Beyond Penelope

Women and the role of textiles in Early Greece

Authored by: Brendan Burke

Women in Antiquity

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138808362
eBook ISBN: 9781315621425
Adobe ISBN: 9781317219910


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After remarking that M. Finley unlocked the Homeric world of Odysseus (e.g., Finley 1957), B. Olsen asks in her recent book, Women in Mycenaean Greece (2014), “what might the Mycenaean world of a real-life Penelope look like?” (1) Olsen’s interest reaches far beyond the most elite Mycenaean women, queens such as Penelope, Helen, or Clytaemnestra, and investigates a diverse labor force of real working women in various levels of dependency on the Mycenaean palaces of mainland Greece and the Aegean during the Late Bronze Age (c.1400–1200 bc). Most of these nameless working women toiled away primarily spinning, dyeing, and weaving in and around palace centers to make cloth which powered the premonetary Greek economy of the Late Bronze Age Aegean. The Linear B texts record the many stages of textile production, from the acquisition of raw materials to the final distribution and consumption of the finished cloth, demonstrating a key role for female labor (e.g., Chadwick 1988; Barber 1991, 1997; Killen passim; Nosch passim).

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