Monday, October 26, 2009

The Top Whorl Spindle in Ancient Times

I'm a big history buff, especially Ancient Egypt. So, imagine my pleasure at finding some actual text at spindles in Ancient Egypt in the book, Prehistoric textiles: the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze by E. J. W. Barber (The link shows a preview of the book. You won't get the whole book, but enough to whet your appetite!)

Now, I've always thought that low-whorl spindles were the most commonly used *everywhere* and that top-whorl spindles were more 'modern' (as modern as spindles get). However, imagine my surprise at finding this bit of text:

"European peasants since Classical times at least have used low-whorl spindles. ......[but] Herodotus added to those manners and customes of the Ancient Egyptins which exactly contradicted the common practice of mankind the fact that their dropped their spindle whorl uppermost instead of whorl downwards. Ancient Egyptian paintings of spindles in use invariably show the whorl at the top of the shaft; the very clear hieroglyph of a spindle in the sign-groups for spinning shot it there too."

Not only that, but preserved spindles show a notch or groove to catch the thread in the whorl!

Not only did the Ancient Egyptians used it, but also in the Middle East in the 4th millenium (3300 BC) by women in Khuzistan (Iran), by Bedouin women, in ancient Persia, and by the Hittites in 800 BC.

The book, thus far, has been a very interesting read. It covers textiles from domestication of fibers, to spinning, to weaving, felting, and dye'ing. A must for any given person interested in the history of fiber. :-)