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In the last few years a group of philologists and archaeologists have started to put the evidence for Greek textiles in order:

  • Cecilie Brøns, Gods and Garments: Textiles in Greek Sanctuaries {modest price}
  • Liza Cleland, The Brauron Clothing Catalogues {modest price, free review}
  • Margarita Gleba {various free-to-read articles on archaeology}
  • Mary Harlow and Marie-Louise Nosch (eds.), Greek and Roman Textiles and Dress: An Interdisciplinary Anthology. Ancient Textiles Series, Volume 19 (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2014)

Marie-Louise Nosch, Stella Spantidaki, and Hero Granger-Taylor are other names to look up. The Hippeis in Toronto have been doing a lot of research on textiles from the Aegean. Giannis Kadoglou has an article on The Ancient Greek Chiton (2019) which speaks to some of the clever things which ancient Greek weavers may have done.

For specific finds of textiles from Archaic and Classical Greece see:

  • Gullberg & Åstrøm 1970 = Gullberg, E. & Åstrøm, P., The Thread of Ariadne. A Study of Ancient Greek Dress, Göteborg 1970 (Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 21)
  • Margariti & Orphanou 2011 = Christina Margariti, Stavros Protopapas, and Vassilike Orphanou, “Recent Analyses of the Excavated Textile Find from Grave 35 HTR73, Kerameikos Cemetery, Athens, Greece,” Journal of Archaeological Science 38 (2011), pp. 522–527 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2010.10.005 (on textiles from a secondary burial in the grave of Hipparete the granddaughter of Alcibiades, stylistically and stratigraphically dated to c. 433-400 BCE. Previous researchers thought they were silk from Bombyx mori because they were so fine. They think these are cellulosic fibres so probably linen or hemp at that date. 20×60, 30×100, 30×30 threads per cm plus a “very open plain weave”)
  • Moulherat & Spantidaki 2007 = Moulherat, Chr. & Spantidaki, Y., “A Study of Textile Remains from the 5th Century BC Discovered in Kalyvia, Attica,” in: Gillis, C. & Nosch, M.-L. (eds.), Ancient Textiles. Production, Craft and Society, Proceedings of the First International Conference on Ancient Textiles, Held at Lund, Sweden, and Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 19–23, 2003, Oxbow Books, Oxford 2007 (Ancient Textiles Series 1), pp. 163–166.
  • Moulherat & Spantidaki 2009 = Moulherat, C. and Spantidaki, Y., “Cloth from Kastelli Chania,” Arachne 3 (2009), pp. 8–15. https://artextiles.org/en/content/arachne-volume-3-english-version (on a Minoan-period fragment of weft-faced tabby-woven braid from Chania, Crete, they think it was nettle fibre (ramie) and goat hair)

Chehrabad, Hasanlu, and Arǧān/Arjan are the most important sites with Iranian textiles (there are unpublished Iron Age textiles at Shahr-i Qumis in Damghan, northern Iran).

  • Javier Álvarez-Mon, “The Introduction of Cotton into The Near East: A View from Elam.” International Journal of the Society of Iranian Archaeologists, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer-Autumn 2015) pp. 41-52 http://journal.soia.org.ir/17-the-introduction-of-cotton-into-the-near-east-a-view-from-elam.html
  • Bellinger, Louisa (1957) “Charred Textiles from the Treasury.” In Schmitt 1957 p. 137 {just two fragments of woollen cloth, a weft-faced tabby with twisted wefts and one in ‘cloth weave’ (a balanced tabby with the same number and weight of warp and weft threads?)}
  • Grömer, Karina …
  • Javier Álvarez-Mon, The Arjan Tomb: At the Crossroads of the Elamite and the Persian Empires (Peeters Press, 2010) {this is very expensive, I will see if I can find an article specifically on the embroidered textiles and 98 gold-sheet appliques from this tomb}
  • Hadian, M. / Good, I. / Pollard, A.M. / Zhang, X. / Laursen, R. (2012) “Textiles from Douzlakh Salt Mine at Chehr Abad, Iran: A Technical and Contextual Study of Late pre-Islamic Iranian Textiles.” International Journal of the Humanities Vol. 19 No. 3 pp. 152-173 http://journals.modares.ac.ir/article-27-588-en.html
  • Chika Mouri, Abolfazl Aali, Xian Zhang, and Richard Laursen (2014) “Analysis of dyes in textiles from the Chehrabad salt mine in Iran.” Heritage Science volume 2, no. 20 https://doi.org/10.1186/s40494-014-0020-3 (identifies the famous colourful narrow weave as from a late Parthian or Sasanid context)
  • Love, Nancy 2011. “The analysis and conservation of the Hasanlu-period IVB textiles,” in Maude de Schauensee (ed.), People and crafts in period IVB at Hasanlu, Iran (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) pp. 43–56
  • de Schauensee, Maude (2011) “Context of Textiles from the Hasanlu IVB Destruction Level,” in Maude de Schauensee (ed.), People and crafts in period IVB at Hasanlu, Iran (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) pp. 57-
  • Kawami, Trudy S. “Archaeological evidence for textiles in pre‐Islamic Iran.” Iranian Studies, Vol. 25 Nr. 1-2 (1992) pp. 7-18

We have vast numbers of documents and a few grave finds for Mesopotamian textiles, including very detailed descriptions of the garments made for images of the gods:

  • Crowfoot, Elisabeth 1995 “Textiles from Recent Excavations at Nimrud,” Iraq 57, pp. 113-118
  • Granger-Taylor, Hero “The textile fragments from PG16,” in J. Curtis, “Late Assyrian Bronze coffins,” Anatolian Studies vol. 33 (1983) pp. 94–95
  • James, M.A., N. Reifarth, A.J. Mukherjee, M.P. Crump, P.J. Gates, P. Sandor, F. Robertson, P. Pfälzner and R.P. Evershed. “High prestige royal purple dyed textiles from the Bronze Age royal tomb at Qatna, Syria.” Antiquity 83 (2009) pp. 1109–1118. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003598X00099397
  • Malatacca, Luigi (2017) “Ordinary People’s Garments in Neo- and Late Babylonian Sources.” In Salvatore Gaspa, Cecile Michel, and Marie-Louise Nosch (eds.), Textile Terminologies from the Orient to the Mediterranean and Europe, 1000 BC to 1000 AD, Lincoln, Nebraska (2017). Zea E-Books 56. pp. 107-121 https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/zeabook/56/
  • Shiyanthi Thavapalan, “Purple Fabrics and Garments in Akkadian Documents,” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History 3.2 (2016) pp. 163-190 https://doi.org/10.1515/janeh-2017-0007 {focused on the Bronze Age but has a useful discussion of colour terms in Akkadian and an Amarna text EA 101 with lapis-lazuli-coloured linen (GADA ZA.GIN3}
  • Louise Quillien, “Flax and Linen in the First Millennium Babylonia BC: The Origins, Craft Industry and Uses of a Remarkable Textile.” In Mary Harlow, Cécile Michel, Marie-Louise Nosch (eds.), Prehistoric, Ancient Near Eastern & Aegean Textiles and Dress (Oxbow, 2014) pp. 271-296
  • Stefan Zadawski, Garments of the Gods, two volumes (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2006 and 2013) {on garments made for images of the Sun at Sippar, his bed, throne, chariot, etc.}
  • Naama Sukenik et al., “Early evidence (late 2nd millennium BCE) of plant-based dyeing of textiles from Timna, Israel,” PLoS One, vol. 12, no. 6 28 June 2017 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0179014

The Cambridge History of Western Textiles is very expensive and our library does not have it. I understand that the ancient chapters were written 40 years ago when archaeological textiles research had just begun.

In general, think wool, linen, and maybe hemp cloth, think plain weaves (including warp-faced tabbies), and think very fine, densely packed threads. Some extant textiles have 100 threads per cm. Twills dating to this period have been found in northern Italy, the Alps, and Pazyryk (and slightly earlier at Chärchän in the Tarim Basin), but not Greece or the western parts of the Persian empire.

Herodotus 2.105 seems to say that linen was only grown in Colchis and Egypt, but it is common in graves in Greece and “nothing suggests that linen textiles were rare, or associated only with female burials or those of foreigners” (Nosch, “Linen Textiles and Flax”). Linen was successfully cultivated in Greece in recent times, and there was very extensive trade between the Aegean, the flax fields of Egypt, and the hemp fields of southern Russia which supplied the Athenian navy. Linen shows up in graves and lists from Babylonia: poor soldiers were often issued with a linen karballatu (= Greek kyrbasia “Skythian hood”), and the “foot-long linen chiton” which Herodotus’ Babylonian men wear under their woollen chiton and their white chamlidion (1.195.1) probably corresponds to the linen undergarments in graves and the TUG3.GADA “linen garment” in Babylonian texts.

There is some written and archaeological evidence for cotton reaching as far as Mesopotamia (trade between the Chaldean swamps and the Indus started and stopped every few centuries since the third millennium BCE). See Cotton from Dilmun; Margarita Gleba tells me that she is not so sure about the find from the Kerameikos which I described in Linen-Cotton Blends in the Greek and Roman World. The Nubians only domesticated gossypium herbaceum around the year 1 although they taught the Egyptians who taught the Romans https://journals.openedition.org/ethnoecologie/4429

So far, there does not seem to be evidence that Chinese, domesticated, de-gummed silk travelled west of the Oxus before the First Emperor (d. 210 BCE). Don’t just assume that of course Scythians/Saka/Gimmeraya wear Chinese silk because Turks and Mongols did! Other kinds of silk are native to India and the Mediterranean, but they look different.

… dyes …
Rubia tinctorum (madder) and indigotin (probably from dyer’s woad) were used to dye textiles on the Gulf of Aqaba in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age ( https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0179014 ). Rubia tinctorum (madder), an indigotin (probably dyer’s woad/Isatis tinctoria), a yellow flavenol dye from tamarisk, and a yellow flavenol dye from an unknown plant were found on textiles from Chehrabad (Mouri et al., “Analysis of dyes in textiles from the Chehrabad salt mine in Iran”). One of the Pazyryk kurgans contains a pair of trousers of madder dyed woollen twill (Natalia V. Polosmak, “A Different Archaeology”). Late Bronze Age and Iron Age graves from the Tarim Basin contain textiles dyed with madder (or another rubia species), indigo, and “yellow dyes of the luteolin-type,” a flavenoid found in weld and several vegetables and herbs (Kramell et al., “Dyes from Yanghai”) … Tyrian purple … walnut browns, iron blacks …

… cut of clothing …

Most Greek clothing was probably made from 1 or 2 rectangles or semicircles which were woven to shape not cut, so you can experiment in draping it with some scrap fabric and safety pins.

Iranian clothing was probably more complicated:

Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Susan clothing was probably mostly woven to shape. Extant Bronze Age Egyptian tunics have a round neckhole cut on to them and small pieces like sleeves and aprons are often slightly shaped:

  • “Spinning Lady” bitumen relief from Neo-Elamite Susa https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010176914
  • textiles from the Arǧān tomb in Susiane
  • G. M. Crowfoot and N. de G. Davies, “The Tunic of Tut’ankhamūn,” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 27 (December 1941), pp. 113-130 http://www.jstor.org/stable/3854566
  • Rodolphe Pfister, “Les Textiles du Tombeau de Toutankhamon,” Revue des arts asiatiques, Vol. 11, No. 4 (December 1937), pp. 207-218 https://www.jstor.org/stable/43475067
  • Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Patterns for ancient Egyptian clothing (Stichting Textile Research Center, Leiden, 1992) ISBN 9789080097315, 9080097314 {thanks Todd Feinman}
  • Gilian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Tutankhamun’s Wardrobe: Garments from the Tomb of Tutankhamun (Rotterdam: Barjesteh van Waalwijk van Doorn, 1999) ISBN 90-5613-042-0
  • Rosalind Hall, Egyptian Textiles, Shire Egyptology 4 (Princes Risborough: Shire Publications, 1986)
  • Aleksandra Hallmann, Ancient Egyptian Clothing: Studies in Late Period Private Representations, volume 1 (Leiden: Brill, 2023)
  • Aleksandra Hallmann, “Clothing (non‐royal), Pharaonic Egypt,” The Encyclopedia of Ancient History (2017) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318420934_Clothing_non-royal_Pharaonic_Egypt

… decorative techniques: kilim, applied tablet-woven bands, embroidery, bezants …

  • Spantidaki, Stella (2014) “Embellishment Techniques of Classical Greek Textiles.” In Mary Harlow and Marie-Louise Nosch (eds.), Greek and Roman Textiles and Dress: An Interdisciplinary Anthology. Ancient Textiles Series, Volume 19 (Oxford: Oxbow Books) pp. 34-45 ISBN 9781782977155
  • Kerstin Droß-Krüpe and Annette Paetz gen. Schieck, “Unravelling the Tangled Threads of Ancient Embroidery: a compilation of written sources and archaeologically preserved textiles,” in Mary Harlow and Marie-Louise Nosch, eds., Greek and Roman Textiles and Dress: an Interdisciplinary Anthology (Oxbow Books: Oxford and Philadelphia, 2014) p. 207-235
  • Pliny NH 8.80 Mayhoff, aka. 8.74 Bostock and Riley (also known as chapters 8.195, 196) “Homer mentions garments with pictures, but the Phrygians invented how to make them with a needle, whence this kind are called Phrygians. … King Attalus (of Pergamon?) invented interweaving gold, whence the name Attalic.” Cp. auriphrygium (Logeion) and orphrey
  • Crowfoot and Davies
  • Hoskins, Nancy Arthur. “Woven Patterns on Tutankhamun Textiles,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, vol. 47, 2011, pp. 199–215 http://www.jstor.org/stable/24555392
  • RlA s.v. Stickerei
  • Dr. Rosalind Janssen (née Hall), “Unpacking Tutankhamun’s Wardrobe,” Ancient Attire Digital Lecture Series, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo (29 August 2022)

All round the bottom of it (Tutankhamun’s sleeved tunic) it has panels, alternating light on dark and dark on light, which were embroidered, and embroidery is very rare in ancient Egypt, and was probably introduced from Syria, so Syrians coming in to Egypt to teach the Egyptians the art of embroidery, which was then used mostly for royal garments

timestamp 14m55s

Needles and bodkins: Curtis, Late Assyrian Metalwork, pp. 35, 155 (Iron, copper, and bronze); Hall, Ancient Egyptian Textiles pp. 57-59

… near eastern … Phrygian and Western Scythian finds

Ellis, R. 1981: “Textiles” in R.S. Young, Three Great Early Tumuli, The Gordion Excavations 1, pp. 294-310, pl. 99-101

Greenewalt, C.H. / Majewski, I. J. 1980. “Lydian Textiles” in From Athens to Gordion: The Papers of a Memorial Symposium for Rodney S. Young, pp. 133-147

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