Spindle whorl


Not on view

This ceramic spindle whorl was excavated in 1937 at a prehistoric site in the vicinity of Nishapur in northeastern Iran. While Nishapur itself was founded by the Sasanian king Shapur I (reigned ca. A.D. 241-272), this whorl shows that human habitation there goes back to the prehistoric period. Furthermore, the prehistoric pottery from Nishapur has close affinities with ceramic materials from Central Asia rather than with contemporary sites in Iran, meaning that in this period its inhabitants were likely culturally linked to their neighbors to the east. At the same time, Nishapur’s location on what later became known as the Great Khorasan Road suggests that it was part of the trade network that facilitated the import of precious stones such as lapis lazuli, carnelian and turquoise from Central Asia to Mesopotamia.

Spindle whorls were used to make thread. A dowel was inserted through the hole, to which plant fibers or wool were attached. The whorl was then spun in order to twist and compress the fibers into a thread.

Spindle whorl, Ceramic, Iran

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