The textile industry (2000 BC) of Pyrgos-Mavroraki (Cyprus)
M.R.Belgiorno, A.Lentini, G.Scala
Stone and clay loom weights in situ
The fibres and organic materials found at Pyrgos are the subject of chemical and morph-biometric analyses to detail their origin and determine the techniques used to dye them. In this initial study we report the preliminary results of samples coming from the unit PY 03 G7L5.
Material and methodology
The specimens analysed have been defined chromatically under transmitted light, using the new Munsell system (5). We report tonal values, chromatic values, and RGB co-ordinates for every specimen. The fibres and woven material have been treated with a solution of glycerine and 50% bi-distilled water, and in some cases with paraffin oil, then mounted on microscope slides with a known refraction index (1,470).
The morph-biometric study of the different fibres was done analyzing images taken with a microscopic video camera mounted on optical microscope and stereomicroscope. Both of these auxiliary equipments were connected to a computer owing a memory card for the acquisition of remote sensing images. The images, acquired in real colour (and thus avoiding the false colours of commercial software) as Raster images (binary matrix with x-y origin), optical video-microscope, can reach a maximum dimension of 1200 pixel.
Pyrgos colours, dye-works and dyeings
Colour fixing solutions
Iron and copper minerals found in SU G7L5 and alums of Al, Fe and Cr, were used as colour fixing solutions (stains). The raw fibres were immersed in fixing solution of mineral origin. The chemical reaction between the solution and the poultice allowed for a strong fixing of colour onto fibres (7). Such operation could be repeated several times until the desired colour was obtained.
Purple of Tyre
The purple of Tyre is obtained by a kind of marine Prosobranch Gastropod, belonging to the Murex family, of the Stenoglos order, and comprise large shells, sometimes fortified with long spines. The specie Trunculus is widespread in Mediterranean. The molluscs were collected and holed corresponding to their purple vein-gland. The glands were put in sea salt for several days to extract the dyeing substance. The mixture obtained was poured in pots and boiled for several days. The colour precipitates as blood red granules. Then the globules were put in wooden vats and soaked with urine, natron or Fucus algae in order to obtain a soluble product. The textiles were first imbibed under this solution and then exposed to air. Under the Ultraviolet sunrays, they assumed tonalities ranging from pink to dark violet.
Biometric comparisons of the shells perforation, made in correspondence to the purple glands, show axial differences of only 0.1 mm. Judging from the uniformity of hole, we presume that it was made with a specific instrument.
The sediments analysed through micro-analytical techniques, contained significant quantity of bromine, which is the typical pigment of Tyre purple. This pigment, when ground into fine powder and mixed with other powders, can assume various tonalities. The purple dye, consisting in a dense and viscous substance with an unpleasant smell, was used, above all, to dye parchment, and when mixed with porcelain clay, to colour clay objects.
Blue indigo is extracted from the leaves of Indigofera-sp. (Papilionaceae) derived from the light blue substance indene. Indigofera is a plant, widespread in all the southern Mediterranean countries, including ornamental species as: Indigofera tinctoria, argentea, intricata, spinosa and semitrijuga. In the phytocenosis of Cyprus (8), it is associated with Polygonum, Euphorbia, Amaranthus, Hybiscus and Calotropis.
The yellow dye was obtained from the leaves of various Poligonaceae as well as from Ruta graveolens. It is a flavonoid insoluble. It is also a dispersing dye: a dye that colours through colloidal powder emulsion.
A type of Alga of the Fucacee family, with a flat laminar thallus, that branches dichotomously, contains air vesicles and red colouring substances. The Fucus alga contains many heavy metals (Cadmium, Barium, Lead, Strontium, Iodine, Bromine, Arsenic, and proteolythic enzymes). This alga is also called marine oak.
Pyrgos technologies used to extract colouring matrices
The leaves of the Indigofera (either natural or dried) were soaked in wooden basins containing Alga fucus, water and limestone. The reaction of the components produced a colouring matrix that precipitates into blue flakes .This matrix creates semitransparent, extremely fine granulations of intense blue colour.
The dye belonging to the reds band is insoluble, but through reduction with yeast, urine, bran or natron (7), dissolves itself in leucoderivatives.
The powder of the yellow dye, obtained from various Poligonaceae at colloidal state, was fixed to textiles with a heat-fixing stain.
The yellow dye matrices treated (lixiviated) with NaOH 1 molar and H2SO4 at 20% (3) and diluted in diverse concentrations, were submitted to several colorimetric measurements (photoelectron UV) from 400 to 650 wavelengths in visible spectrum. The optic-electric device that measures the UV light is composed of various sensors. The first three sensors are photodiodes equipped with red, green and blue filters. All the resulting measurements are above the detection threshold. The measurements are expressed in logarithmic scale. The analytical relations between colours intensity and concentration values are evident through interpolation.
Textiles and Fibres
The sediments coming from the holes of loom weights and spindle whorls found in PY-G7-8-L5 Unit (1), have been floated in small quantities of glycerinated water. After soaking, some fibres, bloated by water, rose to surface. In turn, the mineralized fibres (for penetration of small particles of silt and clay) (4) sank to the bottom. The fibres are conserved under paraffin oil.
This paper introduces the description of only some representative fibres.
Wool and cotton
We initially examined 483 morphologies: wool is the most present (175 morphologies), beside cotton (126 morphologies).
has a flattened tubular morphology with fibres highly visible spilling out from its main trunk and branches. They also jut out of cuticle like the teeth of a saw or polygonal clumps (40 morphologies). Hybiscus-sp. grows in Sicily, Sardinia, Southern Italy, Crete, Peloponnesus, Cyprus (8) and Spain (2). Its characteristic environments are swamps and marshlands.
has a cylindrical morphology with a large empty canal and thick cuticle (36 morphologies). The Mediterranean Asclepiadaceae is Asclepias graeca, ideal for making rope, and Asclepias syriaca, often used for making raw textiles. Asclepias vincetoxicum is widespread in Mediterranean (8) and called “wild silk grass”, too. As it is not easily to spin, it was often used for padding.
Some fragments of Lygeum spartium-L. with borders jutting out for the expansion of the parenchymal tissue (25 morphologies) come from Loom Weight N°1. Lygeum spartium-L. and Halpha ghedima (Stipa tenacissima) typical of Mediterranean and North Africa are used to make bags and straw mats. Through soaking, one may obtain spinnable fibres with ribbon-like morphology and few transversal stripes.
The fibres were blue-indigo coloured. The bundle of filaments is consolidated by pectin (18 morphologies).
The Calotropis morphology is characterized by frequent dots on the cuticle. The most used for textiles are Calotropis gigantea, Calatropis procera and Gompocarpus fructicosa. The fibres obtained from the last species are similar to silk and named vegetable silk.
Medium-large dimensions fibres; flattened with a pointed extremity, have a central canal with semi-diagonal septa, corresponding to discontinuous growths, alternating with a secondary canal (12 morphologies). The fibres are free in friable matrix or weakly bonded.
The fibre has tubular morphology with oblique, transversal septa and fibrils protruding from cuticle (14 morphologies). It shows a faded area on its surface too. Cannabis is well known as one of the most resistant natural polymers.
wild silk (many morphologies)(9) the fibres, for the high chronology (2000 BC), are the most important. They could confirm the hypothesis about the possible Bronze Age silk knowledge in Aegean, proposed after the discovery at Thera of a lepidopterous calcified cocoon (6).
1) Belgiorno M.R., 2004, in: Pyrgos-Mavroraki “Advanced Technology in Bronze Age Cyprus”, Nicosia, I, 9-36.
2) Di Castri F. and Mooney H.A. (eds.), 1973, Mediterranean type ecossystem, Ecological Studies, 7, 249-256.
3) Fejgi M., 1989, Spot Test in Organic Analysis, VII C.R.E., Elseveir, Amsterdam.
4) Lentini A. & Scala G., 2002, Identification and technology textile fibres and leather from the Roman ships of Pisa San Rossore, Italy, Revue D’Archeometrie, 26, 171-176.
5) Munsell Speciality for Colour Coding Chart, 1999, Macheth Division Kollmorgen Corporation, Baltimore.
6) Panagiotakopulu E., Buckland P.C., Day P.M., Doumas C., Sarpaki A. & Skidmore P., 1997, A Lepidopterous cocoon from Thera and evidence for silk in the Aegean Bronze Age, Antiquity, 71, 420-29.
7) Tazzetti P.L. & Bonci A., 1963, Esercitazioni di Chimica Tintoria e Sostanze Coloranti, Levrotta & Bella, Torino.
8) Zohary M., 1973, Geobotanical Foundation of the Middle East, Vol. 2, Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart, Swets and Zeitlinger,Amsterdam .
9) Richter G. , 1929 " Silk in Greece", AJA 33(1929) 27-33.
Oppenheim L., 1967 JCS 21 (1967) 252.