Spinning and weaving tools

Iron Age, 800 BC-AD 50
From England

Making clothes in the Iron Age

Most clothes in Iron Age Britain were made from sheep's wool - sheep were kept on most farms. Almost every Iron Age farm and settlement made or repaired clothing. Tools or parts of tools for making clothes are commonly found when archaeologists excavate the site of an Iron Age farm or village. Iron Age clothes themselves are almost never preserved because they rot easily and decay.

This picture shows a range of clothes-making tools from many different archaeological sites in England. The small round objects are spindle whorls. Each one would have been used to weight a spindle, a tool used to spin wool into threads. The threads were woven into cloth on a loom. Although wooden looms are not usually preserved the large weights that were used to keep the threads tight survive. The weights were hung on the bottom of the loom - two large examples are shown here. Long handled combs made from animal bone or deer antler were used by weavers. Other bone tools were used make holes in the finished cloth or to sew pieces of cloth together to make clothes.

Not all clothes were made from wool. We know that flax was grown to make linen. Animal skins were tanned to make leather, and skins, furs and feathers were also used to make or decorate clothes.

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More information


S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)


Height: 13.600 cm (triangular loom weight)

Museum number

P&EE 1882 2-14 1;P&EE 1896 4-11 102;P&EE 1915 10-15 65;P&EE 1938 5-7 151;P&EE 1963 12-8 118, 125, 126;P&EE 1988 4-9 5;P&EE 1990 4-2 1;P&EE 1992 2-5 2;P&EE H H 94


Gifts of Canon W. Greenwell, Sir A.W. Franks, F.J. Durban Esq., Lord Mulgrave, A. Dawson & Co., Burton Agnes Estate Trust


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