Wovember Day 2 - Wool Count

by Sarah Lake Upton in

Clearly posting every day is not going to happen.  But this way I get to make Wovember stretch through the winter? 

This one seemed to be asking how many wool items of you are wearing at the moment, though I’ve seen other people interpret it differently. 


My answer is that aside from commercially produced socks, I don’t wear wool that much these days, because I wear a baby who’s going through a blurpy phase. 



Researching baby goods has led me to a new (to me) use for wool: mattress protectors.  Green Mountain Diapers carries them, or you can find organic wool felt by the yard and do the same (which is what I did).    


So far so good. 

And, anthropological musing of the day:

One of the great mysteries of (pre-) human history is why we became bipedal in the first place.  Sure bipedalism is efficient and we are fantastic pursuit predators, but all the intermediate stages that come before full bipedalism are wildly inefficient, or rather, it is hard to see what made being semi-bipedal worth the bother.  There are and have been many theories proposed over the years, some more sensible than others, but I’ve always wondered if the whole point was actually that bipedal travel leaves you with two hands to carry things, and if you protect your increasingly dexterous hands you can start to create cord and proto-textiles to help you carry more food more easily.  One thing that is frequently mentioned in discussions of human evolution is that at about the time our early ancestors became bipedal the environment was changing and what had been jungle was replaced by savana (one of the theories for the development of bipedalism is that our early ancestors stood up on their legs a lot to see over the tall grass - which seems like a bit of a Just So Story to me).  This led me to wonder about distance between water sources and food, and how much of an advantage carrying things long distance might create.  I will admit that until the other day when I found myself walking back and forth between the tomatoes on the front porch and the kitchen sink carrying a pitcher of water in one hand and my increasingly heavy baby in the other arm, I had never considered how important being able to carry a baby might be, or better yet, how important being able to carry a baby in sling or wrap might be.  

So after I finished watering the tomatoes, I googled.  It turns out that anthropologists have finally wondered about the same thing. (The author, Timothy Tailor, seems to think that these early slings would have been made out of animal hide, but I feel like this could be yet another instance of anthropological bias towards activities seen as traditionally male.  He also makes the same tired “man the hunter” arguments about hunting leading to more protien leading to bigger brains.  My feeling, admittedly based on nothing more than making a bit of cord from the inner bark of a willow myself, and watching film of chimpanzees making elaborate nests, is that our ancestors figured out how to make cordage or something like it very early - which will never show up archaeologically).    

If any potential anthro grad students ever accidentally stumble upon this blog - will you please look into this for me?  

Wovember Day 1 - Wool

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,

In which I am already a day behind. Sigh.  

For several years now I have seen the Wovember posts on my Instagram feed, celebrating all things wool and wool related.  I love reading about other people’s relationship to sheep, wool, and wool craft, and I love the writing prompts that make me examine my own relationship to wool, yarn, and sheep.  I’ve never actually done the actual writing part before though.  This is going to be the year!


Wool means too many things to me to encapsulate it all in an Instagram post.  To the archaeologist I meant to be, wool is probably the result of a random mutation in the genome of feral sheep and became one of the major (often overlooked) elements in the toolkit that got us to where we are today.  Wool is wealth and trade routes, an economically valuable crop that changed the landscape of Europe (literally, among other places, I‘m just most familiar with the European context).  Wool is a display of wealth and prestige, but also a utilitarian comfort.    Personally wool is a feeling of connection to the six or seven or eight millennia of wool workers, and also a feeling of home and safely. 

Which doesn’t really capture it all. Hmm. 


Anyway, my inner archaeologist found this fascinating paper about the history and development of wool, published on eTopoi:Journal for Ancient Studies.   The Textile Revolution. Reasearch into the Origin and Spread of Wool Production between the Near East and Central Europe


For the archaeology/history of wool production and craft I also reccomend many of the books by Elizabeth Wayland  Barber ,  Women’s Work- the First 20,000 Years especially.