Textiles accompany man throughout his life from his swaddling clothes till his shroud and protect him against climatic variations. Textile craft is much older than the art of pottery or metallurgy, even if it is hard to find preserved evidences. It has persisted, in its traditional form, for millennia until the very beginning of the industrial revolution, which totally changed textile technology, its production and its organisation. However, textiles cannot be restricted to practical uses. They had a complex place in ancient and traditional societies.
The project of an International Research Network Ancient Textiles from the Orient to the Mediterranean (ATOM) aims to define both the impact of textile production on agriculture, husbandry and environment generally speaking, its role in handicrafts, in trade, and more generally in the economy, but also the uses of textiles in the construction of gender and individual and collective identities. The geographical area concerned by the project covers the Orient and the Mediterranean. This broad area has seen the beginnings of agriculture and husbandry and the development of ancient spinning and weaving techniques. Mesopotamia especially, has seen the emergence of centralized manufactures for textile production, based on a complex division of labour.
This project intends to promote interdisciplinary studies on textiles, involving many disciplines: archaeology, archaeobotany, archaeozoology, bioarchaeology, environmental studies, experimental archaeology, ethno-archaeology, history, philology, anthropology, etc. It gathers, in a joint programme, research units affiliated with the CNRS, universities, national museums and a centre of excellence specialised on textile researches.
The Network “ATOM” aims at facilitating contacts between researchers working on ancient textiles. A systematic approach to the ancient craft of textiles, via archaeology, texts and iconography, by involving all relevant specialists in highly specialized, collective projects, will yield a comprehensive picture of the economic and cultural impact of textiles and textile manufacturing on society. Furthermore, research will be embedded into the teaching activities for students and also for colleagues of the institutions involved, for example in joint master classes. Several students plan doctoral dissertations or masters’ theses on these topics. They will benefit from the Network “ATOM”, which will facilitate exchange among young scholars from several European countries.