You might know how to’Walk like an Egyptian’
but do you know how to dress like an Egyptian?
Hi my name is Amandine Merat
I’m an Egyptologist and an expert in ancient Egyptian textiles
and welcome to my corner!
So today if I tell you ‘Ancient Egypt’,
you will tell me ‘Ohh, sculpture from pharaohs temples
or maybe’Walk like an Egyptian’ – The Bangles (1986).
也可能会说《Walk like an Egyptian》
Well I’m going to introduce you
to another period of Egyptian history
and also another kind of material.
Today we are going to say dress like an Egyptian
and we’re going to talk about textiles in ancient Egypt
from the 7th century to the 15th century AD.
Egypt has a long tradition in textile production
which dates back to the first millennium BC.
Where in other parts of the world textiles haven’t survived
thanks to Egypt’s dry climate textiles survive in abundance.
Today the British Museum collection
of ancient Egyptian textiles comprises around 500 textiles
from the first millennium AD roughly.
They mainly come from excavations lead at
the end of the 19th century and early 20th century.
They come from graves because from the 2nd century onwards
Egyptians stopped mummifying their dead
to bury them in their daily clothes
wrapped into furnishing textiles.
So the textiles we’ll look at today are
both clothing items and furnishing textiles.
So this one here is a fragment
of a shawl or a furnishing textile,
it’s difficult to tell.
It has been woven in linen
the main fibre used in Egypt since 4th millennium BC.
As you can see, it is decorated with a band here
which has been woven with tapestry,
but this time not in wool as was mostly the case
during the so-called coptic period
but in silk.
This is possible after the Arab conquest
because Arabs controlled the silk road
and so this makes silk more easily accessible in Egypt.
It shows some birds and quadrupeds in vegetal interlacing.
This iconography comes back from the classical imagery
imported by the Greeks during the arrival of Alexander the Great
during the third century BC.
However this piece dates to the 7th or 8th century
and shows the continuation of imagery and iconography
throughout the centuries in Egypt.
So this piece shows a transition
which will continue for example with this piece later on.
So this textile has 4 edges preserved.
They have been sewn underneath
and the shape indicates that this is a sleeve of a tunic.
What is interesting here is
that we can find the same iconography here
that we found here which means the vegetal interlacing and medallions
which are housing some animal motifs here very much stylized.
This inscription doesn’t read anything
it’s a pseudo-inscription
a pseudo-kufic inscription which is an Arabic script.
Such garments bearing such inscriptions are called tiraz.
And’tiraz’ comes from the Persian word meaning embroidery.
and tiraz was used to describe
both the clothes produced at the time
and also the workshops where they were produced.
At first tiraz were easily identifiable
because of their inscriptions.
So the inscriptions was either naming the kalif
or quoting the Qur’an.
Later on, especially from the 9-10th century AD
tiraz were also just identifiable by these pseudo-inscription lines
and they could also be not only embroidered but woven
in tapestry like this one.
Tiraz were produced to decorate furnishing textiles or garments
They were mostly found tunics on the sleeves.
And at the time the main item of clothing for men,
当时男人 女人 小孩的
women and kids alike was the tunic
And the tunic could be of two types at this time
it could be either the traditional tunic which was adopted
after the Roman fashion from the second century AD
which is a tunic which was woven in one piece in a T shape
folded and sewn along the edges
or it could be a tunic which was imported
from the 7th century AD after the Arab conquest
from eastern countries.
And this tunic was made of several pieces of clothe sewn together.
So to imagine how this was worn
if you look at my jacket for example
this part would be that part
and this would come up to here and
these two ends would be sewn along the edge here.
So we are now looking at textiles from the Mamluk period
which is roughly 13th century to mid-16th century.
So I have 3 textiles in front of me
and I’m sure you can already notice some differences
from the ones we just had a look at.
The main difference
with the Mamluk is their taste for geometric decoration
and that’s why at this time the main decoration
consists of geometric motifs.
So for example you can see on this textile
tiny, tiny triangle motifs.
This textile is a pillow case
and it was found in a grave
as we can notice it
through the stains coming from the humor of the body.
Geometric decoration can be found on furnishing textiles
but also on clothing items.
So in front of me is another example
of a sleeve of a tunic
This tunic is probably of the type 2 that we described earlier
because under the Mamluk’s type 1 is slowly but surely abandoned
and men, women and kids
only wore tunics made of several pieces of clothe cut and sewn together.
But then you will tell me:’But hang on, here there is some patterns????’
‘AND IT’S NOT ONLY GEOMETRIC!’
This is true because under the Mamluk’s one
of the most important signs of high rank in society
became the blazon.
So a blazon is basically a kind of logo
for an amir or a prince.
For example this blazon has been woven in cotton
one of the most used fibres under the Mamluks
and it was made to decorate a tent of an amir
and it is decorated with a cup
and this cup helps us to know that
this amir was the’cup bearer’ at court
which was a very, very high duty under the Mamluks.
Thanks for watching my little introduction on fashion in Egypt
and textile production.
I hope you enjoyed it
and I hope you’re going to look for these textiles in museums now.
If you want to see more Curator’s Corners you can find them here.
You might know how to’Walk like an Egyptian’