I have to admit that I wavered back and forth between two of Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s books, both Women’s Work and Prehistoric Textiles. I opted for Women’s Work solely because the university library had a copy I could read for free, verus the $50 price tag on the Prehistoric Textiles book. Having read the one, I realize I will very likely, at some point, buy the other. I enjoyed Women’s Work quite a bit, despite her tendency to treat the religious lives of prehistoric and early historic peoples as rather simple. They can figure out how to sustain fire, how to take plant matter and make fine thread to weave into elaborate cloth, they can create complex writing systems, but their religious understanding is base and under-developed and unsophisticated? This is a prevailing approach to indigenious religious history within academia which has gotten better with the passage of time, but is not yet perfect. More specifically, my issue with Barber’s writing is more one of inconsistency. In a number of places she goes from talking about the instances of textiles in relation to ‘Slavic pagan’ goddesses right on into the weaving of Athena’s peplos in Athens. Not once does she preface Athena with ‘pagan’, so the need to do so with any other non-Hellenic or non-Roman goddess was incredibly annoying. This is, however, a minor flaw, and does not detract from the rest of the book. Over all it was interesting read . . .
. . . and not nearly textbook-y enough for me. I want groupings broken up by time period and location. I want to read about the weaving within the context of cultural developement and advancement. I want plates and maps and time lines. I want, in essence, the other book.
See, but now I know I want the other book.