Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While men dominated early agriculture, women for millennia took primary responsibility for sewing, weaving textiles and making clothing. In this beautifully illustrated study, Barber (Prehistoric Textiles) retrieves an important chapter in the history of civilization by drawing on archeological evidence, ancient texts, myths and linguistics to reconstruct women's paramount role in the fiber arts until the start of the late Bronze Age, about 1500 B.C., when, Barber observes, the advent of commercial textiles brought men to the looms. In prehistoric Europe, women invented elaborate textiles with complex designs; women of ancient Anatolia ran cloth-making establishments. Barber begins her saga with the description of a Paleolithic ``Venus figure'' that dates from about 20,000 B.C. and is carved wearing a skirt woven of loose strings. Ranging from Egypt to Greece to Sumatra, covering the period from 20,000-500 B.C., Barber illuminates women's changing social status as makers of cloth and clothing.
Library Journal
In this age of ready-to-wear clothing and shopping malls, we sometimes forget that for the first 20,000 years of human existence, all textiles-from everyday clothing to ship's sails-were made by women (and sometimes men) who used a hand spindle to spin threads and a loom to weave the threads into cloth. As an archaeologist and a knowledgeable weaver capable of reproducing the cloth remnants she is studying, Barber is ideally qualified to investigate early textile production and its relation to women's changing roles in ancient societies. Here she reconstructs the history of textiles (primarily in Europe and the Near East), based on the hard evidence of archaeology, geology, art, and ancient texts. Her approach is scholarly yet presupposes no practical knowledge of textile production on the part of the reader. -- Janice Zlendich, California State University Library, Fullerton
Library Journal
In this age of ready-to-wear clothing and shopping malls, we sometimes forget that for the first 20,000 years of human existence, all textiles-from everyday clothing to ship's sails-were made by women (and sometimes men) who used a hand spindle to spin threads and a loom to weave the threads into cloth. As an archaeologist and a knowledgeable weaver capable of reproducing the cloth remnants she is studying, Barber is ideally qualified to investigate early textile production and its relation to women's changing roles in ancient societies. Here she reconstructs the history of textiles (primarily in Europe and the Near East), based on the hard evidence of archaeology, geology, art, and ancient texts. Her approach is scholarly yet presupposes no practical knowledge of textile production on the part of the reader. -- Janice Zlendich, California State University Library, Fullerton
Booknews
Barber uses data gathered by sophisticated new methods of studying the past, shaping a wealth of information on textiles as one of women's most important contributions to past societies. She examines the relationship of women and their textile work to society and economics over the huge span of prehistoric and early historic times, and chronicles the growth of the textile industry, fashion, and ancient costume. Includes numerous b&w drawings and some photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393035063
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 0.10 (w) x 0.10 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface 11
Introduction 17
Ch. 1 A Tradition with a Reason: Why textiles were traditionally women's work 29
Ch. 2 The String Revolution: Life in the Palaeolithic 42
Ch. 3 Courtyard Sisterhood: Horticultural society in the Neolithic 71
Ch. 4 Island Fever: Bronze Age horticultural survivals: Minoans and others 101
Ch. 5 More than Hearts on Our Sleeves: The functions of cloth and clothing in society 127
Ch. 6 Elements of the Code: Symbolism in cloth and clothing 147
Ch. 7 Cloth for the Caravans: Early urban manufacture in the Bronze Age Near East 164
Ch. 8 Land of Linen Middle Kingdom Egypt 185
Ch. 9 The Golden Spindle: Outworker industries for the elite: The Mycenaeans 207
Ch. 10 Behind the Myths: Women's work as reflected in textile myths 232
Ch. 11 Plain or Fancy, New or Tried and True: Late Bronze and Iron Age urban industries 257
Ch. 12 Postscript: Finding the Invisible: Methods of research 286
Illustration and Credit List 301
Sources 306
Index 323
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