re doing things like they’re– this is fluffing
out the wool and making it into roves to make it
ready for spinning. You see girls holding a
distaff, ready to spin. You see women in a bridal
scene holding distaffs. They’re not weaving. They’re spinning,
they’re doing other jobs. And I don’t think
that’s accidental, and I don’t think
that’s artistic license. This is something the
that Gloria [? Ferrari ?] pointed out a long time ago. I think a lot of the stuff she
says is mad, especially the bit about it representing
Bronze Age megarons. You can just eliminate that. But she’s absolutely
right that when you have these young girls being
shown off in visual imagery, it is spinning that
they’re doing, not weaving. And I think there is a
very good reason for that as we move on, because
girls, I think, actually learn two weave at
a relatively late age because of the whole issue
of physical strength. And they’re doing this, not just
on their own with their mother, but in a whole group of
women– probably a lot female relatives, slaves, other
people hanging on in the house. Who knows? But these households,
I think they have weaving groups
of women in there. And it makes us
completely reread and rethink [? Islamicus’s ?]
wife, who arrived, ideally, knowing only how to receive wool
and produce a cloak– having seen how the textile-making
tasks are given to the slaves. You can’t actually weave
on these looms at age 10. So if you think about
it, what this must mean is that a girl begins
her textile training in her natal home with her
mother, sisters, aunts, female relatives, and so forth. This must have continued in the
company of her mother-in-law and the female relatives of her
husband, once she was married. So as she moves
houses, she’s both bringing in new ideas about
how to do stuff– which may not be listened to when
she’s 15, but by the time she becomes a mean
grandmother she’ll say, well, my mom did it this way. And at the same time, she’s
also learning new stuff from a new group of women. So I think we’re in a
really interesting position to see how ideas about
how to make textiles are moving from one household to
another, as women move as well. And I think when we come to
look at the textile tools, we can actually see that in
the material record, as well. And I’ll get to
that in a minute, because that’s also a really
interesting aspect of it. So you can see that
[? Islamicus’s ?] wife would have known a little
bit of stuff, but she wouldn’t have been
a fully trained-up weaver by the time she comes
into that house. And of course, it’s a
philosophical treatise. It’s very idealized. None of this stuff can
you believe at face value. But I think this is genuinely
reflecting what is actually a much more complicated and
long, drawn-out training process, where ideas, and
training, and techniques are moving right across families. So keep that in mind
when we start looking at some of this other stuff. Now, what is also interesting
is that if weaving takes a group to do it– and I
think it does– you have to be in a household
that is rich enough to have a loom, that has
fleeces, that has lots of women around, that you have some
slaves, and da, da-da, da-da. What about those
old ladies living on their own, those
destitute old ladies? And Demosthenes 57 is one
of my favorite examples of a destitute old lady. And I think I’ve put
the passage there, but we’ll look at
that in a second. And it’s very clear
that you do get women who are not
weaving on a loom, because they’re not in a
situation where they can. So the speaker in
Aristophanes’ Frogs who is spinning thread
to sell in the market, and she’s spinning,
specifically, linen thread to sell
in the market, which is really interesting. But she’s not weaving it. She’s not weaving it. And that, to me,
that’s a social signal. And I’ll tell you how I know
it’s a social signal, I think, in a minute. Because if we look
at Demosthenes 57, you can see that you have– and
you run into this quite a lot. There are a lot of
other references to it, as well– these women
that sell ribbons, OK? Now, they’re not ribbons. The word is [NON-ENGLISH],
and they’re not ribbons. They’re woven bands. And they’re much more likely
to be decorative bands, made by a very different technique–
which I will show you in a minute– called
tablet weaving, which are also
sewed onto clothing. Now, the speaker in Demosthenes
57 is a really interesting case in point, because she’s somebody
where the speaker explains– is trying to keep
his own citizenship, and so he’s explaining why his
mother worked as a wet nurse, and why she was a
seller of [NON-ENGLISH] in the marketplace,
and all the rest of it. And according to the
speaker, her first husband dumped her to marry a
wealthier [INAUDIBLE]. And with a young
daughter already, she was married off
to somebody else. And she had more children, and
it sounds like husband number two might have been
of lower status. And so she ended up, basically,
when her husband went off on military service,
destitute– apparently had no other source of support. And so what she ends up doing
is weaving [NON-ENGLISH] to support herself. Now, the cool
thing about this is that tablet weaving
is something that you can do as a sad old lady,
or a sad, destitute mother on your own, without
having to do it in a whole group of women. And the interesting
thing about it is that this tablet weaving is
not only the decorative bands that you so often see
on vases, on clothing as borders and things. It’s the fillets that
get tied on graves. It’s the headbands. It’s all these things. And it’s also the loom warps. Now, tablet weaving– and
this is tablet weaving, OK? Looks like this. And all you need is some
string and some cards. I’ve got some very nice–
those are made in cards, so you can actually see them. But anybody who wants can come
up and see these afterward. I’ve got another one here,
where these cards are leather. OK? Really tiny little
leather cards, and you make nice little
woven bands from them. OK? But the ones that turn up
in Artemis or [? Thea ?] that nobody recognized
are actually made in bone. OK? And the woven bands are used
to start the loom weight. So you can see the loom warp. So you can see with
the model textiles, that’s the woven band. So it’s this bit,
OK, this kind of bit. But what you do, when you’re
making it into a loom warp, is you cut off every
string every time you put the shuffle through. And you just leave them hanging. OK? So then this bit would
be your loom warp bit. So instead of continuing
going back and forth, I would leave every single
string hanging and cut it off. And then you end up
with a loom warp, with this bit being at
the top– and it’s that. OK? So it’s really interesting. And this is another
model loom warp. It’s really interesting. You can see, they’ve knotted
it, to show that– you knot the threats, so that they don’t
get all tangled up and gross, I think is what’s
going on there. So you do get these model
cloths and model loom weights showing up. And with the– excuse me having
my back to you for a minute. I will see if I can do
this in a way that doesn’t. So with this, the tricky
bit is always tying it on. I think we’ll just
about manage it. Yep, there we go. And we’ll have to get this
off, to start with, and get the guy out. So what you basically do
is, you threas– hang on, I’ll do it this way. OK. So what you basically do is, you
thread your thread your thread through the cards, OK, and you
hold them tight at this end. And then you– sorry,
I’m going to have a slight technical hitch
here, while I get that. You need something to
tie it to, like yourself. OK, that should do it. And then what I do is, I flip
the cards, keeping this taught, you– whoops. That’s just what you
don’t want to do. You flip the cards round. OK? And that gives you
a new [? shed ?]. And then you flip your little
bit through, and pound it into place. And that’s how it works. It’s a really cunning
way of producing these. I’m not very good at it. But it’s a really cunning way
of producing these nice bands. But if you’re a little
old lady on your own, without very much money,
without a group to support you, and you can only afford
to buy bits of thread, you could do this. And you could sell it
in the market in a way that, obviously, if you’re
trying to weave and produce stuff on a big loom, you
could not possibly do if you were a destitute woman. And I’m now inclined
to think that when we get this designation of women
in things like [INAUDIBLE], but it shows up in drama. It shows up in other things–
of these women who are sellers or makers of [NON-ENGLISH]. For a Greek audience,
that almost certainly was a kind of social
signal that what you were dealing with a
destitute woman, that somebody who really, really had
no family around her or working group to support
her, and that she was really doing this because she was,
specifically, destitute. So it’s, again, how
much more complicated the social organization of this
textile making actually is. It’s not all being done
by the same people. And now I want to
move on to some of the actual textile tools–
more of the textile tools, themselves, that we actually
have– and look at loom weights and looms. Now, loom weights are
really interesting. They’re much more interesting
than you might think. And people often, traditionally,
have just thrown them into bags, and ignored them. But they’re much
more fun than that. Now, Greek looms,
most Greek looms– and I’ll show you an
interesting example of one, which is a Greek
loom in a non-Greek house. But that’s another story. Greek looms, a lot of them seem
to be about two meters wide. And this is on a
vase, but real looms seem to be about two
meters wide, as well. And you can see,
you actually need about 70 to 100 loom
weights, per loom, which is really interesting. And these loom weights
are interesting, because the two levels shows
the two different [? sheds. ?] So that’s quite a
nice example, that’s actually reasonably accurate. But in fact, you never find
enough loom weights in a house. And again, there
are different ways of tying these loom weights
on, and all the rest of it, depending on what your weaving
and all sorts of things. It gets quite complicated. But you never find enough
loom weights in a house, or almost never, to
indicate that there’s enough for a whole loom. And that’s very interesting. And there are a couple of things
I’ve been thinking about that. Now, not all loom
weights are marked. But in most assemblages
that I’ve looked at– and other people
I’ve talked to have said the same thing– about
25% to 30% of them are marked, in some way– many
of them with stamps, little stamp seals
that you get on rings, often from metal rings, because
you can see the little metal bits in the stamp thing. But they marked them in all
sorts of other ways, as well. So you get things like
impressions of jewelry. That’s impressed with a fibula. Those are impressed
with earrings. You get them impressed
with fingerings, necklaces. I have some impressed
with a [INAUDIBLE]. I have some impressed
with ears of grain. I have one with a smiley
face– really, truly. And you can see here. It’s not a very good
picture, but these are the kinds of earrings–
little, knobby earrings– that were, then, squashed
into that loom weight. Buttons are quite common. That’s another one you get. All kinds of different,
very girly things. This is one of my
personal favorites. I have several
examples of these, where you have a fibula with
tweezers hanging from it. And of course, we
have actual examples of these things that
show up in graves. But this, somebody has used
to squish into a loom weight. Now, this raises really
interesting questions, for one thing, about
the manufacture of these loom weights,
because these seals are women’s personal seals. There are instances
where we definitely have manufacturer seals or
stamps, and they’re different. And you can tell, and you
get multiples of them. So I was talking with
William [INAUDIBLE] last week in
Wisconsin, at Madison, where at Troy in the classical
period, up in the sanctuary, he has a series of stamped
loom weights, where you have– over a period of
time– about, maybe, seven or eight different
stamp seals on them. And I’m guessing
there that they’re a ring that belongs
to a priestess, because in the temple of Athena
at Troy, that kind of makes sense, and that they’re
being stamped with her ring, and that every time
the priestess changes, the ring changes. And there are also
examples I have of places where
you have workshops, and they’re clearly making
specific loom weights for specific purposes or sets. And they do mark them
with maker’s marks. But that’s unusual. Most of these marks that
you get on loom weights– and many of them
are not stamps– are women’s personal marks. And the clay mixes that you
get in loom weights are weird. So in terms of
ceramics, you often get a very clear range of
different ceramic types for different functions,
on classical sites or in classical areas. So you have fine ware
fabrics, and cooking ware fabrics, and plain ware
fabrics, and amphora fabrics, and tile fabrics. And loom weights often seem
to be clay mixes, which is really interesting. So it looks like
somebody is going along at the end of the
day and getting a bunch of, I don’t know, clay
from Uncle Cleon or whatever, and making it into loom weights. And some loom weights really,
really look pretty homemade. Now, these are not the worst. I have some even worse ones,
from [? Artemis or Thea ?] in Sparta, which look as if
they were made and squished together, and literally
thrown in the kitchen fire. And one of the interesting
ideas I’ve been toying with– and I don’t know how
I would get evidence of this– but one of the
things I’ve been toying with is that some loom
weights may not have been fired at all– that in
prehistoric sites, particularly Neolithic sites, you get
loom weights surviving that got accidentally
caught in house fires. But we can see that they
were not fired to start with. And if women were making
loom weights out of clay that were not fired,
we would not have them. So there’s all sorts of
weird things going on. These are, again,
from [? Metaponto. ?] And they’re being marked
with, literally, fingerprints. So these are identifiable,
and they go with women. Now, the even more
interesting thing is the way in which– again,
this is just the survey data– but you can see, these
are farmhouse sites. And looking at the
farmhouse sites, very few of these sites– even
the excavated sites– do you find more than
a few loom weights. So when women leave
houses, they’re taking their loom
weights with them, which is kind of no surprise,
but it’s really interesting. Most of the time, they are. When you get really a lot of
loom weights in one place, there’s something
else weird going on. And I think it’s a very good
indication that loom weights were valued, but not valuable. And they’re very,
very– they’re clearly close to women’s hearts. So for example, where I do
have– in my [? Metaponto ?] assemblage– and I can parallel
this in Athens, and in Corinth, and in other places. You get– like I’ve got
two loom weights here, OK? They have, actually,
identical stamps on them. But what’s really
interesting is where they’re found– one of them
here, and one of them up here. Now, that says to me, what we’ve
got is two related women in two different households. OK? That’s really cool. Or here’s another example. I have three identical
loom weights, with these little
rosette stamps on them. And that may be, actually,
a heritage stamp. Because sometimes
you get stamps that are way older than
the loom weights are, suggesting that the
ring is moving down the family, from
mother to daughter, and then showing
up in the house. So with these– I’ve got three
of them– one lot is here, in the site, and about
50 years later– now, watch the position of that. It moves down the road,
OK, to a different site. Again, and these are
just two examples. I have other examples
of this, as well. This, I think, is
loom weights that are being handed down families. So when girls get married or
something, or who knows what, some of these
weaving tools– when they move to their new
house, like we were looking at with [INAUDIBLE]
wife– these things are going with these girls. And they’re keeping them, and
they’re taking them with them. We don’t find very many of them,
because when they abandoned houses, they mostly take most
of the loom weights with them. But occasionally, we get them. And I’ve got a humdinger of
an example of a heritage loom weight. Now, this is an excavated site,
[? Frattoria ?] [? Fabrizio ?]. It’s published. It’s on the back
of your handout. And with this one, because
it was well excavated, I know exactly where that
loom weight was found. And it was in an assemblage
of fourth-century pottery and domestic junk, which
clearly crashed off a shelf. And it’s a sixth-century loom
weight in a fourth-century use context. It’s not residual. It was still in use when
the house was being built. And we know it’s sixth-century,
not from the shape of the loom weight, which is
not determinate– although in the [? Metaponto ?]
assemblage, as it happens, [? parabola ?] loom weights
tend to be earlier than circular ones. But that’s another story. But because of that
iota, that curvy iota, which they didn’t even do
beyond the early fifth-century– they didn’t even use
that letter form. Not only that, this
is a loom weight where the writing isn’t
[? Metaponto ?] writing. It comes from further
south, somewhere– maybe [? Regian ?] or
something like that. So this is a loom weight
with a graffito on it by, presumably, a woman who is
from a different part of Italy, and who is somehow
in this house, and it’s got handed down. So we get heritage stamps. We get heritage loom weights. We get loom weights
moving around. And they show up in a whole
bunch of different assemblages across the Greek world. As I say, this is
just one example. But these things are clearly
moving around much more than you would think,
and women are directly involved in their
manufacture, their marking, as well as their use
for making textiles. Now, this is just to
give you an example. And you may have heard
about this last week from your visitor [INAUDIBLE],
my lovely friend, who is giving me and
my research assistant, [? Alessandro ?] [? Cuercha, ?]
to publish this material and to use this material. This is the site of
Torre di Satriano, right up near Potenza
in the mountains in the middle of Italy. And it’s a really
interesting site. Now, I know [INAUDIBLE] thinks
this is two separate families. There was one that
lived up here. There’s a house in the, sort
of, eighth, seventh century up here on the hill. And then in the
early sixth century, they build this palazzo
down below, at which point they’re really closely
in contact with Greeks, because– you’ve probably,
many of you, seen this already. They have this lovely
Greek frieze round it, where they appear
to have brought Laconian workmen up from Taranto
to make this frieze locally. And you can tell it’s
Laconian workmen, because they have the Ikea
self-assembly instructions on the back of the
terracotta plaques. Now, this is a really
interesting kind of engagement, because Greeks
would have thought it was really tacky to put a
frieze on your house like that. It’s what you would find
on a public building. But these guys wanted a frieze. Now, they also pick up
another interesting idea from the Greeks. And they’re very
selective about this, and they’re very deliberate
about choosing to do this, and that is that in
the earlier house you have these big, clunky,
iron-age loom weights. You could make relatively
fine textiles with them, with a lot of effort. But they’re really for,
kind of, big blanket things. In the sixth century, they start
to produce textiles on, really, a quite industrial scale. There must’ve been at least
30 women in this house, working on textiles
almost full time. There were three looms here,
all in an area of, surprise, two meters– width of the loom. There were three
warped looms leaning up against the wall– 285
loom weights from here, and another 108 over
here, where they fell off a shelf with a bunch
of domestic pottery. That’s the loom weights, OK? Honest to god, there’s
gazillions of them. And they’re also– that’s
just same ones, laid out. And if you see, they were
made all in one big batch, practically. They’re all virtually identical. There are a few of them
with ring marks on them, from jewelery, but not many. And this is the other batch
here, in amongst the pottery. And when you look at them,
it’s really interesting. This is in the– the ones on
the shelf are this cluster. The other three carefully
fall into three weight groups. Isn’t that cool? So you can see, it
really was three looms. And they very carefully
selected the weights of the loom weights, so that
they matched really closely. Now, you also find that when you
look at a site like Olynthos, you get the same thing. So in most houses, you only
find a couple of loom weights. Where you find a lot of loom
weights is very unusual. And the Olynthos
loom weights, again, are similarly– about
25% of them– marked, stamped in this way. Now, this is really interesting. This is [? Nick Cahill’s ?]
list of what he thinks of as weaving
rooms, but they’re not, of caches of loom weights. None of them has enough loom
weights in it for a whole loom, except this one weird house,
where there’s 247 of them. Now, in the Torre
di Satriano example, I think one of the things that’s
most interesting about this is that what you
must be looking at is a huge number of women here
doing Greek-style weaving– making genuine Greek textiles. But they must have brought
Greek women up there to train– maybe
train their own women, maybe they have a
bevy of Greek women. I slightly wonder if
they don’t, actually, have a bevy of Greek
slaves that they’ve bought, and have taken up there. So however it’s being organized,
whoever these women are, they’re certainly being trained
by expert Greek woman weavers. And presumably, they’re selling
their wonderful textiles from their wonderful upland
sheep down in Taranto as genuine Greek textiles. But the interesting
thing is that in this case, even when they
abandon the house– probably damaged in an earthquake–
also of the loom weights are still there,
suggesting that they don’t belong to those women. And in the Olynthos example you
have exactly the same thing, that all of the– that one
house, with 247 loom weights, suggests to me that something
else is going on there, and that this is
a workshop where you have women or weavers who,
for one reason or another, do not own those loom weights. So when the abandon the house,
the women don’t take them. So something else is happening
there, and it’s different. It’s anomalous. But you so rarely find loom
weights in a pattern like that. So it’s quite a different
kind of issue, here. And it has a real
effect on what we think is going on
in these houses, and how these groups of
weavers in houses are working. So I won’t say very much
about building [INAUDIBLE]. It’s a very
problematic building, and it brings us
back to whether we have women who are textile
workers, or prostitutes, or both. It’s been identified in one
of its phases as a brothel. And one of the reasons it’s
been identified like that– this is building
[INAUDIBLE], is partly because of all these
little rooms in it. And in its earlier
phase, I think this is just a private house. But it’s these kinds
of funny assemblages, with these little caches of
loom weights– but again, there’s quite a few of them. But there aren’t that many. There’s never more than
about 20 in a cache. And there is a lot
of– there is just a huge amount of
artefactual material. So whatever is going
on in this house, maybe these women are,
genuinely, textile workers. It’s possible it’s a brothel. The evidence is just
really not strong enough to say what’s going on. But it is quite weird. And there are a lot
of these small caches. But then, you also get a
lot of those small caches in Olynthos, as well. And I think they’re just
ones that get left behind, for whatever reason. So whether this is
a brothel or not, with weaving
prostitutes, who knows. There isn’t a huge
amount of evidence, and I think it’s, at the moment,
really up in the air and not very conclusive. I just don’t know quite
what to think of that. But if women and their families
are weaving all these textiles, how did they go about, as
it were, getting rid of it or selling these things? And I think they
do, indeed, do that. I think wealthier families
are in a better position to mobilize groups of women,
and it seems very unlikely to me that most women were selling
the products of their labor directly in the market
or even from home. Possibly, men did this. But I think in most
houses, that’s unlikely because my guess is that, if
your family was weaving lots of textiles and you were
quietly getting rid of them on the market, you don’t want
your neighbors knowing this. So you’re not selling
them, necessarily, out the shop attached
to the front. What I would suggest
instead– and this is where it seems to me
that Xenophon passage, near the beginning, in the
first page of the handout that I talked about, seems to
me very interesting– is that it seems to me
that men, like [INAUDIBLE] in that Xenophon
passage, are the men who are perfectly positioned– if
they have some kind of workshop or whatever it is
that they have– also to be acting as retailers,
and agents, and middlemen, or even middle-women,
where they would discreetly go round houses, buy up
surpluses, and then be selling them out their shop, rather than
actually individual households doing it themselves. And I think the activities
of an [INAUDIBLE] here are potentially–
and again, it kind of make sense of some of the
occupational names for things like clothing and textile
retailers that we get, that many of these people
are not only retailers– that they’re probably also
middlemen or middle-women who are buying stuff off the surplus
that particular houses are producing, so that women
are producing wealth. But it just isn’t necessarily
immediately obvious, or visible, or up
front in the sources. I think it is there, if we
dig a little bit deeper. So in conclusion, it seems
to– and I think again, where you actually
see some of this is in the range of textiles that
people have in their houses. This is just a little
example, from the [INAUDIBLE] where, to be honest,
they’re selling off the junk after
people have already got rid of the good stuff. They’re selling off the rags. They’re auctioning off the rags. Textiles are valuable. And I think a lot of
these valuable textiles, and the value of these
textiles, suggest that these women– weaving
in their courtyards, and their back rooms, and
whatever– are actually, potentially, really bringing
in some serious income, into these households. And yet, it’s all
under the radar. It’s hidden in these groups
of working women and weaving women, that we don’t
really see upfront. So I think, in conclusion,
textile manufacture is a complicated businesses. It’s interwoven, literally,
with women’s work and lives– that skills move with
women from family to family, along with
weaving tools, themselves; that slave and free
and freed women work together,
sharing these skills; and that girls grew up knowing
that working wool or linen would consume a huge
chunk of their lives, supply their main
source of wealth and potential independence,
and serve to underpin their identities
and relationships to the other women
in their lives; but that this most
important sector of ancient Greek economies was,
largely, the work of women. I think of that, we
should have no doubt. So thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much, Lin, for
a very inspiring talk bringing together a whole range of
issues [INAUDIBLE] which would be grouped under marriage
patterns, social organization, people [INAUDIBLE] history,
coming from the text but also the archaeological material. So questions? Yes? So Lin, I have a question. What about physical
evidence– skeletal evidence for, say, deformation
of hands or whatever? That’s a really,
really good question. And of course, one
of the difficulties is the lamentable lack
of skeletal evidence from the Greek world. On the [? Metaponto ?]
skeletons, which are pretty
well-preserved, there isn’t a lot of evidence of it. And I don’t think you would
really see it, so much. I don’t think you
would, necessarily, be able to identify
that kind of evidence as explicitly textile-related,
if that makes sense. So a lot of it
would be, probably, just to, kind of, general
arthritis and things like that, that you might not
be able to pick up as being specifically related
to textiles, as I understand it. I’m not an osteo-archaeological
specialist. The other problem as
well is that, of course, for example, in the
[? Metaponto ?] cemeteries, most of the women that
we have buried there are relatively elite women. And I’ll bet you they
weren’t doing anything like quite so much
of that beating of loom warps in the same
way that slave women were. And it’s, I would guess,
the women doing the hardest work where we would see that. Because again, you’re right. Things like grain
grinding, people do pick up osteological
evidence of this. But I don’t think anybody’s
ever done much with trying to identify the textile making. And that’s partly because of
the lack of skeletal material. Somewhere I read the scalloping
that you see on teeth is from pulling– Yeah, that may– from
pulling threads and things. Yeah, that may be related. And where you might
also expect to see it is for people
who are doing things like spinning lots of linen. Because when you’re spinning
linen, it needs to be wet. When I’ve spun
linen, I always do it with a little cup
of water, there. But I’ve also seen people do
it going, [SLURPING SOUND]. Because that’s another way,
obviously, of just making sure that the thread stays wet. So yeah, with teeth
and things I think you would see that,
as well, depending on how people were doing it. But to be honest, I suspect
nobody’s really looked. It’s a good question. Peter? It seems to me that you’ve
done an excellent job of demonstrating that this
is a domestic activity, and therefore a female activity. But like a lot of activities
that are domestic in many ways, once they become
outside the house and professionalized– like
cooking, and tailoring, and so forth– they become male. And it seems to me it’s
incumbent upon Acton to demonstrate that weaving,
at some point, somehow moved out of the
house, at which point it could very well
have been masculine. But there doesn’t seem to
be much evidence for that. No, no, there isn’t. And again, when you get these
big caches of loom weights that might be a weaving
workshop, they’re so unusual. I mean, that Olynthos one
is such a good example, because it’s a one-off. That’s precisely the point. Or the Torre di Satriano
example, again, it’s a one-off. They’re not common. So you’re just not
seeing the big workshops, if they were there, at least
the physical evidence for it. But also, to refute him,
there are plenty of examples– and clearly, colonial America is
a good example– where homespun was where the cloth came from. Absolutely. Some imported
[INAUDIBLE], and so forth. But homespun was– you were
able to make that and provide, without having some kind
of industrial activity producing it. So I think there are
probably plenty of– and even [INAUDIBLE] 200 years ago. Everything’s produced,
every house had a loom. When I was doing
research 40 years ago, there were looms in
virtually every house. Yeah, I remember that, too. And Hamish said the same thing. Yeah, Hamish’s work is the same. Exactly. We have all the same stuff. They all have a loom. And the women all
still knew how to spin. It was nice Greek ladies
the taught me to spin. [INAUDIBLE] a mixture of things. So certain fabrics you make at
home, others you buy outside. That’s right. For example, [INAUDIBLE] make at
home, whereas wool [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah, exactly. Depending on where you
were, that’s right. And also, I suspect
what you probably got were particular
women, as one sees in, even, the
modern Greek world– you’ll have met this,
Peter– where you’ll get a household where
there’s a few women who are extra-specially skilled. And they’ll make the really
beautiful stuff with the silver and gold thread, and the
extra-beautiful kind of bands, and things like that. Now, I think those
are the kind of women where they may be making
surplus stuff that’s in demand. And that’s what’s being
sold out the back door, and ending up on the market. And a lot of this stuff clearly
does end up in the retail area. It’s being sold in the market. Textiles are one of those things
that are a kind of [? coals ?] to [? Newcastle ?] export. Somebody else’s
exciting textiles are always worth buying, even
if you make them yourself. And so you do get
these things being a part of conspicuous
consumption, and luxury textiles
are important. But they are being
manufactured, for the most part, in domestic settings. And I think that the point that
you’re making, where you really see the differences is with
the Roman world, where it does go outside the home. It is more professionalized. And then you do see men,
mostly low-status men, also becoming involved in it. And that is completely
different from what we’re seeing in the Greek world. It really is not visible,
for the most part. John? So at one moment in passing,
you made a reference to households wealthy
enough to own a loom. And I wonder what
you mean by that. What do I know about weaving? It’s women’s work. But really, isn’t all you
need some lumber, right, to make the frame and so on– But you need lumber that’s
straight and [INAUDIBLE]. Then you’ve got all the
loom weights, right? But as you’ve shown,
these could be homemade. These can be pretty homemade. Passed down from one generation
to the next, so easily acquirable. But you also need fleeces,
and access to fleeces. You also, if you
want colors, you need to have somebody dye
it or to dye it yourself. I think in the Greek
world, you get both. I didn’t even talk about dying. That’s another
whole can of worms, because you do get
professional dying. But particularly, for special
colors like the purple– there’s other kinds
of dying that I think is going on at a
domestic level, which is different kinds of
more mundane colors. You also get things like
metallic thread and luxury things. So I think if you
have a whole group of weaving women, that
also entails something like a supply of fleeces. So one of the
things I’ve wondered about is the extent to which,
is there a market in fleeces? And fleece varies in quality,
not only from type of sheep to type of sheep, but
also on the sheep. There are some bits that
are nicer than other bits. So ideally, you want nice wool
from their little tummies. That’s the bit that’s
really good, fine wool. The bits from their
back is a bit scruffier. But people are going
to be weaving– like those big,
clunky loom weights, I think you’re going to be
weaving things like goat hair, and rugs, and blankets. Again, in the [INAUDIBLE] one
of the things that you get is references to
things that sound like [INAUDIBLE], the
big, fluffy blankets. And the meaning of the
term sounds like something that is a [INAUDIBLE]. So that may be a
tradition that goes back quite a long way, which
would be really interesting. So I think there’s a
lot of differentiation. And I think that’s one
of the things that’s so difficult about
this, that a loom that’s weaving basic– the equivalent
of American colonial homespun– is one thing. But with some of these
wealthier households, they’re doing stuff
that’s much, much more elaborate and fancy than that. And it also suggests
that you not only have a really nice loom that
isn’t all bent and gross, and falling apart,
but that also, you’re able to get those raw materials. Does that make sense? So it’s running a loom,
not in the sense of just the physical loom,
but of all the stuff you need to go with it. Exactly. So you don’t really mean
wealthy enough to own a loom, but wealthy enough to operate
an operation in the household. Operate a weaving
work– yeah, exactly. And I think, again,
there’s probably a lot of nuancing that we’re
missing in the source material, so that if you think
about it, people could be doing this at
many different levels. So that running a
loom, which just does the most basic clothing,
is one thing– and most basic pieces of
cloth– and then there are other households, which will
clearly have skilled slaves, for example, or skilled
women in the house who can do much, much more
elegant and fancy stuff. So I think it’s
really complicated, and we are just missing
all of that nuance. One more? Please, I want to ask one
question about the loom. You are showing us the
loom that [INAUDIBLE], very classical– this
big, vertical loom. But [INAUDIBLE] more
smaller, horizontal looms. Yes and no. The horizontal loom really
comes in– the horizontal loom that you see in
modern Greece– really comes in with the Romans. And even in the Roman
world, you get a mix so that– Pompeii is actually
full of loom weights, most of which, interestingly
enough, show up particularly in the courtyard bit,
in the atrium, which is really interesting. So maybe this is where
women were weaving. We don’t really know for sure. But loom weights tend
to gradually disappear in the Roman world,
largely because people seem to be using more in
the way of horizontal looms. Now, you also get,
showing up on Greek vases sometimes, little hand looms,
which are quite small things. And some of those
look like they’re being used for a
technique that’s called [? sprang ?], making
kind of little hair nets and stuff like that. And if you look on
Greek vases, you often see women wearing
these hair net things. So I think there’s
a whole series of– like with the
tablet weaving, and so forth–
there’s a whole series of other techniques
of working wool, in addition to the warp-weighted
loom, that people are doing. Again, the whole thing
is much more complicated than we usually think. I think, one final
question there [INAUDIBLE]. It’s very short, I promise. I know that in the early
medieval world the church, the state, actually, owned
slaves who were employed in Papal estates, specifically
to make [INAUDIBLE]– Vestments and things, yeah. So do we have any idea of how
publicly-owned textiles would have been acquired,
like textiles used in state-sponsored events
or religious [INAUDIBLE]? Well, it depends. There’s a whole range of
different ways it happened. So a lot of it, in
classical Athens and in other archaic
and classical cities, women volunteer their
services to weave and produce ritual garments,
which then becomes kind of an honor and a thing
that you do, and that’s cool. And you also get that in
the medieval world, where very elite ladies
spend lots of time making religious vestments,
as private women. So that happens there, too. But you also get
occasional sanctuaries, where it looks like there
is weaving going on. So Mark [INAUDIBLE],
for example, at Madison, Wisconsin, as it happens, has
done some very interesting stuff on some of the Hellenistic
Asia Minor sanctuaries, which appear to have
textile industries in them. And the sanctuary
at [INAUDIBLE], in southern Italy
just south of Naples, there may be weaving
going on there. So it’s quite variable. But again, the
early medieval world is really interesting, because
what women value and pass around in that world, at
least in Anglo-Saxon England, isn’t the loom weights,
which are horrible. Anglo-Saxons have really
grossly loom weights. But they have beautiful
spindle whorls. And so the spindle
whorl is, then, what you hand down
to your daughter, or pass on to your
sister, or whatever. So this shows up in
other cultures, too. Thank you very much. I think that’s a great note
to thank Lin, once more, and to move next door where
there’s another [INAUDIBLE] here at the institute we’ve
got mastered quite well, which is serving a glass of
wine or other refreshment after these talks. But first, let’s thank Lin. [APPLAUSE]

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