Agriculture in the Holy Land: Flax

As I was looking through the old photos of Cully A. Cobb, the founder of the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University, I noticed these pictures of men busy with some sort of textiles. I could only conclude that it was flax being prepared for weaving. I’m not even sure where exactly these pictures were taken. I only know that it probably was somewhere in the Jordan Valley, most likely on the eastern side.

Gustaf Dalman describes the process as he observed it in Aleppo. Flax grows about 1 to 2 meters high in irrigated fields. The plants are left to dry out in the field before they are harvested. After the harvest, they are immersed in water for six days. Then they are beaten with a wooden hammer so that the outer bark separates from the inner stem. The inner parts are then drawn across a comb, which is in fact a wooden board with short, sharp metal(?) teeth. The board is set in a frame. The long strands are twisted together and beaten against a rock. The strands are then placed in flowing water to be cleaned. Do the pictures show the final stage of the textiles being cleaned before they woven together? Flax is mainly used for ropes and mats.
As flax requires good irrigation, its cultivation would have also been limited to areas near rivers in antiquity. Nevertheless, the Bible implies that linen was often used for textile production, even though it may have been considerably more expensive than wool.

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3 Responses to Agriculture in the Holy Land: Flax

  1. Carl says:

    In connection with flax your readers might be interested in the site of Umm el-Qanatir on the slopes of the Golan Heights, east of the Lake of Galilee, where a magnificent synagogue and a flax processing complex was found.,2,5,18,478&img=INGLUK05

  2. Tim Frank says:

    Interesting site. Thanks for that, Carl.

  3. Hey Carl I am doing some research on Gustaf Dalman. I am really enjoying your site. The pictures are so interesting. Sadly so much that we see in these pictures probably does not even exist anymore. Thank you for sharing.

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