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 examination of weft-faced compound non-silk fabrics found in Egypt (ca. 3rd - 7th century A.D.), in the Royal Ontario Museum collections, revealed many structural differences and similarities. Single, double and ply yarns with apparent variation in size and set density were observed. Some have their twist in "S" direction, others in "Z" direction, with diverse amount of twist. Wool yarns make up the majority of the constructions, but in many cases wool yarns alternate with cotton and sometimes linen yarns. Tabby and 1/2 twill weaves are employed as binding weaves, while the compound weave structures comprise 1:1 and 2:1 ratios of inner-warp to binding-warp ends. These variations provide a very interesting spectrum of textures executed in varying degrees of design complexity. The existence of many variables creates a necessity to seek: a quantitative and systematic methodology, through which identification, classification and interpretation of technical data would be possible.

Reconstruction of weaving technologies has been selected as the principal criterion for the research. It requires analysis which must be detailed enough to determine the technological range of variations, and to indicate how and why weavers of different groups of civilization manipulated their weaving techniques. This paper mainly discusses the aspects considered in developing a protocol which records and confirms objectively the structural and technical parameters of the textiles under study.

1.0.0. The Objective: Concept and Rational

A protocol for reconstructing early weaving technologies should consist of indispensable attributes to impart an integral system, thus elucidating the weaving details and mode of fabrication. It should not be devised for the mere gathering of technical data, but it should enclose a system organizing and employing these data to deal with basic and imperative questions. The data would provide information on what types of material were used; indicate how these materials were assembled in a textile form; and be utilized to explain why materials and processes changed at certain times of history in a certain way, in addition to what can be learned from textiles as to the resources, skills and knowledge of those who made it. Thus, further distinctions of early textiles can be drawn, not only on the basis of elements related to their outer appearance, but also by the indispensable attributes of their inner structures.