Spindle Whorl

Pottery in Pit

Close up of Pottery in Pit

Horcot Pit Spindle Whorls

This is an exciting group of spindle whorls, from Horcot pit in Gloucestershire, which highlights several interesting points (Edwards forthcoming). Their manner of deposition was unusual as they were found arranged around a late Bronze Age vessel, in a pit. Each is a different size, weight, shape and fabric.

Common characteristics of spindle whorls are those which are functionally important, these have not changed over centuries of use. They have for example, piercings, which taper towards the top. They have to be shaped so that they will spin easily and evenly and at the required speed. In order to produce a fine thread, one would need a whorl with a narrow diameter which will spin rapidly. A more coarse thread would need a whorl of narrow diameter. Weight is crucial and clusterings of weights can indicate whether the textile being produced was fine or coarse, of short haired wool or full-length flax. A difference of only 5-10 g in a spindle whorl can make a vital difference (Anderson) and the important weight is the combined weight of the spindle and the whorl.

  • The interesting points are these:
    There was another whorl in a different feature, which weighed 42 g. This appears to be roughly half the weight of one of the weights from the pit, which weighed 88 g. The other three from this pits make a sequence of three, weighing 97 g, 51 g and 27 g. These may make a set.

  • These are very heavy - are they really spindle whorls? The average range is 20-30 g, although they can be heavier (Wild 2003, 25; Barber 1991). They may be for spinning full-length flax into a coarse thread.

  • The pot may have served a function - when spinning flax, one has to keep the thread wet.

  • Why are they different shapes, colours and fabrics? Is this an expression of a more complicated relationship between user and object? Is this purely a desire to create different aesthetic effects or do these differences indicate a dual purpose?

Emily Edwards

Anderson, E. 1996 The Common Thread, Textile Production during the Late Iron Age and Viking Age. PhD. University of Lund, Norway.
Barber, E.J.W. Prehistoric Textiles. Princeton University Press, 1991.
Edwards, E. forthcoming. The Fired Clay in Brady, K and Lamdin-Whymark, H. Horcot Pit, Gloucestershire, forthcoming
Wild, J.P., 2003. Textiles in Archaeology. Shire Archaeology






Site designed and maintained by WWW.pighill.net