Carmen Alfaro Giner Ehem. Senior Fellow

Carmen Alfaro Giner
Oktober 2014 - Januar 2015


Carmen Alfaro Giner, born 1945, is one of the world’s leading experts on antique dyes and ancient textiles, topics to which she dedicated more than 30 years of research. Having studied at Universitat de València and Universidad de Salamanca from 1964 to 1969, she commenced research and teaching activities at various institutions and in numerous countries: at Istituto di Studi Liguri in Bordighera, Italy (1968), Universität Freiburg, Germany (1970-1971), Universidade de Santiago, Spain (1972-1978), Universidad Complutense de Madrid (1980), Spain, where she completed her doctorate, Escuela de Historia y Arqueología in Rome, Italy (1982), Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany (1985/1987) and at Universitat de València (1988-1992), where she worked as associate professor. She was awarded a full professorship of Ancient History at Universitat de València in 1992, a position she holds until today. Carmen Alfaro Giner pursued numerous international research opportunities, for example with Grupo CEIPAC (Centro para el Estudio de la Interdependencia Provincial en la Antigüedad Clásica) in Rome, Italy (1993, 1994), at Universität Potsdam, Germany (1997), at Universität Bonn, Germany (2003), University of Athens, Greece (2005), and at the Centre for Textile Research (CTR) in Copenhagen, Denmark (2007). She was member of „DressID – Clothing and Identities“, a multinational research program (2007-2012) funded by the European Union, and curated several exhibitions, e.g. „Alle Fäden führen nach Rom“ at Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (2009-2010), or „Die Macht der Toga. Dresscode im Römischen Weltreich“ at Römer- und Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim (2010-2013).

IKKM Forschungsprojekt

The “knot of the weaver”: the connection between textiles structures and symbolic representations in Live, Culture and Art.

Just as architecture is concerned with the protection of the body in a broad sense, fabric and clothing are the first protective covers of the body, up close and personal. This would explain their cultural significance. But their beginnings were not easy, and they left a deep impression likely to become myths, preserved in the language and forms of expression of some ancient cultures.

The idea of covering the body with more than leathers, with more malleable and subtle surfaces, changed the human life. The way to put this idea into practice must start from the observation of nature itself (in the origins of human life). Surely this imitatio naturae generated the birth of myths clearly legible (remembering the quarrels between Arachne and Athena concerning quality of its textile art).

But, when, where and how were spinning and weaving really born? What was the origin of those technics? Today we know that the first signs of such a sophisticated technique, made on the basis of so simple elements such as fibers or threads, was developed (for our cultural field) in the so-called Fertile Crescent (area of the Euphrates-Tigris). The thread and tie (or knot) are at the origin of textile.

The thread and knot acquire a mythic-symbolic importance, resulting from their power to create something higher and more complex: textile. The effort involved in creating this technique was so great that it left a deep impression in the popular subconscious. Indeed, the later generations catered to adorn (in the form of stories or religious beliefs) the importance of these humble elements of everyday life, which had cost so much to improve.

I will try to understand how this presence of textile work items develops in terms of the mythological symbolism. I also consider the material processes of spinning and weaving acquired in different cultures, many of them with Indo-European roots. I will draw on the identification of the yarn – the basis of the fabric – with human life, and will refer to the spinners / weavers: to the Morai / Parcae as the divinities of birth and death.



Tejido y cestería en la península Ibérica. Historia de su técnica e industrias desde la prehistoria hasta la Romanziación. Madrid: CSIC 1984.
El tejido en época Romana. Madrid: Arco 1997.
Entalles y camafeos de la universitat de València. Madrid: Generalitat Valènciana 1997.


with Jónatan Ortiz and Julia Martínez: Luxury and Dress. Political power and appearance in the Roman Empire and its provinces. València: University of València 2013.
with Jean-Pierre Brun, Philippe Bogard and Rafaella Pierobon-Benoit: Textiles y tintes en la ciudad Antigua. València: University of València 2011.
with Julia Martínez and Jónatan Ortiz: Muher y vestimenta. Aspectos de la identidad femenina en la Antigüedad. València: University of València 2011.
“Leinen und Wolle für den Kaiser: Die Produktion der textilen Rohstoffe im römischen Spanien”, In: Michael Tellenbach, Regine Schulz and Alfried Wieczorek (eds.): Die Macht der Toga. DressCode im Römischen Weltreich. Mannheim: REM 2013, pp. 182-184.
“Textiles from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Site of Tell Halula (Euphrates Valley, Syria)”, In: Paléorient No.38, 2012, pp. 41-54.
“Politische Macht und Erscheinung: Luxus und Kleidung im römischen Reich und seinen Provinzen”, In: Mannheimer Geschichtsblätter 21, 2011, pp. 129-131.
“Salt, fishing and salted fish in the Pitiusas in Antiquity”, In: Les cahiers du Littoral 2, 2008, pp. 59-76.