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Encyclopedia of Archaeology (2008)
  • Carol Bier, The Textile Museum
  • Mary M. Dusenbury, University of Kansas
The importance of textiles is not reflected in the archaeological record. This article addresses the cultural significance and pervasive presence of textiles in all societies, with particular reference to those societies for which archaeology is a main source of evidence. Textiles often present complex structures and represent the highest technological achievements of a culture, but due to their fragile and organic composition, they often do not survive, except in extraordinary circumstances of extreme dryness, permafrost or anaerobic conditions. As artifacts, textiles survive as fragmentary physical objects that once served as garments, furnishings, means of storage and transport, architectural elements, or items used for the care and tending of animals. Serving many functions, they also express cultural values and ideals through materials, structures, colors, forms, and patterns. Textiles may communicate status, wealth, identity, and serve to distinguish individuals and to define groups through visual forms. Sections on textiles and society, textile technologies, and textile structures and patterns provide a brief introduction for the contextual understanding of archaeological finds, and a succinct survey of significant finds of archaeological textiles in Egypt and the Near East, East Asia, Europe, South America, and North America. A review of textiles which have survived in nonarchaeological contexts, offers comparative consideration of the ways in which historical textiles may be used to amplify the archaeological record.
  • textiles,
  • natural fibers,
  • archaeology,
  • bast fibers; cotton,
  • flax,
  • linen,
  • wool,
  • silk,
  • cloth,
  • clothing,
  • costume,
  • fabric,
  • fiber,
  • garments,
  • Silk Road,
  • technology,
  • weaving
Publication Date
Publisher Statement
Ed. Deborah M. Pearsall, Academic Press, New York, 2008. Pages 2119-2125 ISBN 9780123739629,
Citation Information
Carol Bier and Mary M. Dusenbury. "Textiles" Encyclopedia of Archaeology (2008)
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