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PROCON Sintesi della relazione

Project ID: 312603
Finanziato nell'ambito di: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Paese: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - PROCON (PROduction and CONsumption: Textile Economy and Urbanisation in Mediterranean Europe 1000-500 BCE)

The PROCON project investigates the significance of the production and consumption of textiles during the period of urbanisation in Mediterranean Europe (1000-500 BCE). The focus is on the role of the production and consumption of textiles for the development of city-states (as clothing, elite regalia, trade and exchange items) and the implications of this for other aspects of the economy, such as the use of land, labour resources and the development of urban lifestyle. In terms of scale, the project is concerned with broad patterns and adopts a Mediterranean-wide rather than a regional perspective, examining evidence from Italy, Greece and Spain. The economy of textile production is furthermore conceived as a network that stimulated the mobility of goods, people, ideas and technologies in the context of developing urbanisation. The PROCON structure thus encompasses four research strands within the operational sequence of textile economy: Resources; Production; Product; and Consumption and Exchange. The project is highly interdisciplinary and draws on methods from the fields of archaeology, biology, geology, chemistry, art history and classics, examining archaeological textiles, textile tools, palaeoenvironmental remains, iconographic and written sources.

The first half of the project duration was dedicated to data collection in museums of Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece and the UK, recording textiles, tools and iconography. Our preliminary analyses suggest that, during the Iron Age, and possibly already much earlier, most of Italy shared the twill textile culture of Central Europe (specifically Eastern Hallstatt), while Greece followed the Near Eastern tradition of weft-faced tabby and tapestry. Weft-faced tabbies are also documented in Italy, but are restricted to eastern Adriatic regions and southern Italy where they appear in the contexts dating after the foundation of Greek colonies, or are found in exceptional Etruscan and Lacial burials, which also contain unusual quantities of eastern imports. Based on its geographical and chronological occurrence, it is likely that this type of textile may be connected with Hellenic influence in Italy. Functional tool analysis indicates similar differences in the types of textiles produced in the regions under consideration. Iconographic analysis also appears to support the differences seen in textiles, indicating that, whilst taking the biases inherent in this type of evidence into account, it may be used as a reliable source to ascertain broader patterns of textile consumption. This difference between the textile cultures of Italy and Greece has never been noted before and has important implications for our understanding of textile production and consumption preferences in these two regions, including differences in raw materials, techniques, organisation of production and exchange with neighbouring regions.

Another significant discovery of the project is the identification of the textiles (as well as threads) woven with plied linen yarn that has been spliced rather than draft-spun. Splicing is a technique used to convert plant fibre into yarn that, until recently, has been assumed to be used exclusively in ancient Egypt and the Far East. In contrast to draft spinning, during which the combed and prepared fibres are fixed on a distaff and are continuously drawn to receive a twist imparted during the rotation of a spindle, in splicing, the ends of pre-formed flax fibre bundles stripped from flax stalks are spliced, so that the ends of the fibres would overlap in bunches. Splicing has recently been identified in Neolithic textiles found in the Alpine lake region, and our study demonstrates that, in Italy and possibly more widely in Europe, plant fibres were transformed into yarn by splicing rather than draft spinning well into the Iron Age. This means that flax fibre continued to be spliced throughout the Bronze and Iron Age even as draft spinning technology using spindle developed with the increasing popularity of wool. The change occurred around the 6th c. BCE, likely because of the need for larger quantities of linen yarn and cloth, and potentially a faster thread production technology required for sails and other utilitarian textiles. The shift in technology was likely a consequence of increasing and changing demands of the Mediterranean urban societies.

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United Kingdom