Bronze Age Textiles: A Preliminary Analysis of Fragments Discovered at Tepe Dasht, Sistan

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Archaeological Sciences Research Centre, University of Sistan and Baluchestan, Zahedan, Iran

2 Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Yazd, Iran

3 School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK


Of the many diverse arts that flourished during the third millennium BC, textiles played an especially
significant role in society. Archaeological textiles offer an important source of material cultural testimony for
daily life in ancient times- relating simultaneously to agriculture, pastoralism, trade, migration, ritual, and so
forth as well as to craft technologies. The study of the techniques and production of textiles is therefore highly
valuable, yet has only recently become appreciated by archaeologists. This is principally due to the very
impermanent and fragile nature of textiles, as most are completely destroyed by the natural taphonomies of
most archaeological sites. However, in some extreme conditions, whether frozen, desiccated, waterlogged or
even buried in highly alkaline soils, some textiles and other organics do survive rather well. In these rare
situations, there still remain manifold problems, both with regard to discerning the way in which different
textiles were made, and to the materials and tools used in the process. This paper is a discussion of the analysis
of some textiles discovered at Tepe Dasht, a satellite site of Shahr-i Sokhta in Sistan, to identify some of the
spinning and weaving methods used. Textile remains are exceedingly rare in archaeological sites. When
compared to artifacts of a more durable nature, such as ceramics, seals or metal objects, the survival of textile
objects is uncommon. Textile fragments discovered from Tepe Dasht, though somewhat ravaged by time and
the elements, have enormous potential to reveal information about ancient life and the local environment in the
third millennium BC in Sistan.