Hedvig Landenius Enegren, Spinning and Weaving Tools. Textile Technology at Etruscan Acquarossa and San Giovenale

This project involves a study of the textile implements (loom weights, spools, spindle whorls, needles) recovered during excavations at San Giovenale and Acquarossa in the 1950s –1970s conducted by the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome. These two archaeological sites, located in the region of northernmost present day Lazio, have yielded material that provide a significant opportunity to increase our knowledge of textile technology in Etruscan settlement environments and, moreover, to diachronically chart its development with a focus on the period from proto-Villanovan to the Archaic.

Textiles constitute a fundamental part of material culture. Ancient textiles in the archaeological record are rare finds and often appear only as pseudomorphs, in which the organic substance has fused with a supporting material in a mineralisation process, or as impressions on a clay or soil medium, since organic material is rarely preserved unless precise environmental conditions are met. The specific tools used in ancient textile manufacture therefore remain a valuable resource in ancient textile research. The study of the physical properties of the tools can provide essential information with regard to textile technology when actual organic textile finds are absent. Experimental archaeology conducted at the Centre for Textile Research (CTR) at the University of Copenhagen, with replicas of tools from archaeological sites, has confirmed the possibility to determine, within a range, the varieties of textile that may have been manufactured at any particular archaeological site.

Loom weights were used on a warp-weighted loom to provide the warp threads with tension for optimal weaving. The two most important parameters with regard to loom weights are their weight and thickness as both influence fabric quality and density. Spools may also have functioned as weights in this respect. The weight and diameter of a spindle whorl affect the thickness of the thread and abrasion marks on suspension holes can tell us about the spinning direction which, in addition, is culturally determined. Moreover, although textile tools may be universal, functionally speaking, their form and decoration may differ from one culture and/or area to another. Textile implements can thus potentially be considered as distinctive identity markers.

The study of the textile tools from Acquarossa and San Giovenale highlights Etruscan material culture. The results of this study will be compared to those obtained in my earlier studies of the textile technology present at select archaeological sites in South Italy and Sicily, initiated as a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow at CTR, in the years 2012–2014. The study is being generously supported by the Fondazione Famiglia Rausing.