EWB is an anthropologist and linguist, best known for her work in ancient textiles. What’s so neat about her work is that she determines ancient techniques by re-creating artifacts herself, by hand (spinning, weaving, sewing, etc.). She brought several pieces with her to the lecture.
The book she’s best known for, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, is one of the most fascinating and accessible academic texts I’ve ever read. Her writing style and tone are clear, enthusiastic, and not at all stuffy. The lecture tonight showed that her writing simply reflects her personality; she was an engaging and humorous speaker. She referred to scanty string skirts as decorative garments that barely “cover the waterfront.” 🙂
She spoke primarily about burial sites and mummies found in salt flats in the Taklamakan Desert, which eventually became part of the Silk Road. The mummies were discovered to have light hair, often strawberry blond. This indicates that the mummies were not Chinese as originally suspected, but were Westerners originating from the Mesopotamian area. The fabric remnants found in the graves included some plaid cloth–plaid existed in 1,000 BC in both central Asia and central Europe! …Now I want to KNIT.
- NPR story, EWB commentary: “These Vintage Threads Are 30,000 Years Old”
- EWB book, directed related: The Mummies of Urumchi
- student project page on the mummies; illustrations from EWB