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Bronze Age wool economy: production, trade, environment, husbandry and society (THESP)

This project aims to shed light on the significance of wool and wool textile production in the European Bronze Age.

Its main purpose is to investigate archaeological and archaeozoological material to identify, understand and interpret the impact of wool production on society, the environment and agricultural practices. It also aims to deepen our general understanding of human engagement with animals, particularly sheep breeds, and animal husbandry practices. The study draws upon well-documented material from Hungary and northern Italy, areas that have indications of extensive wool textile production.

Textile production in general and the introduction of woollen textiles represented a great revolution in Bronze Age Europe at the dawn of the 2nd millennium BC. The available contemporary written sources from the Mediterranean and Near East bear witness to the fact that textile production was an important part of several local economies. In Europe only archaeological material can help us understand the importance of woollen textiles. Strontium isotope analyses conducted on the well-preserved textiles from Scandinavia have shown that wool came from various geological areas, both local and non-local. It is therefore likely that a complex system of production and trade must have existed in Europe during the Bronze Age.

This project takes an innovative approach by including the strontium analyses of sheep bones to bridge the data for areas where actual textiles are not preserved.

image of sheep

The project´s image

THESP is the acronym from the project’s subtitle (Trade, Husbandry, Environment, Society, Production), but it is also a word meaning ‘actor’. The image therefore provided an opportunity to hifhlight the importance of sheep both for the development of wool textile production and as a focus and symbol for the research being undertaken by scholars within the project.


The project runs from January 2016 to December 2018 and is funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

Page Manager: Katarina Tullia von Sydow|Last update: 4/12/2016

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