Synopses & Reviews
New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women's unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies. Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women. Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have omitted virtually half the picture. Elizabeth Wayland Barber has drawn from data gathered by the most sophisticated new archaeological methods--methods she herself helped to fashion. In a "brilliantly original book" (Katha Pollitt, ), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric.
New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women's unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies. Barber "weaves the strands of mythology and literature, archaeology, ethnology, and documented history into a rich tapestry" says John Noble Wilford, New York Times Book Review. Photos and drawings. Author lectures.
2500 years ago, the women of Athens slaved at home, virtual prisoners of their husbands, expected to provide the cloth and clothing for their family. 4000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, there was a very different picture: respectable women were in business, weaving textiles at home to be sold abroad for gold and silver. Going back even further, 20,000 years ago women began making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibres. Indeed, for over 20,000 years, until the Industrial Revolution, the arts of weaving belonged primarily to women and were the principal vehicle for demonstrating their various roles as mother, provider, worker, entrepreneur and artist.
Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times
"A fascinating history of . . . [a craft] that preceded and made possible civilization itself." --
About the Author
Elizabeth Wayland Barber is the author of Women's Work and The Mummies of Ürümchi. Professor emerita of archaeology and linguistics at Occidental College, she lives in California.