What Textiles Tell Us About Ancient Italy and Greece

In the ancient world, textiles were a valuable commodity, because every piece of cloth had to be made by hand. Clothing was important economically. Early Bronze Age Linear B tablets from the Aegean Sea document the careful attention given to managing textile production, and on the other side of the globe, the Incan Empire levied tribute in textiles. Unfortunately, clothing and the cloth they are made form tend not to survive in the archaeological record. They often have to be studied indirectly, by examining the scraps of textile that survive in the extremes of arid or waterlogged conditions, and comparing the scraps to visual or sculptural records of clothing. Recent frozen discoveries from the retreating glaciers of the Alps offer new insight into ancient Greek and ancient Roman textiles.

Iron Age Italians seem to have favored a weave known as a twill. When colors are used, they will create neat diagonal patterns (most notably in the modern tweed). Currently, the earliest known examples of twills are from Hallstatt in Austria. The Italians likely shared textile production preferences with their northern European neighbors, placing the Romans firmly in the European textile tradition.

In Greece, a form of weave known as a tabby was the most popular. It is considered the simplest type of textile available, when in purest form: horizontal and vertical threads repeatedly pass over and under each other. The ancient Greeks favored a particular type of tabby, however, where the horizontal threads were beaten into the weave so hard that the vertical strands become near-invisible. It is perfect for bold blocks of color, and can make more varied designs than just diagonals; such a technique has been used to produce spectacular tapestries and Turkish carpets. Early examples of this tabby have been found in ancient Ur, in Iraq, and in Turkey. Twill weaves have notably not been found in ancient Greece or in the ancient Near East. That situates the Greeks in the Eastern textile tradition, relatively uninfluenced by their northwestern neighbors.

By looking at their textiles, then, we can tell that Iron Age Italy and ancient Greece were culturally in two different spheres. Italy took after its European neighbors, while Greece took after the Near East. They were a small example of the wider break between East and West.

Early Humans May Have Known About Inbreeding?

Researchers sequencing the genomes of four individuals, who were buried together in an Upper Paleolithic site in Sungir, Russia, were surprised to discover the four were not close -- at least genetically. That's particularly surprising because of the remains were children, buried in head-to-head in the same grave. Yet they could not have been closer than second cousins. The humans living in Sungir about 34,000 years ago seem to have known about the dangers of inbreeding. Or suspected. To avoid them, they appear to have sought partners outside their immediate family, using wide social and mating networks.

Devi, The Great Goddess

Revered from the soaring Himalayan mountains in the north to the southernmost tip of India, Devi is the force that animates all living things. Her power manifests itself in every aspect of the natural world, including trees, water, and rocks. Devi also vitalizes believers, strengthening their hearts during times of adversity.

This particular sandstone sculpture of Devi was crafted sometime around 975 to 1000 CE. She gazes at the viewer, who is supposed to gaze back. Thus this Devi can bestow a "darshan" — a sacred gaze exchanged with the deity during worship.

The First Female Prime Minister of Pakistan Set More Than One Record

Pakistan was the first Muslim nation to elect a female prime minister. Benazir Bhutto served as the 11th prime minister from 1988 to 1990, and the 13th prime minister from 1993 to 1996. Ideologically a liberal and a secularist, she chaired or co-chaired the center-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from the early 1980s until her assassination by a suicide bomber in 2007.

The Prime Minister and the Geisha

Sasuke Uno was the prime minister of Japan for just over two months -- from early June 1989 to early August 1989. He resigned after it came out that he had kept a geisha as a mistress for a period of five months before becoming prime minister.

The problem was less his extramarital affair, and more how callous and stingy he was with the lady. He offered her money the first night he met her, claimed to have "saved" her with his money, and generally treated her "disdainfully." It was the first time that a Japanese politician's private life was publicized in the media in such a way.

The Discovery of Metals

There were seven known metals until the 1200s CE: gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury. These were the metals that built humanity's first civilizations. (For those who point out the Bronze Age from about 3300 BCE to 1200 BCE, bronze is a mix of copper and tin.) Arsenic was discovered in the 1200s, antimony in the 1400s, and things just took off from there. Today there are 86 known metals.

Pakistan was founded on August 14, 1947, one day before India officially gained its independence from Great Britain, a move many saw as a "one-upping" India. When it became independent, it also became the first officially Muslim nation on the planet.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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