Archaeological textiles excavated during the 2013/2014 seasons are currently being analyzed and investigated by Vanessa Workman, MA candidate at Tel Aviv University, under the supervision of Dr. Orit Shamir, textile specialist and curator of organic material at the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, head of the Timna Expedition.
Textile fragment uncovered in the field at Site 34
Textiles discovered at Site 34 represent the consumption of woven cloth, rope, basketry, and cordage by a metallurgical community in the early Iron Age. Material was excavated from within the layers of a large slagmound, 19, and in the adjacent architectural remains of a metallurgical complex, as well as inside the nearby gate complex. These include woven cloth of a variety of qualities -some with colorful design elements- made from wool, goat hair, and linen threads, as well as ropes and cords that are spun or braided into durable tools.
The preservation of archaeological textiles requires specific environmental conditions that are not found throughout most of the world and are not present in a majority of the southern Levant. The extremely arid environment of the Timna Valley is instrumental in the preservation of organic material at the site, making the organics collection from Timna a unique and expansive resource. Approximately 100 fragments of textile and cordage were uncovered between the 2013 and 2014 excavation seasons. In previous excavations of the Arabah Expedition an equally substantial collection of fabrics were found at Site 200 (the "Hathor Temple") and at smelting site 30. The samples are severely degraded and, in general, only small fragments of a single cloth or cord have been recovered creating an increased challenge for researchers investigating these samples.
Three styles of looms were used in the southern Levant and Egypt during the Iron Age: Fig 1a. the warp-weighted loom, 1b. the vertical loom, and 1c. the horizontal loom. Each weaving tradition is a marker for both cultural identity and technological innovation, additionally they reflect a variety of environmental factors affecting the ancient craftsperson. Each loom produces a slightly different woven product that can, when paired with archaeological evidence of textile production tools, reveal details about the progression of craft production of this important material.
Fig.1 from G.M. Crowfoot. 1937. Of the Warp-Weighted Loom. The Annual of the British School at Athens 37.
Our research on the textiles of the 2013/2014 field seasons will include multiple stages of analytical investigation.
- Each textile is conservatively cleaned to retain the maximum amount of data then analyzed using optical microscopy to examine a number of technical aspects such as type of weave, number of threads per cm, and design elements.
- Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) will be implemented to determine fibre type and the level of wear. SEM can help reveal the extent of usage of a textile during its active period based on fibre breakage patterns.
- Dye analysis will be performed on a select number of samples using high-performance liquid chromotography (HPLC) by Naama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority. This method allows researchers to identify individual components within a dye mixture.
Textile impressions appear on Iron Age ceramics from many sites within the Timna Valley and the greater Negev region. They are predominantly found on the bases and sides of vessels termed as 'Negebite Ware,' a class of rough, handmade ceramics found in the southern region of Israel. Impressions are a direct record for the use of textiles in the vessel formation process.