Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


20 June 2015

The root of the problem: On the relationship between wool processing and lanolin production

Laura B. Mazow Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 27.1 (2014), 33-50


Reconstructions of ancient wool-processing techniques have generally been based on the assumption that lanolin was a by-product of the woolen textile industry. However, both ancient and modern sources point to significant procedural differences between the extraction and recovery of lanolin and the preparation of wool for spinning and weaving. The different conditions necessary to produce spinning wool or to recover lanolin are, in fact, contradictory rather than complementary, and wool working and lanolin production must therefore have been separate, albeit related industries. Recognizing lanolin as produced by boiling wool offers an explanation for a number of difficult-to-understand Linear B references and supports the interpretation of sign *145 (wool/LANA) in perfumed unguent ingredient lists as ‘wool for its lanolin’. It further enables archaeological reconstructions of these technologies and of cross-craft interactions in the Bronze and Iron Ages.


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