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by Archaeology Newsroom

Byzantine Textiles: Records of Technological Achievements

The Byzantine textiles that have survived to date as well as their representations on works of art of Byzantium yield valuable information about the existing at that time infrastructure of textile production, the applied weaving techniques, the manufacturing methods and thus about the interplay of technology and taste and the socio-economic phenomena. However, a variety of questions concerning the looms that were used during the Byzantine era remain unanswered. The textiles themselves indicate that initially both the vertical loom with weights or fixed horizontal bars and the horizontal loom with headless and treadles were in use. It seems that the draw loom was adopted later for weaving the elaborate, figured silk Byzantine cloths. Textiles decorated with the tapestry technique, plain textiles and silk figured cloths appear to coexist throughout the centuries of the long lived Byzantine Empire. The analysis of their individual technical characteristics suggests the type of loom used for their weaving. The development of loom and weaving technology follows a parallel course with the changes in the use of textiles for dressmaking and for clothing in general. Initially the articles woven to a finished form prevail, while in later periods the dissemination of figured cloths gradually reinforces the role of the tailor. He is expected to design and tailor costume units from the rolls of figured textiles, a process that demands not only specific skills but also the use of quite complicated croquis.