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Ancient Textiles — Modern Hands

Zeitloses Motiv, Kunst und Inspiration
Timeless Motif, Art and Inspiration
5 Geleitwort Bernhard Palme

9 A Spiral in International Cooperation Arthur Verhoogt

Spiral(e) 9

Ancient Textiles —
Modern Hands: Spiral Textile Ines Bogensperger, Julia Galliker
9 About the spiral papyrus
11 Spiral motif
12 Textiles in Late Roman Egypt
12 Spiral Textile project
14 Textile techniques

40 Spirale als Inspiration für Gegenwartsdesign Ingrid Gaier

Ines Bogensperger
Ingrid Gaier
Julia Galliker
2 3

Aus dem spätantiken Ägypten (ca. 300–800 n. Chr.) sind dank der klimatischen Bedingungen zahlreiche
Textilien erhalten geblieben, welche wichtige Aufschlüsse über Materialien, Farben, Produktionsmethoden
und Handel geben. Aus demselben Zeitraum und geographischen Kontext überliefern uns Papyri eine Fülle
von Schriftstücken des Alltags, die über die Produktion von Gewändern und Gebrauchstextilien sprechen.
Diese einzigartige Überlieferungssituation bietet ideale Voraussetzungen für die i­nterdiszipli­näre Unter-
suchung zu den spätantiken Textilien, welche im Forschungsprojekt Texts and Textiles in Late Antique
Egypt dank der Förderung des österreichischen Wissenschaftsfonds ­(FWF–P 28282) realisiert wird. Ziel des
Projektes ist ein Brückenschlag zwischen der text-orientierten Papyrologie und der material-orientierten
Die Erkenntnisse werden sowohl den internationalen Spezialisten als auch einer interessierten Öffentlich-
keit in einer weiterführenden Initiative vorgestellt, welche zum praktischen Austausch der Erfahrungen und
Expertisen einlädt. Dies erfolgt im Rahmen des gleichfalls vom Wissenschaftsfonds geförderten Top Citizen
Science Programmes Ancient Textiles — Modern Hands (FWF–TCS 44). Die experimental-archäologische
Initiative hat ein außerordentliches Echo gefunden. Die vielen hervorragenden Ergebnisse werden in einer
Wanderausstellung und im vorliegenden Katalog der Öffentlichkeit vorgestellt. Den TextilkünstlerInnen und
ForscherInnen sowie dem Wissenschaftsfonds, der diese Aktivität an der Schnittstelle zwischen Kunsthand-
werk und Altertumswissenschaft ermöglicht hat, sei herzlich für ihr Engagement gedankt!

Bernhard Palme, Professor für Alte Geschichte und Papyrologie, Universität Wien,
sowie Direktor der Papyrussammlung der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek

Costa Rica
“Colochos 2”
embroidery (chain stitch,
back stitch, stick stitch
4 and couching) 5
Costa Rica
“Colochos 3”
embroidery (chain stitch,
Silvia PIZA-TANDLICH, Costa Rica, “Colochos 4”, “Colochos 1” back stitch, stick stitch
6 embroidery (chain stitch, back stitch, stick stitch and couching) and couching) 7
A Spiral in International Cooperation

The Spiral Textile project is an interesting and direct way of connecting the ancient world to the present.
It provides an innovative platform for the exchange of knowledge between researchers and the general
public. This international collaboration demonstrates how interdisciplinary tools can be used to gain a more
comprehensive understanding of our common past.

Arthur Verhoogt, Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Initiatives, Department of Classical Studies, Univer-
sity of Michigan, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Professor of Papyrology and Greek

Ancient Textiles — Modern Hands: Spiral Textile

This exhibition presents works created by textile artists from around the world. The project was inspired by
an ancient spiral design on papyrus. By translating this design into cloth, fibre artists explored the remark-
able versatility of the spiral motif and contributed to our understanding of textile history.

About the spiral papyrus

The papyrus features a repeating spiral drawing, which was created with a brush by a skilled hand. It dates
from the late Roman period in Egypt (c. 2nd–4th centuries). The artefact was discovered in 1927 during
University of Michigan excavations at Karanis, a Roman town in the Fayum Oasis. This site was well-doc-
umented for its time and yielded an extensive collection of objects, many of which are now housed in the
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Among the hundreds of thousands of papyri in world collections, drawings on papyrus are very rare. This
spiral papyrus is unique because it is the only representational papyrus found in a scientific excavation. This
information is important because it allows us to evaluate the object within its specific historic and cultural

8 Left page: © University of Michigan, Papyrology Collection, acc.-no. 5143c 9

Spiral motif
As a motif, the spiral design is universal, produced in various media from prehistory to the present across
many cultures. While most symbols are static in form, a spiral implies movement. It suggests a transitional
state which holds motion and form in equilibrium.
As demonstrated by the works included in this exhibition, there are an infinite number of variations on the
spiral theme. The adaptability of the motif provides a rich source of inspiration. Participants report that they
now see spirals everywhere – in nature, food, personal belonging, floor patterns and shop windows – to
name just a few. These surprise encounters provide an opportunity for momentary reflection. Spirals are
an enduring motif linking the past and the present through shared experience.


“Seti’s Spiral”
embroidery (overcast ­
10 couching) 11
Textiles in Late Roman Egypt
In late Roman Egypt, colourful patterned textiles were commonly used for garments and household furnish-
ings. Textile production was an important and highly specialised sector of the ancient economy, but we have
little information about how patterned fabrics were produced.
Many museums hold collections of textile fragments acquired during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
During this interval, there was active trade in Egyptian antiquities. Treasure-seekers dug up cemeteries
located near settlements in search of valuable grave goods. According to Christian customs, the deceased
were buried in layers of garments and domestic textiles. The enormous variety of patterns on cloth include
some with spiral designs.

Spiral Textile project

By launching the Spiral Textile project, our goal was to explore new ways to study ancient objects through
public engagement. Open-source technology inspired us to ‘crowdsource’ textile production experiments for
academic research. The project also provides a vehicle to present important artefacts to an international
audience in order to gain a better appreciation for shared history.
Despite the common medium of cloth, academic researchers and textile practitioners often work indepen-
dently. To help bridge the gap between theoretical study and practical experience, we invited fibre artists
from around the world to participate in the project. It provides a means for craft knowledge to be inte-
grated into empirical study of historic textiles. Equally, it is a conduit to make research more accessible to
a broader audience while bringing greater appreciation for the skill and artistry of practitioners.
The Spiral Textile website provides a portal to explain the project, recruit participants, present historical
information, and exhibit textile samples in an on-line gallery. A series of posts written by textile artists
and researchers feature various aspects of the project and highlight individual contributions. To encourage
interactive exchange within the Spiral Textile community, we created a Facebook group to share ideas and
information among participants and visitors.
tapestry technique
12 with soumakh 13
Textile techniques
Our examination of hundreds of textile fragments from Karanis and museum collections worldwide indicates
that seven main techniques were used to create designs on cloth. These can be divided into two categories:
patterns woven into fabric on the loom, and designs applied to finished cloth. Images and more detailed
explanations can be found on the website:
Among loom patterned textiles, tapestry was the most common method of decoration. The technique is
best suited to depict figural and representational scenes. Tapestry is the most labour-intensive patterning
method because each design element requires insertion of a single weft yarn in each row.
The flying-thread technique, including soumakh, allowed ancient weavers to insert yarn ‘lines’ to cre-
ate abstract linear and geometric designs. Flying-thread was also combined with tapestry for emphasis and
Supplementary weft is a relatively simple method of weaving designs. A pattern is formed by insertion of
a different coloured yarn in between rows of plain weave. This technique is also known as brocade.
The same principle is used to create loop-pile weave designs. Rods are inserted in the weft to raise loops
on the surface of the cloth. Uncut loops were often combined with other patterning methods to add texture.
Taqueté is the most complex method of incorporating woven designs. Unlike the other loom-patterned
techniques, taqueté requires two warps and two or more wefts. The technique relies upon a recorded series
of warp changes to create a repeating pattern.
Needle embroidery uses yarn to add decoration to finished cloth. Surprisingly, this technique was not com-
mon until the end of the Late Antique period.
Resist-dye is another method of adding design to cloth after it has been removed from the loom. Paste or
wax is applied to the surface of a cloth to repel absorption of dye. Like embroidery, this method was rela-
tively rare, but is attributed to the earlier part of the period.

Ines Bogensperger, wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin, Austrian Academy of Sciences

Julia Galliker, post-doctoral researcher, University of Michigan Anna Mária ORBÁN
“The Golden Spiral”
14 tapestry technique 15
“Resist-dye with Indigo:
wax and quercus”,
“Resist-dye with Indigo and
wheat flour”,
“Resist-dye with Indigo,
wheat flour and quercus”, Jackie OWENS, USA
“Resist-dye with Indigo: “Resist-dye with
wax, tannin and quercus” Indigo and wax”
16 all resist-dye resist-dye 17
“Plinius 2”, “Plinius 3”, “Plinius 4” Austria
18 dyeing with mordants and resist-dye based on Pliny’s Natural History “Plinius 1” 19
Ulrikka MOKDAD, Denmark Ulrikka MOKDAD, Denmark
“Ulrikka’s Indigo Affair” “Ulrikka’s Purple Affair”
20 supplementary weft tapestry technique 21
“Indigo, Cochineal and “Beeswax and Black
22 Marigold”, taqueté Walnut”, resist-dye 23
Australia Australia
“Uzumaki 1” “Uzumaki 2”
24 loop-pile weave supplementary weft 25
Åse ERIKSEN, Norway
“Virvel 5”
26 Åse ERIKSEN, Norway, “Virvel 1”, “Virvel 2”, “Virvel 3”, “Virvel 4”, “Virvel 6”, “Virvel 7”, all taqueté taqueté 27
Lillian A. WHIPPLE, USA Marcia L. WEISS, USA
“Spiral in Taqueté” “Spiral 1”
28 taqueté taqueté 29
Susan STRYCHAK, Canada, “Spiral One”, “Spiral Two”, “Spiral Three”, “Spiral Four”
30 tapestry technique, soumakh, tapestry technique soumakh 31
Carol STEUER, USA Ruth HINGSTON, Australia
“Lost in the Vortex” “Red Spirals”
32 tapestry technique embroidery (chain stitch) 33
Oluwabusola DUROSHOLA Deborah SAMSON, USA
USA, “Unbound” “Transformation”
resist-dye on handwoven tapestry technique
34 fabric with soumakh 35
Rebecca SMITH, USA Gwendoline PEPPER, UK
“Blue Spiral” “Flying Thread Spirals”
tapestry technique flying thread with handspun,
naturally dyed yarns
36 and handwoven textile 37
Gabriela NIRINO, Argentinia Wendy LANDRY, Canada
“Lo que se ha perdido” “Karanis Spiral Roundel”
embroidery and pile in loop-pile weave
38 tapestry technique 39
Spirale als Inspiration für Gegenwartsdesign

Die Spirale ist eine Ornamentform, die bereits in der Jungsteinzeit auftaucht. Sie vermittelt die Vorstellung
einer unendlichen Bewegung von einem inneren Punkt ins Äußere. Von einem inneren Zentrum breitet sich
die Linie in einer Drehung nach außen aus, die Spirale wird somit auch als Schöpfungssymbol angesehen.
Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte haben im Curriculum der Modeschule der Stadt Wien im Schloss Hetzendorf
eine wichtige Stellung. Die Schülerinnen des Ausbildungsschwerpunktes Textil­design mit ihrer besonderen
Sensibilität für Musterungen und Bildmotive haben die Spiralzeichnung auf dem Papyrusfragment zum
Anlass genommen, um dieses zeitlose und universale Ornament neu zu interpretieren.
In unterschiedlichen Färbetechniken wurden die Textilien gefärbt und für den Siebdruck vorbereitet. Die
Motive wurden von verschiedenen Kulturen und Erzählungen ausgehend zeichnerisch entwickelt. Die per-
sönliche Handschrift und die Ideenfindung sind wichtige Teile des Entwurfsprozesses. Die ausgearbeiteten
Grafiken wurden digital bearbeitet und als Film auf ein Sieb belichtet, um in verschiedenen Farbstellungen
seriell gedruckt zu werden. Der Siebdruck als Durchdruckverfahren, wo die Vorlage haargenau auf foto-
chemischem Weg übertragen wird, erlaubt in relativ kurzer Zeit zahlreiche bildnerische Variationen. Die
Schülerinnen haben eine Vielzahl völlig unterschiedlicher Interpretationen geliefert, die zeigen, wie sehr die
Spirale auch heute noch als zeitloses Ornament ihre Bedeutung hat.

Ingrid Gaier, Ausbildungsschwerpunkt Textildesign, Modeschule der Stadt Wien im Schloß Hetzendorf

Theresa Handig
40 Austria 41
Paulina Sommer Leona Bereis
42 Germany Austria 43
44 Tina Zierhofer, Austria, Natural dyeing on silk, silk screen printing 45
Clara Marboe Magdalena Berger
46 Austria Austria 47
Elena Riener Emma Kantorkova
48 Austria Germany 49
50 Austria Austria 51
52 Austria Austria 53
Anna UDE Michelle ISIBOR
54 Austria Austria 55

Editors: Ines Bogensperger

Ingrid Gaier
Julia Galliker

“Ancient Textiles — Modern Hands”

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
A-1015 Wien, Josefsplatz 1

FWF Der Wissenschaftsfonds — Top Citizen Science, TCS 44

Print: Frick Kreativbüro & Onlinedruckerei

86381 Krumbach, Deutschland
Cover design based on the work of Ulrikka Mokdad
Graphic design: Robert Svoboda

© der Abbildungen bei den Künstlerinnen

© der Texte bei den Autorinnen und Autoren