Functional analysis of spindle whorls from the Castro culture of northwestern Portugal

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2015-12

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Bowers, Jordan D.

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This thesis aims to see if there is a connection between the functional characteristics of spindle whorls, namely shape, weight, height, and diameter, and the types of fibers the people of the Castro Culture, an Iron Age archaeological culture located in Northwestern Iberia, may have spun into yarn for use in textile production. This study focuses on a collection of 106 spindle whorls from four sites in Northwestern Portugal: Cividade de Bagunte, Cividade de Terroso, Castro do Monte Padrão, and Castro de São Paio. Through analysis of the functional characteristics of each artifact, I show that it is unlikely that shape, height, and diameter played a limiting role in the types of fiber that were spun with a drop spindle by the people of the Castro Culture, but that different types of whorls may have been used with different fibers based on personal or cultural preferences. Weight, however, does seem to play a determining factor in the types of fibers that were spun because of the limits of the fibers themselves to spin quality yarns outside of set weight ranges. The existence of no whorls with weights greater than 27 grams in this assemblage suggests that they were mainly spinning short, fine wool and, to a lesser extent, long staple medium-heavy wool. There is also no evidence that they were spinning full-length flax, since no whorls in the ideal weight range of 100-150 grams were found.

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