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The earliest Near Eastern wooden spinning implements

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2016

Dafna Langgut
The Laboratory of Archaeobotany and Ancient Environments, The Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel (E-mail:
Naama Yahalom-Mack
Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel The Fredy and Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Edmond J. Safra campus, Givat Ram, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
Simcha Lev-Yadun
Department of Biology and Environment, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa-Oranim, Tivon 3600600, Israel
Eitan Kremer
The Laboratory of Archaeobotany and Ancient Environments, The Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel (E-mail:
Micka Ullman
Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Uri Davidovich
Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK


A unique set of circumstances has preserved a group of rare wooden artefacts deep within burial caves in the southern Levant. Identified as spindles and distaffs, they are fashioned from tamarisk wood and date to the Late Chalcolithic period. Analysis suggests that these implements were used to spin flax fibres, and they provide the earliest evidence for two distinct spinning techniques, drop spinning and supported spinning (with rolling on the thigh). One wooden spindle with the whorl still in place is the oldest such tool to survive intact in the Near East. The lead forming the whorl may have originated in Anatolia, and it is evidence, perhaps, of early long-distance trade.

Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2016 

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