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

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

by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393313482
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/28/1995
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 266,597
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 1360L (what's this?)

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.

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Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
maryh10000 on LibraryThing 2 days ago
If you read no other book on my list, read this one.
SwitchKnitter on LibraryThing 2 days ago
This was a really good book. I tore through it in less than a day. It was a great look at the history of fabric creation (weaving and spinning) through prehistory to Classical Greece. It talked about textile technologies, fashions, and the role of women in both. Recommended.
RuTemple on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Oh, even better than I'd hoped! This is a splendid, readable!, work of scholarship in textile and socioarcheological history. Delicious.
catsinstacks on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Fasinating and informational. Reading this book gave me a connection to all women before me. I can't wait to try weighted loom weaving.
Kamaka on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I read this book when it was first published. I remember that I so enjoyed how the author made this esoteric subject engaging, accessible, and captivating for a lay reader. 15 years later I am now knee deep into a Master's Degree wading though a class on Mesopotamian Religion. The specter of the final term paper has been haunting me. I simply could not think of a way to reduce three thousand plus years of ancient religious thought into a term paper. Then I remembered this book. What triggered the memory I can't say, but in an instant I had the flash of inspiration for my paper's thesis and the sense of reconnecting with an old and wise friend in this book.
keylawk on LibraryThing 3 months ago
The "untold" story of women, done with rigorous absence of speculation and direct application of scientific methods. Barber not only shows that "women spent most of their time raising young children and preparing the daily food and household cloth..." [294], but she shows Why and How, and Why this is important.The author gets particular accolades for explaining her method, and then executing the work within scientific perameters so as to reveal actual facts of what people in previous times were doing. Not content with ignoring "work" for which there is little monumental evidence, she has found "data" in our physiology, the plants, myths, and language. With restraint on mere guesswork and speculation which is remarkable, Barber pieces together the role of women's work in the ancient communities. She is able to "explain"--objectively--why women did things that left almost no hard evidence: preparing food and weaving textiles. (For the 3 years of breast-feeding child care, it had to be work that could be interrupted and "safe"--unlike mining, carcass-rendering, stone-chipping and piling, or warfare, all of which tend to leave more obvious remains).Barber takes us on a 20,000 year odyssey [283] to show us women working. In the Paleolithic period, the fiber crafts were connected to high social status and posed no danger to toddlers. Clothing, which became the "the next language after speech--unique in its ability to convey important information [if simple) continuously and relatively permanently".With the advent of more settled life, the world changed. Cloth-making shifted from merely useful to essential, and finally commercial, importance as a commodity. By the start of the Late Bronze Age (2500 BC), women's textile work lost economic ground, while still busy with children.As a scholar, Barber's work on "work" is particularly important not only for its rigor but its methodology in reconstructing what other scholars had dismissed as unreconstructable--the history of easily perishable commodities like textiles. Before Barber, apparently no one had bothered to reconstruct, and wear, a String Dress, or even a 2500 year old tartan. The woolen guide-string recovered from the caves of Lascaux is now considered part of the importance of the paintings. The presentation is not wooden or theoretical-- it is delightful to re-read Homer and the Xenophon with Barber to re-visit the mystery of change and activity. Until recently, excavators would often throw away the remaining and scarce fiber, or assume the loom weights held little information. Archeology did not become an investigative science until in 1898 a horrified WMF Petrie rushed in to glean from the remains of the smashing and burning ordered by Emile Amelineau at his excavation of Abydos. Known as the l'affaire Amelineau, the tomb raiders were deliberately trying to make their relics more valuable because "unique". And the world started to realize the value of SOCIAL information recovered from the Past. [288] Ancient Texts are not only studied for the stories, the lessons, but also for the revealing etymologies. Barber is an accomplished linguist. The importance of "tunic", "shirt"[290], and "zone [zoster]" [66] not only to show the source of techniques and goods, but illustrates that Language is remarkably durable evidence even as messages perish as they are uttered [13, cf 66, 291, cautionary fn at 292].Barber concludes with a careful examination of her methodology -- this is her great contribution. The techniques -- beginning with the technique for removal of "unwarranted assumptions"! [298] -- for finding the facts. The INCLUSION of the facts about 1/2 the population in "history" turns out to be helpful answering virtually all the critical historical questions -- migration, source-points, influences, etc. For example, understanding the role of women--finding the artifacts of their presence, understanding their work--reveals whether migrants were "invaders" (men engag
Coruca on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This well-written history explores the importance of textiles on early civilizations. The author persuasively argues that much of early commerce was dependent on cloth as this was a lightweight product with a good shelf life and plenty of customers. Using recent archeological evidence, Barber looks at textiles that had been found, as well as designs left on pottery, sculpture and other artifacts. The author also presents evidence that the majority of cloth was made at the hands of women, both for home use and for sale.A fascinating and easy-to-read work, I highly recommend it to any interested in an area of history that has received less attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Impeccable research combined with thoughtful insights and an entertaining, accessible writing style made this both fascinating and fun to read. Worthwhile for anyone interested in history told from a unique perspective.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Completely fascinating! Who would have thought that something as simple as string would grow into multiple worldwide industries that created all of our varied cultures? I only have one tiny complaint, and it's not about the book itself. I got a paperback copy last week -- and now I find that I could have bought a Nook version instead!