Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Textiles as Primary Sources: Proceedings of the First Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Minneapolis Institute of Art, September 16-18, 1988


Copyright © 1988 by the author(s).


The archaeological site of Spiro, which is located in eastern Oklahoma, was a major civic-ceremonial center of the Mississippian cultural period from approximately A.D. 900 to 1400. These prehistoric peoples developed an extensive trade network, a highly developed religious center, and a political system which controlled the region. An exceptionally rich assemblage of artifacts has been recovered from the mounds at Spiro, and Craig Mound has produced the most extensive collection of preserved prehistoric textiles in the southeastern United States (Brown 1976, King & Gardner 1981, Kuttruff 1988).


A purposeful sample of 71 Spiro textile specimens from burial context in Craig Mound was selected from the collections of the National Museum of Natural History, the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and the University of Arkansas Museum. The primary criteria for the selection of the sample were maximum variation in textile attributes, observable interworking of elements, and a minimum size of two square centimeters. These textiles were subjected to a systematic study of attribute complexes which included fabric structure, patterning, design, coloration, yarn construction, and fibers. An ordinal scale index of production complexity was developed by the author and used to evaluate the number of decisions and the amount of labor involved in the manufacture of the individual textiles.


The research reveals textiles from Spiro that are unique in structure and design among reported Mississippian period textiles. Nearly all of the textile fabrication techniques employed could have been produced by finger manipulation and would not require the use of a loom with means of providing both warp tensioning and shedding. There were 116 fabric structures identified in the 71 specimens, and the number of structural variations per textile specimen ranged from 1 to 4. Interworking was done with both 1 and 2 sets of elements and included examples of twining, interlacing, knotting, and wrapping.