Tracing Ancient Textiles: Production, Consumption and Social Uses in Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Cyprus (2800-1450 BC)

  • Giulia Muti

Student thesis: Phd


Textiles and their manufacture represent a significant proportion of the material expression of past and present societies. Nonetheless, these organic artefacts and many aspects concerning their making are often archaeologically invisible and, for this reason, long neglected by scholars. A recent growing interested in textiles has shed completely new light on this topic. This doctoral thesis represents the first holistic study of textile production in Cypriot late prehistory, ranging between the Late Chalcolithic (ca 2800-2500/2300 BC) and the beginning of the Late Bronze Age (ca 1650-1450 BC). One of the aims of this work is to fill a gap in current research: whilst earlier studies on the subject have focused on single aspects of material culture at a single time, the panorama lacked a more systematic study for Bronze Age textiles in Cyprus. Drawing a comprehensive picture is, in fact, fundamental for defining the technological and socio-economic aspects related to this manufacture. This study is conducted through two steps: the identification and examination of archaeological indicators that are useful for outlining textile production (tools, structures, fabric remains) and their contextual analysis. Settlement contexts are privileged over cemeteries, but the burial evidence is integrated into the picture as it provides unique information of social uses, especially considering the deposition of tools as grave goods. Through this, it has been possible to investigate and discuss productive dynamics and identity construction in relation to textile work. The discussion of these important socio-economic aspects is grounded both in the traditional theoretical debate around specialisation, utilitarian and prestige goods, and identity construction but also benefits from the concept of productive entanglement, derived from Hodder's (2012) theory, that facilitates drawing out relational dynamics between all the components that played a role in the productive process. Productive dynamics and the relationships between humans (workers, consumers) and things (tools, products, technologies, resources, etc.) are deeply entangled and contribute to the construction of prehistoric Cypriot society. Thus, textile production can be used as a privileged lens to tackle debated questions in Cypriot archaeology. In particular, this approach has offered the opportunity to re-discuss the possible input and modalities of the transition between the Chalcolithic and the Bronze Age, and the appearance and development of social complexity between the Early and Middle Cypriot periods.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorIna Berg (Supervisor) & Lindy Crewe (Supervisor)


  • Identity
  • Society
  • Production
  • Technology
  • Bronze Age Cyprus
  • Chalcolithic Cyprus
  • Textiles

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