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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

5.0 2
by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
 

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"A fascinating history of…[a craft] that preceded and made possible civilization itself." —New York Times Book Review
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

Overview

"A fascinating history of…[a craft] that preceded and made possible civilization itself." —New York Times Book Review
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, Washington Post Book World), she argues that women were a powerful economic force in the ancient world, with their own industry: fabric.

Editorial Reviews

Scientific American
“Elizabeth Barber is as knowing and perceptive as any archaeologist-author in sight…Her topic is wonderfully fresh.”
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. (May)
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. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Janice Zlendich, California State Univ. Lib., Fullerton

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393313482
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/28/1995
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
168,818
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
1360L (what's this?)

Meet 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 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months 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!