Close up of
Pottery in Pit
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.
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
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.
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.
pot may have served a function - when spinning flax,
one has to keep the thread wet.
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?
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
Edwards, E. forthcoming. The Fired Clay in Brady, K
and Lamdin-Whymark, H. Horcot Pit, Gloucestershire,
Wild, J.P., 2003. Textiles in Archaeology. Shire Archaeology