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Plain woven linen is regarded as typical textile for Egypt and often used as ground fabric, whereas dyed wool is found for decorative parts. Ancient weavers employed various techniques for patterns and ornaments, particularly tapestry weaving had an omnipresent position despite time and effort. Some tapestries that have been preserved in major collections worldwide served as large scale hangings or furnishing textiles, however, smaller pieces were also intended to decorate garments (“tunics”).

A beginning of this technique is hard to determine, already textiles from the famous tomb of Tutankhamum (1332-1323 BC) discovered by Howard Carter show decorations in tapestry technique.

The continuing desire for tapestries can be seen during several centuries until Late Antiquity (ca. 300-800 AD). Egyptian workshops were able to create elaborate tapestries in small scale on a set of forms depicting both ancient mythological and biblical themes. Besides figural and narrative scenes geometric and linear patterns were also highly esteemed. Such decorations were either woven into or sewn onto a linen or woolen ground fabric in a subsequent step.

Further reading:

  • Thomas, T. K. (2001). Textiles from Karanis, Egypt in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; Artifacts of Everyday Life. Ann Arbor.