FOUND: Tiny Wooden Figurines Of People Weaving From 2,000 Years Ago

20 April, 2017 by Maiya Pina-Dacier
Wooden Figurines 'Weave' at Tiny Looms Placed in Ancient Grave
Credit: Tao Xie; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.

Archaeologists have found a bunch of miniature wooden figurines still weaving at their tiny looms after 2,o00 years.

The miniature scene, made up of 15 tiny weavers, was discovered inside a small compartment, below the tomb of a woman called Wan Dinu who died around 2,000 years ago in China’s southwestern Sichuan province.

The weavers were found along with four tiny looms, a number of weaving accessories and were carved in the act of warping, weft winding and rewinding. Standing just 25cm tall, each figurine also has a name written on it, suggesting they might represent real-life weavers.

As well as being absolutely adorable, researchers have said the figurines provide the earliest evidence on record of looms that could be used to weave complex patterns.

The world’s oldest pattern loom

Aside from just being plain adorable, these figurines actually hold valuable information. Originally found in 2013, the researchers now say they provide the first direct evidence of pattern-weave textile production in ancient China – the missing technological link responsible for some of the most remarkable Han Dynasty silks, and ultimately for the invention of the draw loom which spread throughout Persia, India and Europe.

The earliest known looms are thought to come from China’s Neolithic age, around 7,000-8,000 years ago. Other evidence of looms include pieces of Egyptian creations from about 4,000 and 3,400 years ago, respectively, and Greek looms illustrated on vases dating to about 2,400 years ago.

At about 2,100 years old, the model looms from Chengdu appear to be world’s the earliest examples of a pattern loom. Unlike earlier iterations, pattern looms helped weavers create a more complex kind of patterned textile, allowing them to string up the weft (the crosswise yarn on the loom) and weaving the warp (the longitudinal yarn that is passed over and under the weft) through it, said Zhao.


The researchers also said the pattern looms probably helped inspire the invention of the draw loom — a device that can weave even more complex patterns, and was then introduced to the West — Persia, India and Europe.

According to Zhao, this indicates that the “Chinese silk pattern loom made a significant contribution to the subsequent development of world textile culture and weaving technology”.

The style of the tomb, and a Western Han Dynasty bronze coin found within, suggest that Wan Dinu died during the reigns of Emperors Jingdi (157 to 141 B.C.) and Wudi (141 to 88 B.C.). The study was published in the April issue of the journal Antiquity and is certainly il-loominating (sorry).

H/T Live Science.

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Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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