Textile Archeologists Study Fabrics to Learn About History

While working as a high school career and technical education teacher, Nichole Thiel received a Fulbright Hays Scholarship. Under this program, Nichole Thiel traveled to India with several of her colleagues to understand the country’s culture, traditions, and history through its fabrics.

As the importance of textiles as a marker of civilizations becomes more recognized, more archaeologists are studying the uses and manufacturing processes of ancient fabrics. Textile archeologists attempt to recreate the conditions that ancient fabrics, usually found on excavation sites or graves, were first spun. Existing knowledge of the types of industries that once occurred in an area provides a starting point for theorizing the type of textiles that originated from that location.

For example, cities on extensive trade routes most likely made in-demand industrial-strength cloths for sailors and long-distance travelers. Likewise, textile archeologists examine the remnants of weaving tools to estimate the thickness of the threads used by fabric makers. This information can also give insight into the types of textiles and cloths produced in the area.