Desert Island Knitting
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Prehistoric Textiles by E. J. W. Barber

I finished this wonderful book, Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with Special Reference to the Aegean by E. J. W. Barber on February 7. I have learned so much about animal and plant fibers, how people started spinning them into long lengths of yarn or thread, the tools they used for spinning, the different types of looms they used and the range of places they covered, types of weaving they did, the colors of the dyes they used, and so much more. Each topic is studied and explained thoroughly, with the specific things that were found to back up each theory and why there are so many questions. This book is so amazing. It isn't for everyone; I found it a bit tedious to get through in places, ironically, in the Discussions --the chapter "Word Excavation", where the author examines in detail the word origins, how they changed and migrated through linguistics, was a bit hard to get through. I have developed an allergy to Greek words, it seems. Yet, it was a very healthy thing to do. I feel like I just ran a marathon. It was hard, but I learned a lot. I think it is a good book for anyone who likes the fiber arts, especially spinning and absolutely weaving, and archaeology and history buffs everywhere.

When I got this book, I knew it would be "awhile" before I read it. I needed time to process the information. I was going to read it "someday", when I retired, whenever that would be. After my stroke I had little else to do but read and knit, and eventually write, and it seemed like a good time to start this book.

I have learned about the questions that remain unanswered. Textiles are such an incredibly important thing, but they are also among the first things to disintegrate. I wonder, if textiles had been preserved as well as metal, would we perceive our past as so war-filled? Wars leave a legacy of metal and stone things ... weapons, armor, defensive things like forts. What do we have from women's work, arguably more important than anything that men have done? It is more fundamental than anything done by men. It is because of the patient and unending work of women that men succeeded in their "work". Sometimes we have only a scrap of metal that was wrapped in some cloth that oxidized, so that it showed the weaving that was it made of, to show us what went on for thousands of years, until the next bit was found. There are so many questions left unanswered, so many questions that need to be resolved. 

There are excavations going on now, that will always be on-going, that will provide little bits of information. It adds up, like every stitch and every row of knitting that we complete. Archaeologists are a heroic lot, like knitters. Some of them are weavers as well, like Elizabeth Barber, and I am very glad she is!


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