Spindle whorls appear in the archaeological record of Old World and New World sites. The are still used in a handful of traditional societies.









Berber woman in the village of Ait Ben Haddou (near Quarzazate, Morocco) using a spindle whorl. Photographed by Michael Fuller, 18 August 1985.







Berber woman in the village of Ait Ben Haddou (near Quarzazate, Morocco) using a spindle whorl. Photographed by Michael Fuller, 18 August 1985.







Berber woman in the village of Ait Ben Haddou (near Quarzazate, Morocco) using a spindle whorl. Photographed by Michael Fuller, 18 August 1985.







Berber woman in the village of Ait Ben Haddou (near Quarzazate, Morocco) using a spindle whorl. Photographed by Michael Fuller, 18 August 1985.







Berber woman in the village of Ait Ben Haddou (near Quarzazate, Morocco) using a spindle whorl. Photographed by Michael Fuller, 18 August 1985.







Berber woman in the village of Ait Ben Haddou (near Quarzazate, Morocco) using a spindle whorl. Photographed by Michael Fuller, 18 August 1985.







Warthha spinning goat hair into yarn in the company of her siblings (Abla, Eatha, and Abdullah). Wadi Rumm, Jordan. Photographed by Prof. John Shoup, ca. 1980.







Warthha spinning goat hair into yarn under a bedouin tent in Wadi Rumm, Jordan. Photographed by Prof. John Shoup, ca. 1980.



Bedouin woman (under shade)weaving ten panels out of goat hair yarn. Wadi Rumm, Jordan. Photographed by Prof. John Shoup, ca. 1980.







Syrian Christian in a village along the Khabur River demonstrates how a wooden yarn winder is used after the yarn has been spun. Photographed by Michael Fuller, ca. 1985.



Neathery Fuller learns to spin at Tell Tuneinir, Syria. Photographed by Michael Fuller, ca. 1985.







Display in the "old" Hama (Syria) museum showing women spinning and grinding wheat. Photographed by Michael Fuller, ca. 1993.



Display in the "old" Hama (Syria) museum showing a woman using a traditional spindle whorl. Photographed by Michael Fuller, ca. 1993.




Professor Patty Jo Watson (Anthropology) published a description of spindle whorls that she observed while conducting fieldwork in Iran from September, 1959 to June, 1960. He descriptions and photographs are published in Archaeological Ethnography in Western Iran which was published in 1979 by the Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology, no. 57.

Here is what she published on pages 174-5, and 178:

In the village [of Hasanabad], spinning is done by the women using a very simple, grooved, wooden spindle with a wooden whorl. These spindles are usually bought in Kermanshah or from the Kawli. The wool is first cleaned by picking out the larger impurities (dung, twigs, weed seeds, etc.), then washing it. When the wool is dry it must be fluffed out, and then part of it will be drawn out and shaped by rolling betwen the palms into a fat rope. The rope is coiled into a basket and is ready to be spun. A filament is drawn from the end of the roll and wound around the spindle, inside the groove. The spindle is trongly twirled with the fingers of the right hand, and the whorl acting to balance the spindle and prolong the spin. The base of the spindle often rests on the floor or upon some solid object but this is not essential. The wool (or goatshair, or cotton; the same process is used for all) filament is twisted into yarn, and, as it becomes yarn, is wound onto the spindle just above the whorl; the next section is wound into the groove, and work commences. The fingers of the left hand may be used to guide the wool. An experienced spinner working with clean wool rapidly produces an unbroken length of yarn whose diameter is quite consistent. If the yarn breaks, the ends may be easily spliced by fluffing them out a bit, then spinning them together... It may be seen that the lengths of ordinary spindles vary from 27 to 38 cm, but the spindle whrols are remarkably uniform in diameter [ranging from 5 to 6 cm] and thickness [ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 cm]. The forms of the whorls are also all of one basic type, a section of a cylinder or cone. Neither spindles nor whorls are usually decorated, other than perhaps one or two lines incised around the whorl. No material other than wood is used for spindles or whorls [at Hasanabad].



Hasanabad spinner photographed by Professor Watson.



Hasanabad spinner photographed by Professor Watson.



Hasanabad spindles illustrated by Professor Watson.







Older woman spinning in La Libertad - Tayabamba, Peru. Photographed by Wilda Da Rosa during March 2005 to July 2006 and used with her permission.







Young girl spinning in La Libertad - Tayabamba, Peru. Photographed by Wilda Da Rosa during March 2005 to July 2006 and used with her permission.






Young girl spinning in La Libertad - Tayabamba, Peru. Photographed by Wilda Da Rosa during March 2005 to July 2006 and used with her permission.






Woman with distaff in La Libertad - Tayabamba, Peru. Photographed by Wilda Da Rosa during March 2005 to July 2006 and used with her permission.





Group of Andean women at Hacienda Vicos (Peru) using spindle whorls. Photograph by John Collier during 1955. Image 9A in Modernization and Traditional Societies produced by The MacMillan company, Copyright 1971. Publication is not endorsed by the copyright holder.






Pit loom in an Andean village. This type of loom was introduced during the Spanish colonial period because it is more efficient than the traditional, backstrap loom. Photograph by John Collier during 1955 at Hacienda Vicos (Peru). Image 10A in Modernization and Traditional Societies produced by The MacMillan company, Copyright 1971. Publication is not endorsed by the copyright holder.




Webpage Created 15 January 2006
Updated 4 February 2006