Cultural Travel and Sacred Cloth

     For the textile enthusiast, cultural travel can be a very exciting event. Those of us that love textiles and sacred cloth, are known to have several extra bags on trips to places where textiles are a language unto themselves. For thousands of years, cloth and textiles have been used to mark off and make special events and passages that occur throughout life. While textiles do not endure time very well, there are still fragments and pieces that tell us a story of cultures throughout time. The earliest string that has been found was discovered in a cave in Lascaux France. This small fragment of rope cordage was carbon dated to around 17,000 years ago. There have also been numerous whorls found throughout the world that were made of clay and metal. Whorls are objects that act as weights while spinning fiber into string or thread.

While I am not a scholar on textiles, I have worked with textiles my entire life. The images and iconography embedded in textiles tells us what was important to cultures during a specific period of time. As an example, within the last 20 or so years, there have been numerous tombs in the western part of China that have been excavated to find people with textiles that accompanied them  in their burials, which are still intact. The dry desert environment offered the perfect preservation of the textiles that surround these people. The textiles and the manner in which they were wrapped around the people, along with the colors and symbols woven into the cloth itself, reveal a story of people who lived at the beginning of the famous Silk Road. They were not only Asians, but very tall Europeans found in these tombs. Elizabeth Barber is one of my favorite textile scholars.  She has written several books on textiles that I have in my collection. One of these is, “The Mummies of Urumchi.” See the Picture below the video


If you are a cultural traveler that loves textiles, explore Elizabeth Barber’s books. Below is the one on the “Mummies of Urumchi,” which is one of my favorites.



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