HHIA03513U  HIS, AFLYST: Aegean Textile Archaeology and script

Volume 2013/2014



Aegean Textile Archaeology and script

In recent years, significant progress has been made in our understanding of ancient textile technology and how textiles were used by people of the past to display status, age, gender etc. This development is particularly visible with regard to the Bronze Age Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, where societies, from a domestic and small-scale craft production, developed centralised and controlled industries around the various palace centres.

This course will present and explore contemporary archaeological, historical and philological international research into ancient clothing, textile production and consumption in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean region. A special emphasis is put on the relationship between textiles and ancient scripts, both in terms of content and how scripts appear in connection with textile production. The areas to explore are especially the Hittite textile cultures and script and Minoan and Mycenaean textile cultures and scripts, with perspectives on neighbouring areas such as Cyprus, and the Old-Assyrian documentation. One of the innovations of the Bronze Age was the establishment of extensive textile trade networks which are documented in official records and in private letters between merchants and textile producers. This documentation from the ancient Near East continues to shed new light on how textile production and textile trade played a decisive and fundamental role in ancient societies.

This course presents the on-going research and results of the Centre for Textile Research, an interdisciplinary centre of excellence located at the Saxo Institute. Currently, research in the field is being undertaken by archaeologists, historians and philologists from a range of countries, who in this course will collaborate to analyse archaeological textile remains in conjunction with the written sources and images of dress and textile tools at our disposal. Some of Europe’s foremost scholars in the field will present their research and specialised knowledge to the students during the course, and these guest lecturers include:
• Dr. Joanne Cutler: Minoan textile production and Linear A
• Dr. Malgozata Siennicka, Textile production of the Early Bronze Age Aegean
• Dr. Hedvig Landenius Enegren: Cypriot textile production in the archaic age and scripts in Cyprus in the 1st millennium BCE
• Dr. Salvatore Gaspa, Assyrian textiles
• Dr. Berit Hildebrandt, Meaning and symbolism of Homeric textiles
• Dr. Cécile Michel, Textile manufacture as documented in the Old-Assyrian letters
• Dr. Miguel-Angel Andres Toledo, Indo-European textile terminology
• Dr. Benedetta Bellucci, Hittite iconography of textiles and dress
• Dr. Matteo Vigo, Hittite texts concerning textiles and ritual practices

Most lectures concern the 2nd mill. BCE but there are perspectives into the 1st mill., when we include Cypriot, Assyrian and Homeric evidence. Initial focus will be on the basics of textile technologies and textile terminologies to provide the students with the necessary background. This will include hands-on experience, to learn and experience the basics of the technology. Insight into how the production of textiles took place across the Mediterranean area will then be presented, as well as the place and function of textiles in cult, religion and mythology.

The second part of the course will explore ancient textile production across the Mediterranean area with a predominant focus on the Hittite and Minoan/Mycenaean worlds. Written evidence will be used to stress and outline the hitherto rather neglected significance of textiles, dress, and their production in the ancient world. A new angle to the theme is the inclusion throughout the course of scripts as a material and conceptual link to the primarily non-domestic textile manufacture; we will review concurrent evidence for textiles and script and how scripts react and adapt to the complex rendering of textiles by the means of verbal and non-verbal (logograms) expressions, often rooted in iconography.

Finally, the course also includes studies of Bronze Age dress in relation to identity, gender, social rank, ethnicity, economic power and age.

 Course objectives (clarification of some of the objectives stipulated in the curriculum):
The course aims to give students a methodological understanding of how to combine archaeological, iconographical and written sources when exploring a specific topic. Each lecture will demonstrate and discuss how this can be achieved. This will enable students specifically to:
• understand ancient textiles, their production, functionality and significance as an integral part of ancient technology, religion and society.
• address and discuss textiles and clothing in relation to identity studies, both specifically in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age but also on a more theoretical level which can be applied to other areas and times.
• acquire knowledge of the current international textile research.
• acquire knowledge of theories relevant for textiles and clothing from material culture studies and other relevant theoretical approaches concerning gender and identity, and apply them to material culture and iconography of the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.
• acquire knowledge of theories concerning the emergence of script and apply them to the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age.
• acquire practical skills in ancient textile production techniques.

Please note that all lectures are compulsory and that students are strongly encouraged to take the final examinations. All prospective students are welcome to an informal interview before lectures start with M-L Nosch and E. Andersson Strand. This interview will take place 3-5 February 2014.

Please note that these books are available in the university libraries, in KB and are at your disposal in the Centre for textile Research reading room.

- Elizabeth Barber: Prehistoric Textiles. The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with Special Reference to the Aegean. Princeton University Press, 1991.
- Ancient Textiles. Production, Craft and Society. Eds.: Carole Gillis & Marie-Louise Nosch. Oxbow Books, 2007.
- Textile Terminologies in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean from the Third to the First Millennia BC. Eds.: Cécile Michel & Marie-Louise Nosch. (Ancient Textiles Series 8). Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2010.
- KOSMOS. Jewellery, Adornment and Textiles in the Aegean Bronze Age. 13th international Aegean conference held at Copenhagen, April 2010. Eds.: Marie-Louise Nosch & Robert Laffineur. Aegaeum 33 (2012).
- Textile Production and Consumption in the Ancient Near East. Eds.: Henriette Koefoed, Marie-Louise Nosch, Eva Andersson Strand. (Ancient Textiles Series 12). Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2013.
- C. Brenique, M. Tengberg, E. Andersson Strand and M.-L. Nosch: Préhistoire des Textiles au Proche-Orient/ Prehistory of Textiles in the Near East. Paléorient 38.1-2 – 2012 Pluridisciplinaire Review of Prehistory and Protohistory of Southwestern and Central Asia. 2012.

Further bibliography will be provided on the first day of the course and via ABSALON.

Group instruction / Seminar
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • Total
  • 42