From:UC Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities
About this objectSpindle whorls have been found dating back as early as the 10th century BC. They are a disc or spherical object with a hole through the middle that act as weights for wooden drop spindles. Whorls have been found made of antler, bone, coral, amber, clay, glass, metal, wood, and different types of stone.
Found in a pit-tomb in Cyprus, this spindle whorl has been made of clay and covered with a polished black slip. It has been hand shaped around a stick to give the central hole. The whorl is rounded and slightly wider at one end than the other. Decoration has been incised around the outer face, with double zigzags running around the middle and parallel rows of dashes around the top and bottom.
The weight of a whorl helps give the spindle momentum in the twisting, or spinning, of fibres into yarn. The yarn could then be turned into textiles. Spindle whorls should ideally be circular and have a fairly regular cross-section, as lopsided whorls would upset the balance of the spindle and give an uneven result.
In spinning, a weaver builds a spindle by inserting a stick through the hole in a spindle whorl. The raw fibres of plants or animal wool (called roving) are attached to the stick, and the spindle is then made to rotate, in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction, twisting and compressing the fibres as it collects them on top of the whorl. Using a whorl to spin fibres produces both a consistent twist direction and a consistent yarn thickness. As well as consistency, spinning yarn with a weighted spindle produces smaller diameter cords, faster and more efficiently than hand-spinning, and it is considered a technological step forward.
Date Made21st Century BC
Place NotesExcavated from Ayia Paraskevi, tomb 11
Medium and MaterialsClay
Style and IconographyCypriote
Style and IconographyGeometric patterns
MeasurementsHeight 22mm; Diameter 30mm; Diameter ca. 10mm (internal hole)
Subject and Association KeywordsClothing and dress
Subject and Association KeywordsMourning customs
Named CollectionThe James Logie Memorial Collection, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Credit LineDonated by the Melbourne University Cyprus Expedition, 1958.
Object TypeWhorls (spindle flywheels)
Copyright LicenceAll rights reserved