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Most families in the Bronze and Iron Age wove their own cloth and made their own clothing. Like breadmaking, this was an activity that figured prominently in the daily lives of women. In antiquity, the southern Levant was famous for the weaving of luxurious patterned and colored textiles.

For average households, weaving was a means of producing simple everyday garments. Excavators at Tell es- Sa'idiyeh discovered burned wooden frames of looms and rows of clay loom weights in many houses. These looms were "warp-weighted": the threads on the long axis of the weave (the warp) were suspended vertically with weights. The passing of thread (the weft) horizontally in and out of the warp created the weave.

The principal fibers used for weaving were sheep wool, goat hair, and flax&endash;a fibrous plant used to make linen. Before it could be formed into a thread, wool had to be washed, picked clean and combed straight. Then the fibers were spun to entwine them and draw them into a long, even strand. Usually a spindle, a weighted stick suspended in the air and spun on the thigh, was used (the use of the spindle is represented through a model in the exhibit). The spun fibers were then stretched upon the loom to weave into garments.

Weaving was time consuming, but the tasks allowed for socializing, and could be taken up and put down as needed. Therefore, weaving activities could be matched to the rhythm of the house.

© 1999 | University of Pennsylvania Museum
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