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Wyroby włókiennicze z cmentarzyska w Świbiu / Textile materials from the cemetery at Świbie

DOI: 10.33547/Swibie2022.2.12

Wyroby włókiennicze z cmentarzyska w Świbiu / Textile materials from the cemetery at Świbie

by Joanna Słomska-Bolonek 1, Łukasz Antosik 1

1 – Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Ośrodek Badań nad Dawnymi Technologiami, ul. Tylna 1, 90-364 Łódź

In: Michnik, M., Dzięgielewski, K. (2022). Cmentarzysko z wczesnej epoki żelaza w Świbiu na Górnym Śląsku. Tom 2, pp. 216-237. Gliwice: Muzeum w Gliwicach, Wydawnictwo Profil-Archeo.


In the course of many seasons of research, as many as 192 fragments of textile products were recovered from 51 graves at the necropolis in Świbie, Gliwice District. Today they form the most numerous and diverse group of prehistoric textile objects from Poland. The assemblage includes not only woven fabrics, but also plaited materials, those made using the sprang technique, and threads. Most of the material survived on bone destructs, wooden elements of biers/coffins, and iron and bronze elements of grave furnishings, typically as fragments a few centimetres in length. This situation often made it impossible to carry out all analyses and measurements. Nevertheless, the results obtained should be considered highly important for the study of prehistoric textiles.
Woven fabrics comprise the largest group in the assemblage (see catalogue). All of them were made in plain weave, either from animal or plant material, and they represent products of medium, good, and in a few cases even of very good quality. Some were made of dyed yarn and finished with tassels, and these should be considered the oldest evidence of the use of these techniques in the Vistula and Oder basins. Textiles typical of the Lusatian culture population make up the vast majority of the material. However, the very delicate, densely woven pieces undoubtedly go beyond this framework and are closer to the products known from the circle of the Hallstatt culture.

Apart from woven fabrics, the cemetery also produced examples of sprang, which belong to the group of delicate products. Products of this type were recorded in three graves, and they were made from woollen yarn (see catalogue). In addition, 38 plaited fragments were found (see catalogue), preserved next to bronze ornaments, with which they originally formed decorative elements of costume. As they were made using the simplest plaiting technique, it can be assumed that they are examples of local manufacture.
Less spectacular, although indicative of the development of tailoring, were the finds of threads. Twenty-one fragments of these were found, which were made from plant material, with doubled yarn (see catalogue). They were mainly used for sewing bronze buttons to headbands, as evidenced by their presence in the eyes of bronze appliqués and in the places where fabrics were joined to leather straps.

With regard to the function of the materials in question, they should be considered remains of ceremonial costume associated with funeral ceremony. It included elements of clothing, as well as accessories complementing the whole, such as necklaces, hairnets or headbands (diadems). It can be presumed that the deceased may have been dressed in tunics, coats, trousers, skirts, or dresses. It seems that they had more than one item of clothing. However, the possibility of using shrouds, which we cannot distinguish from pieces of clothing, cannot be ruled out.
Although the textile material recovered at Świbie is very rich and varied, it should be remembered that these products were elements of funerary costume. Thus, they are not a fully authoritative source of information about the level of Early Iron Age textile making. It can nevertheless be concluded that there was a clear, albeit slow, increase in the quality of textiles manufactured in the region during the Hallstatt period. While the population of the Lusatian culture still did not weave their cloth in more complex twill weaves, the quality of yarn and linen fabrics was very good. However, the influence and transfer of knowledge from the Alpine zone and southern Europe to southern Poland is evident.