Spindle Whorls

The Show


Spindle whorls 9th–10th centuries, Fustat (medieval Cairo), Egypt Incised bone Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 1969.2.60 and 1969.2.61

Spindle whorl

KM 1969.2.60

Spindle whorl

KM 1969.2.61

These small circular objects carved from bone are probably whorls—that is, the weighted part of a drop-spindle used for sustaining centripetal force while spinning yarn or thread on a spindle. Their small scale indicates that these whorls were likely used to spin a fine yarn. The incised patterns are purely decorative. However, they cleverly play with the functionality of the object, as the pattern would have been seen in both static form and in circular motion.

Bibliography: Bacharach and Rodenbeck 2002, 35–36.

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