I may study prehistoric spindle and loom as the origin of textiles because as an ethnologist I have this ability. As well observe similarities between the facts I am trying to explain and the facts I already know from ethnological practice. Analogies serve that at my research procedures. However, archeology has excavated finds that must interpret in the context from which they originated. It is an equally long thorny cognitive process, but of the opposite direction.
Thus, archaeological knowledge is the result of the dynamics of the past, but it is not an equal reflection. And as far as I know, there is still no light on the path. On the contrary, there is no law about the human past, and hardly that it will ever arise. The reason is that the laws that presuppose the social sciences do not include wholes, but only certain elements of regularity in human behavior and action.
How did I, as an ethnologist in a museum, come across archeological issues?
On the occasion of the article “On the beginnings of weaving” during the Prehistory of Vojvodina”, Rad MV 35, Novi Sad 1993, 199-218.
This is really an unusual situation compared to the usual procedure. The curator of the museum receives a collection and deals with the processing of materials in a specific context. So, he deals with “his” topic in a limited period of time from which the subjects originate.
As an ethnologist, I was supposed to study traditional domestic and professional crafts during the 19th and 20th centuries. I did, but not only that because I did not accept illogical restrictions.
I probably did not find out the idea by myself only, but as faced with the question of perceiving the continuity of cultural development in that area. As an apprentice, on duty to guide visitors, I was learning and interpreting various concepts and objects. So, altogether with visitors, we understood a lot of exhibition issues in the Museum of Vojvodina.
The idea of dealing with the issues of perceiving the continuity of cultural development in a certain area certainly did not come to me spontaneously. The obligation for us newcomers was to be on duty at the Museum of Vojvodina on weekends. Thus was useful both to spare the experienced and for us as a fiery experience. I was prepared very well to guide the visitors. So I got to know different concepts and exhibits, interpreted every exhibition of the Museum.
My benefits due to the obligation to be on duty at the Permanent Exhibition: Interest and knowledge of the continuity of cultural development in Vojvodina
Of course, it was material from the Paleolithic to our time. Thus, I became “addicted” to search for the original meanings of objects from the very beginning of cultural development.
Logically, because a young curator in a complex museum, if he is curious, enters the visual time machine. He knows something superficial, but he expects a lot. But the halls of archeology seem monotonous with a multitude of seemingly uniform ceramic vessels. Interpretations about the types of ceramic pottery of different cultural groups are unclear to me. The reason is that there is no story of living and working in those cultures and times.
Certain types of pottery vessels differ in details that mean little to me. In fact, I am fascinated by the encounter with the handicraft of a man who lived an unimaginably long time ago. For example, a huge pot for storing the harvest for the whole family fascinates. Then the celebrated miniature cult vessels… However, many essential elements were missing for me to get an idea of those lives.
How do you think these people used to dress? But we can see that they created subtle works of art, expensive jewelry, accomplished meticulous ornamentation. We do not see the clothes because the textiles are of organic origin, easily perishable, so there are practically no material remains.
I was interested in material traces, any indications of the presence of textile culture. It certainly existed in this area, according to all the approximate chronologies of culture, starting from the early Neolithic. The fabrics were gone, but I was interested in the traces of the production tools. Wood, the material from which most of the weaving devices were made, is longer lasting than textiles, but it decays relatively quickly.
Prehistoric Spindle and Weaving Loom, which I noticed as the earliest remnants of tools for Textile Production
As the earliest remnants of tools for textile production, I noticed ceramic weights for looms and the spindle whorls. There were a lot of these finds, starting from the Starčevo culture around the fifth millennium BC.
In the literature, I mostly found generalized tool identifications that I recognized as weights for a loom or spindle. They are most often classified as objects in the group of miscellaneous things.
I was happy when found sources in the art such as reproductions of ornaments from prehistoric ceramics. And there are many of them in recent, mostly foreign archaeological literature. Those are performances of vertical looms with weights, spinners with spindles, and even a series of various scenes from the process of weaving on painted vases.
In-site information is rare, such as sites with detected and undisturbed earth weight findings. Between the traces of the supporting pillars of the former loom, the functional arrangement of the preserved weights is obvious. It was as if for some reason everything in the house collapsed and remained on the floor. Much more common are finds of weights in a group, or in smaller separated parts of the total tensioning equipment of the warp thread on the former loom. All these facts indicate the presence and spread of the original weaving devices here and over the prehistoric world.
Prehistoric Spindle and Weaving Loom – On the occasion how did I choose illustrations for the article On the beginnings of Weaving during the Prehistory of Vojvodina?
As an expert in the topic of traditional weaving, I stuck to the frames of functionality known to me. Using the schemes and logic of developed traditional models of textile processes, I tried to determine the available material from prehistory and harmonize my thesis on Spindles and Looms in the Stone Age with the context of time as I understood it.
When it would seem to me that I am close to fantasy, delayed it off, went to the depot to look at the devices. Then I annoy my colleagues about some mechanics issues, of course, if they let me. Or I give it up and just accept something completely different among routine jobs. Of course, I always had a lot of those other jobs on “waiting”. All this lasted for years, and the result is the article “On the beginnings of weaving during the prehistory of Vojvodina “, Rad MV 35, Novi Sad 1993, 199-218.
In his recommendation, Dr. Predrag Medović emphasized the importance of the productivity of ethnologists if archeological topics are accepted in the domain where they have more experience. In this case, the argument was based on knowledge of later textile technologies. The work of B. Idvorean Stefanović provides a solid basis for understanding and further work on the study of weaving in prehistory. In addition to the interpretation of the material in the collections of Vojvodina’s museums, in the interpretation of this issue, an impressive amount of domestic and foreign relevant literature is given.
Need for research on the subject of textile production in the prehistory of Serbia
In 2016, Prof. Olivera Ninčić from the University of Arts in Belgrade, in her doctoral dissertation Textiles in Prehistory in Serbia, points out that there was no wider research on textiles in the prehistory of Serbia. In the History of Research, she cites my contribution about the beginnings of weaving in the Vojvodina area, as the most extensive research of weights in our literature. She also estimates that a few published works on the production of textiles in the prehistory of Serbia did not gain much importance.
In Archeology, at the Museum of Vojvodina, the exhibition “Masters of Clay and Wheat” took place in 2011. On the idea of the leading author Marija Jovanović, an archeologist. The main topic was clothing and weaving processes through phases starting from the Vinča world in a long period of peace. Until the Late Iron Age. Academic designer Ms. Tamara Jovanović Šljukić has designed the project for the reconstruction of clothing and weaving devices in natural proportions.
According to the decorative treatment of human figures that are presented dressed, she designed a series of types of clothing and weaving devices in function. Lady members of the Association of Weavers, Novi Sad prepared exhibits. They weaved materials and have applied archaic techniques for making gowns. Material reconstructions represent clothing during the long duration of prehistory on this soil. Dr. Jermina Stanojev is the author of the graphic preparation of illustrations for the accompanying publication, published separately in Serbian and English.
Prehistoric Spindle and Weaving Loom – A case of searching female grave goods” in the prehistoric depot of the Museum of Vojvodina
I will certainly not forget the experience during the preparation of the material for the just presented article. It happened in the hot summer of 1993. A horror overwhelmed me while I was rummaging through the boxes with grave finds in the archeological depot of the Museum of Vojvodina. I examined spindle whorls, as archaeologists call the weights for spindles.
Prehistoric spindles as evidence are the oldest remains of spinning devices. The same fact is related to the weaving loom if we look for preserved traces of wiving from thousands of years ago. Grave goods (the items buried along with the body) are considered to be the most reliable evidence because, as a rule, they were enclosed necropolises untouched until the hands of archaeologists. Now they are mostly placed in museum depots.
In the spacious depot in the attic, between the thick, crowded shelves, I was alone, pressed by the hot stale air. Then I was struck by anxiety, then vague fear, and then mystical thoughts. Heavy thoughts came, that these tiny, ornate earthen discs were once intimately tied to their women owners. And that they were laid to rest since a time around 4000 BC.
All those sites have already been emptied, and the items have been moved, processed, and disposed of to continue their rest in this attic in the city center. So, after millennium’s peace, they were found under the impact of the research fever of our time. In a moment I felt, all this eagerness lost its meaning compared with respect for the life of those former worlds.
The Rowing Crafters blog (About knitting, crocheting, and spinning adventures)
In the midst of these heaviest thoughts, I just came across the Rowing Crafters blog (About knitting, crocheting, and spinning adventures). Here I found some people with similar points of view.
As it is somebody, wondering how Victorian archaeologists did not notice that the spindle was the almost main contribution to the deceased. And he supposes that they were primarily looking for findings of antiques that were on the price (fine ceramics, figurines, weapons, tools, old coins …), which covered the costs of expensive excavation. However, some are preserved in the belief that miniature discs are decorative beads.
This blogger (http://rovingcrafters.com/2016/02/22/spinning-yarn-in-the-grave/) is wondering why a grieving man would place a spindle next to the deceased. And he believes, it’s because he carefully carved it for his beloved who did not separate herself from the spindle whorl. He also may be done it in the belief that she would still need spindle in the afterlife. Definitely means a symbol of love and affection.
Prehistoric Spindle and Weaving Loom – Universal Symbols of Love through Time and Space
Staring at a relic, I was troubled by a guilty conscience. Each of these ancient pieces was in an inseparable relationship to its owner. The woman carries it on the spindle as if spinning. When putting down the spindle, she would take off the spindle whorl and place it on her chest; Wears at a necklace like a central decorative bead.
The close connection of a woman since the Stone Age with her a decorated weight for a spindle, confirms that it was a symbol of love and accepted as a gift of a man, it was a life promise. Over the course of time, this symbolism was transferred to the distaff, which continued to contain the same role. This lasts, the same in the traditional model of defining emotional relationships, until the first decades of the 20th century. There are many such contents, and very illustrative and narrative ones, in the fund of ethnological material that I have been dealing with all my working life.
I have definitely postponed the selection of copies for the contribution for more convenient times and circumstances. Then, carefully put everything back in place and left the depot with great relief.
A few days after, overwhelming this stress, I created the situation, made a selection, and provided illustrative material for the manuscript.
Sincerely, Branka on Textiles