Fancy twills from the Iron Age.

THL Lucia Thaylur

Some of the earliest wall paintings depict women in Minoan style dress picking saffron. (Barber, p. 115)

wall drawing
(Barber, p115)

Diamonds dominate this young girl’s costume

Diamond shapes have been found decorating pottery, clothing, rock art and nearly every other artistic endeavor conceived my mankind.

A great deal of notoriety had been given to twill diamond and broken lozenge but what about "plain ole diamonds" ?

Jorgensen clearly establishes the variants of twills and reports they were all found in Europe before 1000 AD (p. 12-14).
For examples:


(See page 12)

Jorgensen tells us, "in principal, there are two basic weaves, tabby and twill, each with a number of variants" and explains further that Satin weave doesn’t appear until the Renaissance Period (p.13).

In 1992, NESAT 4 was released. Pritchard examines textiles from the 10-12th Viking Age in Dublin. He tells us "cloths woven in four-shed twill are also very varied" Further he discusses lozenge twills which reverse with a point repeat. His article shows us two examples (p. 94-99).

Barber explains that once the diagonal pattern was discovered, it was easy to reverse the slope at intervals to produce zigzag by simply changing the direction of the offset .If the zigzag is established during warping the result is a pointed twill but if done when the weft is inserted the result is herringbone twill. Once they had discovered both of those possibilities the next logical step was to zigzag both at the same time to form perfect or imperfect lozenges thus creating lozenge or diamond twill and it’s many variants (Prehistoric Textiles , p. 187).

More than a hundred pieces of cloth have been salvaged and saved from the salt mines at Hallstatt and have been dated from before 1000 to perhaps as late as 400 BC. (somewhat older than the classic Hallstat culture). Of the 117 pieces of cloth from Hallstatt, 75 are twill weave. Of these ten pieces, five are herringbone, four are pointed and one is a lozenge twill. Many of the pieces are so small the possibility of fancy twills could be much higher. The finds include basket, half basket and warp or weft faced weave and two examples with float weaves. (Prehistoric Textiles, p186-189)

Works cited:

Barber, Elizabeth W. Women’s Work: the first 20,000 Years.1994.W.W. Norton & Co, NY

Barber, E. J. W. Prehistoric Textiles: the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with special reference to the Agean. 1991.Princeton Univ. Press, USA

Jorgensen, Lise Bender. North European Textiles until AD 1000 1992 Aarhus Univ. Press, Denmark

Pritchard, Frances. "Aspects of the Wool Textiles from Viking Age Dublin " in Titens Tans Nr5 1992 Archaeological Textiles in Northern Europe. Report from the 4th NESAT Symposium1.-5 May 1990 in Copenhagen.

Special thanks to THL Cassandra of Glastonbury for the generous use of her library.

Last updated: 7/25/2008