Friday, May 21, 2004

Ancient Moabite fort provides insight into history of weaving (Lebanon Daily Star)
Recent archaeological evidence from Jordan reveals the antiquity of a craft and an industry in the Middle East


Khirbat al-Mudaybi is a mid-size Iron Age fort constructed around 700 BC on the eastern Karak Plateau of Central Jordan, between the king's and desert highways. During antiquity, Mudaybi was located on the edge of the eastern frontier of Moab, an Iron Age state located east of the Dead Sea.


Three seasons of excavations carried out by the Karak Resources Project in the last three years have revealed that sturdy basalt and limestone walls, towers and gates enclosed the settlement. Most notable is the four-chambered monumental eastern gate where volute capitals rest on top of each pier wall, supporting stone lintels, wood beams, and a roof of mud and reeds. The gate faces the Fajj al-Usaykir, an important commercial route connecting the Arabian Desert with the interior of the Karak Plateau. Given the fort's strategic position, it is likely Mudaybi protected ancient Moab's eastern frontier and provided security for passing caravans.

Given their assumptions about the military function of Mudaybi, the excavation team was surprised to discover a weaving installation in the fort's domestic quarter. Here, at least 68 small, perforated clay loom weights were concentrated in the northwest corner of one of the rooms. Each weight was hand-molded from local clay into a round or cylindrical shape, ranging from 32 millimeters to 61 millimeters in height, 48mm to 86mm in width, and weighed from 70 to 437 grams. Multiple threads could be strung through a perforation in each weight, and multiple weights may have been needed for each group of warp - or vertical - threads to provide the necessary tension for weaving. This tension allowed the weaver to integrate weft - the horizontal thread - and warp.

. . . A senior researcher from the Institute of Archaeology, Andrews University, observed, "the discovery of so many loom weights makes me wonder if perhaps carpets or tents were being produced in this location by a family or specialized craftsman."


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