Woman spinning / a relief from Susa / 8th-7th century BCE

The production of textiles has always been complex. Fibers, gathered from plants or animals, should be cleaned, combed and sorted. Only then, the fibers could be twisted and drawn out under tension- that is spun- into the long, strong, flexible thread needed for textiles. Weaving was done on a loom.

In a relief fragment from Susa, known as "The spinner", a woman is shown spinning yarn with a large spindle. This figure is one of the rare images of a woman in her personal domestic environment in the ancient orient. She is wearing an impressive hairstyle while her hands are full of bracelets. Her garment is a sleeveless tunic with patterned border.
spinner, susa, ancient susa, woman spinnning,
Fragment of a relief known as "The spinner". Bitumen mastic (9.2 x 13cm), Neo-Elamite period (8th century B.C.–middle of the 6th century B.C.). Found in Susa (present day Shush, Iran). image source: Wikimedia

The woman sits on a hand carved wooden stool, in a rather informal manner, barefoot with one leg folded under her body. In front of the woman stands a pedestal table with a fish and six round objects (probably fruit). A servant with large, round curls stands just behind the woman and cools her with a fan.

No skein is visible, perhaps because the scene may not represent the act of spinning so much as the spinner's satisfied presentation of her work to an important figure who stands on the other side of the table. This figure is now completely lost.

The furniture is lion footed. In the ancient orient only gods and sovereigns received such furnising since ordinary people ate and slept on the floor. Therefore, the scene probably takes places in the divine world or in the palace at Susa, at the court of a Neo-Elamite sovereign.

  • Marilyn Stokstad & Michael W. Cothren.,  2010. Art History, Volume 1 (4th Edition). 4 Edition. Pearson.
  • The Spinner, Louvre Museum / department of Near East antiquities. 


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