Textiles and Seals. Relations between Textile Production and Seals and Sealing Practices in Bronze Age Greece

The research project financed by the programme SONATA 13 of the National Science Centre, Poland,
UMO-2017/26/D/HS3/00145, years 2018 – 2021, Faculty of Archaeology, University of Warsaw

warp-weighted loom, drawing by M. Jagodzińska; cuboid seal from the Tholos Tomb A in Aghia Triada, after CMS II.1. 64 a drawing by M. Jagodzińska.

The ‘Textiles and Seals’ research project explores significant and multiple, but largely ignored relations between textiles and textile production, and seals and sealing practices in Bronze Age Greece, from the Early to Late Bronze Age (c. 2650-1200 BCE). The project aims to identify the structure and meaning of these relationships by investigating:

  • how seals were used in the administration of textile production,
  • how textiles were used in sealing practices, what kinds of textiles were used;
  • what types of textile production-related motifs can be recognised in the imagery of Aegean glyptic.

The basic evidence is gathered in an OPEN ACCESS ‘Textiles and Seals’ database. The database is set up to collect the following categories of data:

  • seal-impressed or inscribed textile tools,
  • imprints of textiles and organic products impressed on the undersides of seal-impressed lumps of clay,
  • textile production-related motifs in glyptic imagery, e.g. motifs referring to raw materials, textile tools, textile workers and textile manufacturing, and symbolic references, such as the motif of a spider.

The relationship between textiles and seals revealed in this project offers a new and more sophisticated understanding of the organisation of textile production, in which the use of seals and sealings is included, and of how various textile tools were subject to administrative practices. The analysis of textile imprints on clay provides new insights into Aegean textiles, their technical uses and structure and parameters.

The project brings new interpretations for the iconography of Aegean seals by explaining several motifs in relation to textile production. It examines how the physical reality of textile production was compressed into iconographic conventions and how these conventions correspond to the iconography of textile production in other cultures, specifically in Bronze Age Mesopotamia and Anatolia. It investigates how the real-world references to textile production might have been adopted in the praxis of writing and which were subsequently transferred into Hieroglyphic signs and Linear A and B logograms.