The use of plant fibers for ropes, nets, baskets, and coverings is very ancient and attested in the ancient Near East from the early Paleolithic and the Neolithic periods (Ohalo, Jericho, and Nahal Hemar) onward, in regions where the dry desert climate preserved the fragile evidence. In the historical periods of Mesopotamia, the most important source for textiles was wool, followed by linen. No actual cloth has survived, only imprints left on clay or carbonized remains. However, the textual record is quite rich: apart from technical vocabulary for all the stages of production, from shearing and carding of the wool, to the spinning of thread and the weaving, dyeing, and embroidering, which is carefully enumerated in lexical lists, there are administrative records detailing expenditures and outputs. Its is clear from the archivesdiscovered in large temple or palace institutions that the manufacture of textiles was an important part of the economy and that a large workforce, mainly of women, was engaged in this process. Furthermore, the letters exchanged between merchants stationed in the trade colony of Kultepe (Kanesh) and their backers in Assur demonstrate the commercial value placed on Mesopotamian cloth.
   Different qualities and finishes, even a taste for fashion, were catered for in the production of these luxury fabrics, which were exchanged against silver. In later periods too, Babyloniantextiles were an important export commodity. Pictorial records, such as the wall paintingsat Mari,show multicolored garments, and the reliefs of the Assyrian palaces demonstrate the intricate embroideries of royal garments.
   See also CRAFTS.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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