Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


Organic fabrics only rarely survive under archaeological conditions. Particularly in humid temperate or tropical zones, textiles and other fiber perishables rapidly decompose and disappear quite soon after deposition. A few remnants may be found in dry caves or anerobic wet sites, or as charred fragments or metal pseudomorphs, but these represent only a tiny proportion of regional prehistoric fabric production. Fortunately, though, the archaeological record does sometimes yield secondary evidence in the form of impressions on pottery of yam, fabric, and basketry.

Following the theme of this year's TSA symposium, "Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints," this paper focuses on methods and results of some recent projects involving fabric impressions on pottery. Non-archaeologists might or might not be familiar with the approach. Specialists in organic archaeological fabrics might be familiar with the methodology but see little or no incentive to use it. Even archaeologists who have used the analysis of fabric impressions to good advantage might not be familiar with some of the most recent developments in the field.

In the following pages, I briefly review what is involved in such an analysis, describe advantages and limitations of fabric data derived from impressions, discuss some recently developed analytical approaches and newly-recognized problems, and touch upon several recent case studies that take full advantage of this medium.