Archaeological Museum of Bologna

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Collections / Ricerca / Etruscan Collection: Villanovan phase (900-680 B.C.)


A distaff, probably made of wood, was a tool used in spinning to hold a bunch of unspun fibres, usually flax or sometimes wool, wrapped around it and tied in placed with a string. The distaff in bronze foil is a variant of the tool used every day for spinning but made of a precious material. It was a distinctive element in the sepulchres belonging to exceedingly wealthy women that it can be regarded as an object of prestige related to the dead woman's social class.

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Throughout antiquity, women were primarily regarded as spinners and weavers. The ability to weave skilfully was one of the most valued qualities of noblewomen; consider, for instance, Penelope, Ulysses’ faithful wife in the Odyssey. Written sources and pictorial representations, in fact, present us goddesses and aristocratic women intent on spinning or weaving, alone or helped by their maidservants.

Provenance: Bologna, Melenzani Necropolis, tomb 64
Datation: 750 - 720 B.C.
Material: laminated bronze
Dimensions: height: 17.1 cm.
Inventory #: 24678

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