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Department of Archaeology



PROduction and CONsumption: Textile Economy and Urbanisation in Mediterranean Europe 1000-500 BCE (PROCON) is a 5-year project funded by an ERC Starting Grant. In this section you can find out details about the project's background, objectives, methods, structure and study area.


                   Dr Beatriz Marin-Aguilera undertaking research.


It has been convincingly demonstrated that intensive production and consumption of textiles was at the heart of urbanisation throughout the history of the world. The lords of the Inka state extracted heavy tribute of cloth from its peasants, which in turn clothed and sheltered the army, dressed its lords and citizens and filled its storehouses. In 18th century England, the Industrial Revolution was fuelled by the desire of the nobility and aspiring middle classes to invest in cloth and clothing, with its perchance for self-promotion and political investiture. In the ancient past a similar pattern is recognisable in the emergence of the Bronze Age urban state centres of Mesopotamia and the Aegean. Here, early written state archives provide abundant evidence of the importance of textile production and consumption in the formation of the political systems synonymous with urbanisation.The PROCON project aims to explore, for the first time, the role of textile production and consumption in the formation of early Iron Age states, using the example of the Mediterranean Europe. The overarching question to be answered is: 

  • To what extent did textile production and consumption define the development of productive and commercial activities of early urban Mediterranean societies in the Iron Age? 

Using established and novel approaches to textile research, the project results aim to change the landscape of urbanisation research by providing new data sets demonstrating textile production and consumption as major economic and social factors. The project is unique in that it takes developments in a specialist research field (textile archaeology) and applies them to modelling the dynamics behind the broader phenomenon of urbanisation in Europe.


                               A selection of spindle whorls.


The aim of the project PROCON is to test the hypothesis that textile production and consumption was a significant driving force of the economy and of the creation and perception of wealth in Mediterranean Europe during the period of urbanisation and early urbanism in 1000-500 BCE. This aim leads to the following objectives: 

  1. To evaluate the availability and degree of exploitation of the various resources for textile production; 
  2. To assess the technological and organisational parameters of textile production
  3. To explore the consumption of textile products as clothing and utilitarian goods and to trace the increased demand for clothing through changes in fashion and in wealth accumulation, and demand for sail cloth with increased mobility; 
  4. To identify the modes, means and directions (through time and space) of the resource, technology and textile consumption and exchange; 
  5. On the basis of the above, to provide a new reading of economic history for the period and area under consideration, which sees textile production and consumption as a major economic factor during urbanisation of Early Iron Age Mediterranean Europe. 


The project is highly interdisciplinary and draws on methods from the fields of archaeology, biology, geology, chemistry, art history and classics. Much of the work will consist of bringing together existing published data, which will provide the basis for assessing quantitatively and qualitatively textile production and consumption in Mediterranean Europe from 1000 to 500 BC. The various strands of the project structure presuppose the creation of specific attribute datasets. Tool studies (strand Production) will involve application of a new method developed by the Centre for Textile Research, which allows defining a range of textiles that can be produced using archaeologically recoverable textile tools. New methods will be developed for iconographic studies (strand Product)



Consumption of textiles is defined by the quantity and quality of consumables produced, which in turn depends on the level of production organisation and the availability of material and human resources. The project structure hence encompasses four research strands within the operational sequence of textile economy: ResourcesProductionProduct and Consumption and Exchange.

Study area

The PROCON project is concerned with broad patterns and adopts a Mediterranean-wide rather than a regional perspective. The geographical area selected for this study is Mediterranean Europe, consisting of eastern (Greece), central (Italy) and western (Spain) regions. In doing so, the project explores similarities and differences between the different regions as they followed their trajectories towards urbanisation.

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