Weaving Looms

Amasis Painter, painted section of a lekythos, 550–530 B.C., Terracotta, The Met, New York.

Three kinds of loom were in use in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Near East in ancient times. One was the "ground loom," in which the warp was stretched horizontally between two beams that are pegged to the ground. In Egypt there are tomb paintings and models of ground looms from Predynastic times to the middle of the second millennium B.C. Tomb paintings of the New Kingdom show only the vertical loom, which was presumably introduced into Egypt at that time. A vertical loom also stretches the warp between two beams, but in this case the warp threads are vertical, and the beams are supported by uprights. This type of loom has been in use through the twentieth century A.D.

The type of loom depicted on this lekythos or oil flask is called a warp-weighted loom. It was usually leaned at an angle against a wall or a roof beam. It differs from the other types in that the warp is not stretched between two beams, but is attached to a beam at the top and to a series of weights at the bottom. The weights were usually of stone or clay; many of them have been found in excavations. Warp-weighted looms were first seen in the Neolithic period in Central Europe.


An archaeological era defined by the advancement of stone wares and tools; generally a late part of the Stone Age and an early stage in the development of a civilization. In the ancient Near East, the neolithic period lasted from about 8500 to 4300 B.C.E.

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