IASSRT Papers: Nahal Omer Middens as indicator for Networks of Trade along the Silk Road on the Edges of Europe: The Textile Evidence

IASSRT Papers: Nahal Omer Middens as indicator for Networks of Trade along the Silk Road on the Edges of Europe: The Textile Evidence

Following our recent post about the symposium ‘Reconnections along the Silk Road: Restoring and Reconstructing Textiles from Afar: 7th Symposium of the International Association for the Study of Silk Road Textiles (IASSRT)’, this is the fourth of a series of posts showcasing the papers most relevant to the Nara to Norwich project.

Here we reproduce the abstract of the paper by Orit Shamir and her colleagues, on silk fragments from south and east found in the eastern Mediterranean.


Nahal Omer Middens as indicator for Networks of Trade along the Silk Road on the Edges of Europe: The Textile Evidence

Dr. Orit Shamir, National Treasures, Israel Antiquities Authority
PD Dr. Berit Hildebrandt
, University of Göttingen 
Dr. Roy Galili, Department of Archaeology
, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Nofar Shamir
, School of Archaeology and Maritime Cultures, University of Haifa
Prof. Dr. Guy Bar-Oz
, School of Archaeology and Maritime Cultures, University of Haifa

Trash middens, with their dense concentrations of cultural remains of daily life, provide an important source of data for exploring the history of ancient settlements. Rubbish middens of Nahal Omer—a small village and a way station in the Arava desert south of the Dead Sea, consists of 17 dwelling structures and a mosque, a single-period and single-layered site, dated to the early Islamic period (seventh to ninth centuries), yielded a great number of cotton textiles, along with linen, wool, and goat-hair fabrics, and even some pieces of silk.

Technological characteristics like weft-faced compound tabbies (zilu) and warp-ikat suggest that some of these fabrics arrived from east Asia and India. The 17 silk fragments found at Nahal Omer are the only ones from this period so far discovered in this region. They are in tabby weave technique and one with supplementary weft.

The various organic finds and especially the diversity and abundance of textiles from Nahal Omer, compared with other contemporaneous sites in the region such as Nahal Shahaq, ‘En Marzev, ‘En ‘Evrona and Yotvata, attest to the wide and inter-regional cultural and geographic trade networks across Eurasia. They can thus provide valuable insights not only into the economy and culture of a road on which luxury goods were transported to the Mediterranean and the larger systems of connectivity, but also shed new light on the everyday life in a small way station along the Silk Road in this period.

In this study, we will present results from excavations in 1991 and more recently in 2020 and 2022 which yielded an exceptionally diverse assemblage of organic remains, including numerous textiles, basketry and cordage items, date-palm kernels, human hair, bird feathers, several wood artifacts, and some pieces of leather, including footwear, parchment and animal skins. Other important finds include about 20 small fragments of papyri bearing Arabic writing revealing these middens as ‘social archives’.

This project is financially supported by the State of Lower Saxony, Germany.

References

  • Baginski A. & Shamir O. 1995. Early Islamic textiles, basketry and cordage from Nahal Omer, Israel. ‘Atiqot 26: 21–42. 
  • Bar-Oz G. et al. 2022. Caravanserai middens on desert roads: a new perspective on the Nabatean-Roman trade network across the Negev. Antiquity 96: 592–610. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2022.40
  • Ben-Michael J. Israel I. & Nahlieli D. 2018. Nahal Omer: a village from the Early Islamic period in the Arava. Excavations and Surveys in Israel 129: 1–23.
  • Hildebrandt B. (ed.), with C. Gillis. 2017. Silk: trade and exchange along the Silk Roads between Rome and China in antiquity. Oxford: Oxbow. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvh1dsv4
  • Hildebrandt B, Shamir O, Galili R, Shamir N & Bar-Oz G. 2023. Networks of trade and exchange along the Israeli Silk Road: the silk and cotton finds from Nahal Omer, Negev Desert. Antiquity 97(393): 14, 1–8.
  • Shamir O. 2022. Silk Textiles from the Byzantine period till the Medieval period from excavations in the Land of Israel (5th-13th Centuries): Origin, Transmission, and Exchange. ACTA VIA SERICA 7:53-82.