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Plaiting a Prehistoric Technique in Textiles

Plaiting a Prehistoric Technique in Textiles

Prehistoric textiles made an invaluable contribution to the cultural understanding of plaiting techniques in the early history. The cloth making industry was more significant to a particular culture than even the publication of a book. The textile industry turns up to be even older than pottery or the agriculture. It consumed more hours of labor per year than any other types of work together. Mainly it was womens work. Thus, from the earliest times, females tried to get the knowledge of spinning, weaving and sewing (Barber 4). From the very beginning, using fiber to produce goods helped people to cover all their needs for food, clothing and shelter. The history of the textile industry has a long time of evolution, from the basketry and matting to all fiber-made goods that people have nowadays (Good 209). The current paper aims to explore peculiarities of textile techniques during the Pre-Pottery and Neolithic periods. Mainly it focuses on a deeper understanding of basket weaving techniques as a variety of textiles. The paper includes general information about prehistoric textiles, basketry and their main types. In complex, all information creates a full picture of prehistoric techniques in textile manufacturing concentrating on plaiting as the most widespread and conventional technique.

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The study of textile goes to the times of antique Egypt (Good 210). Most scientists have agreed to create one general definition of textile, being a web of interlaced threads produced on a loom (Good 211). However, there are lots of fiber products that do not fall within this category. There is some archeological evidence that at least two separate technologies existed without looming. The first one was tablet weaving. This technique appeared in the third millennia in Egypt and a little later in Mesopotamia. This method did not require any loom, but only a set of four-hole tablets. The second technique was sprang manufacturing with stretched threads. It appeared in the Neolithic times in Northern Europe. Scientists think that such technologies as tablet weaving and the sprang technique point to the existence of much older methods (Barber 118-124).

The production of basketry is probably one of the oldest and the most widespread crafts in the history still used by many cultures. The first evidence of the basketry technique was found between 50 000 and 10 000 years ago in Egypt. Other evidence was in the area of Upper Paleolithic Moravia near the Check Republic. Basketry is a class of fiber plaiting, which includes several kinds of items, such as containers or baskets, matting, and bags. Matting is two-dimensional or flat, while bags are three-dimensional. All forms of basketry are based on the use of a manually woven frame or a loop. Thus, since all baskets are woven, they are technically a variety of textile. With the help of basketry, people produced different non-heddle-loom woven textile objects. Furthermore, three structural techniques are commonly employed in basketry and textile such as twining, coiling, and plaiting. Some scientists recognize these techniques as subclasses of basketry. Each approach is generally mutually exclusive (The Textile and Basketry 223).

The first subclass of basket weave is a twining technique. It is produced by moving the weft, a horizontal element, around the warp that is a vertical element. The former is an active element, and the latter turns up a passive one. This technique includes three main subclasses, such as open and close twining, as well as cross warp and wrapped twining. With this technique, people could produce containers, mats, bags, and clothing (The Textile and Basketry 223).

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The coiling technique is formed by two main elements. The first one is horizontal that is a core. It can be a single or bundled with many smaller items. The second is a stitches system. These vertical elements move around the foundation and hold the whole system together. The core is a passive element, while stitches are active. The coiling technique is mostly used for the production of containers or hats and rarely bags (Basketry Technology 52).

Unlike all other types of the woven basketry, plaiting does not have a stationary warp structure. Warps and wefts are not separately distinguished. Both elements are active (Hedges 8). Technically plaiting resembles simple weaving cloth fabrics. It is the simple criss-cross or overlap of strands of any material having the slight flexibility needed to accommodate them to this over-and-under ordering (Coe and Burke 175). It relates to the type of basket weave, in which all elements pass over and under each other without engagement. That is why, this technique is described as unsewn (The Textile and Basketry 223).

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The plaiting technique can be divided into several types. The main of them is plain or checkerwork and twill plaiting, but there are also hexagonal plaiting and braiding. In plain plaiting, one set of parallel elements passes over and under the elements of another set. In this case, the weft is forced together in order to hide the other set. It is called close- or tapestry-woven. Others are open or basket weave techniques. The weave is called wickerwork if the weft is pliable (Coe and Burke 177). Twilled plaiting creates a diagonal effect by passing a welt over more than one warp stand and then passing the next weft over a set of the former. Thus, the weft may pass under-one-over-two or under-two-over-two and so on. Twilled plaiting varied according to the design, for example, diamonds, herringbone, zigzag or diagonal lines. Therefore, this technique includes some other types, such as hexagonal plaiting based on three sets of elements. Strands of any one set cross alternately over and under other two. The last type of the plaiting technique is braiding. Its main difference is that all elements start at a common point and tend in a common direction (Coe and Burke 185). The plaiting technique was used primarily to produce mats and basketry forms based on them. However, in plaiting, the element can be bent upward, and plaiting is carried based on making the sides of the basketry. The plaiting technique has also been used for a variety of mats and sandals (Hedges 8). Checkerwork and twill plaiting were used for hats and souvenirs all along the Northwest Coast as well (Hedge 26). Thus, plaiting and its types were more spread than any other technique (The Textile and Basketry 223).

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Although the boundaries between basketry regions are blurred, each technique has its own area. Taking a technique as a primary criterion, basketry of the American West is divided into three categories. Firstly, the Greater Northwest was characterized mostly by plain or wrapped twining. The Central California-Great Basin region depended on twining and coiling. The Southern region used plaiting (Hedges 21).

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In conclusion, the textile phenomenon covers a wide range of finished products. Basketry is one of the varieties of textiles. This ancient craft was used to produce products from different materials, including woven items. Such techniques as coiling, twining and plaiting are the main subclasses of basketry. The plaiting technique differs from all others. Its first evidence were recorded in the area of Egypt between 50 000 and 10 000 years ago. Every single technique was preferred for different utilization. Plaiting was used for basketry production of many forms with various functions. Products made by the use of this technique from the very early time included containers, bags, mats, and a wide range of other forms. During a certain period, the plaiting technique developed into several types, such as simple or plain, twilled, hexagonal plaiting and braiding. Thus, it started to be even more useful than ever. Generally, it has appeared to be a fundamental technique for making baskets and textile.