Date of this Version
Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,
This paper will explore the importance of wool in the emergence of complex societies during the Bronze Age in the Aegean. The 2nd millennium BC Aegean witnesses the emergence of a highly particular system of wool economy, beginning with the Minoan and followed by the Mycenaean centralized palace economies with strict administration of flocks, herders, wool, and textile production by thousands of women and children. This system monitors annual production targets and surplus production, and production strategies ensuring that the palaces’ needs are met. Textile production is the largest sector of the palace economy and employs the highest number of people, organized according to a strict division of labour. At Knossos, it is entirely focused on wool for a quite standardised textile production; other secondary products, such as milk, skins, horn, lanolin, and meat did play a role as well but they only occur sporadically in the palace records. Regrettably, textiles, as other organic remains, are rarely preserved in the Aegean, so we must rely on the written documents in order to assess the textile production and consumption. This can be combined with experimental archaeology and studies of the numerous Bronze Age textile tools: loom weights and spindle whorls. The standardised mono-fibre and industry-like production controlled by the palaces can be contrasted with a wider range a fibres found archaeologically, a diversity of techniques and variety of patterns and decorations depicted in Bronze Age iconography.