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Roman Era Egyptian Textiles


Click on the links to see more images and info at the museums' websites.

*In putting together this post I noticed several weaving terms that appear to be incorrect. The images are useful. Read the descriptions closely.

Undated, Roman. Fayum, Hawara, Egypt.

Piece of linen bandage inscribed with part of a religious text and a vignette. Height:Height: 8.50 centimetres Width: 25 centimetres. Museum number: EA10781,a

Undated, Roman. Akhmim, Egypt.

Fragment of a cord made of two groups of undyed, blue and brown linen threads twisted together in the S direction; both ends cut. Height: 50 centimetres Width: 0.70 centimetres. Museum number: EA20436

Undated, Roman. Akhmim, Egypt.

Plain linen fragment; warp-undyed linen (S/23), weft-undyed linen (S/23); two bands (1.6cm wide, 26cm long) of tapestry in purple wool, with heart shaped motifs (S/c.64); one border with fringe (3cm long); 1.8cm above the fringe is a band of open weave (1.5cm wide); on either side of the open weave are rows of grouped wefts (3 picks in a group); two simple selvedges; one row of curved, sewing holes on either side, along the selvedges, some threads remain in linen (S). Height: 46.50 centimetres Width: 33.80 centimetres. Museum number: EA20426

Undated, Roman. Akhmim, Egypt.

Height: 72.50 centimetres (height inc. fringe) Width: 50 centimetres. Undyed wool; with a decoration in purple wool tapestry and blue brocade. Fringes are preserved at one edge (c.6cm long) and one reinforced selvedges is on the left, other edges cut and ragged. 6cm above the fringe are two lines of supplementary weft in purple and blue wool and one decorative motif in the shape of a shaft of wheat in blue wool (7cm long). 11cm above the fringe are two plain purple bands in tapestry. 28cm above the fringe is another plain purple band with a pyramid-like motif, alternatively on each side of the band. Above this band are scattered geometrical motifs.

Undated, Roman. Akhmim, Egypt.

Height: 25 centimetres Width: 15.60 centimetres. Plain undyed linen fragment; plain weave: warp-undyed linen (S/19); weft-undyed linen (S/12); tapestry: warp-undyed linen (5 ends grouped/5 ribs per cm), weft-purple wool (S/42); one band of tapestry, 4.5cm high; supplementary weft in purple wool, 2 stripes of 3 picks; one border with fringe (3.5cm long). Museum number: EA21508.

Undated Roman. Saqqara, Memphis, Egypt. Fragment of tapestry; the decoration has two freizes with stylised motifs, one at the bottom is fragmentary; warp- undyed wool? (S/8 ribs per cm), weft- dyed wool (red? now faded, S/36) and undyed linen; flying threads in undyed linen (S); all edges cut and ragged. Museum number: EA37128

Undated, Roman. Akhmim, Egypt.

Height: 20.40 centimetres Width: 19.50 centimetres. Tapestry medallion applied and sewn onto an undyed, plain weave linen textile. Plain weave: warp-undyed linen (S/15), weft-undyed linen (S/11); tapestry on grouped threads: warp-undyed linen (S spun Z ply/10), weft-bleached linen (S), yellow, red, green, dark blue wool (S/yellow is 64); oversewing threads in undyed linen (S spun Z ply); all edges are cut or ragged. Museum number: EA18231

Undated. Roman. Saqqara, Egypt.

Height: 16.70 centimetres Width: 18 centimetres. Fragment of a textile in red wool, plain weave, with deocration of two parallel stripes in undyed linen; applied and sewn to the plain weave is a band of blue wool with geometric decoration in undyed wool brocade. Applied and sewn at the upper part of the brocade to reinforce the edge. Museum number: EA37116

300 BCE to 800 CE. Dashur, Egypt. Fragment of cloth in undyed linen with narrow bands of red wool; each c.6mm deep. And at the bottom of the fragment, one of mustard yellow (incomplete). The ground is plain weave and bands in extended plain weave - every 4th thread dropped giving grouping of 1:2:1:2 etc; warp-undyed linen (S/c.18), weft-undyed linen (S/c.12) and red and yellow wool (S/c.8-10). Museum number: EA6651

2nd century. Roman. Fayum, Hawara, Egypt. Height: 26.67 centimetres Width: 26.67 centimetres. Fragment of a linen mummy wrapping inscribed with the name Diogenes, a mender of textiles. Museum number: 1888,0920.34

1st BCE through 3rd CE. Roman.

Height: 70.40 centimetres Width: 73.50 centimetres. Fragment from one end of a plain weave cloth; mainly undyed, warp-faced plain weave linen. Museum number: EA6823

100 to 350. Roman. Shiekh Ibada, Antinoupolis. Height: 75 millimetres Length: 185 millimetres. Sock for right foot with separation between the big toe and four other toes worked in brown wool yarn (several S-spun strands, Z-plied) in a single needle looping technique sometimes called naalebinding. Worked from the toe upwards. Each toe is made separately, then the two are joined and the rows of loops worked round the whole foot 45 times. The back of the sole is then worked. The heel section, which is formed by rows of loops being worked backwards and forwards, is joined by a welt across the instep. Another welt marks the start of the ankle section worked in the round for four rows and then backwards and forwards for another 11 rows to create a centre front opening. The back of the heel and part of the sole are not preserved. The impression of the sandal thong remains visible. Museum number: EA53912

000-5th century. Roman. Egypt.

Long fragment torn from edge of undyed, medium quality linen sack. Tape sewn to edge for reinforcement. Two layers of plain linen, sewn together along selvedges. Museum number: EA6559

000 to 5th century. Egypt.

Rectangular undyed linen shroud (A) from post-mummification burial; groups of triple self-bands; plain fringes at either end, one long; also linen textile strip (B). Height: 12 centimetres Length: 47 centimetres Width: 52 centimetres. Museum number: EA79397

000 to 5th century. Roman. Egypt. Height: 42 centimetres Width: 43 centimetres. Fragment of plain weave, undyed linen. The reverse side is covered by closely spaced rows of looped pile (loops c.5cm long). Museum number: EA74937

1st through 3rd centuries. Egypt.

Textile fragment red and yellow wool with long (c.8-11cm). Looped weft pile; colour of the pile changing in vertical blocks from green to yellow to red. (S/paired/c.5), weft-red wool (S/paired/c.11-13), pile weft-yellow, green, red wool (S/paired), one row of pile after every c.22 pairedmain picks; one selvedge preserved with three groups of warp threads and an extra group of reinforcing weft threads. Other edges fragmentary. Museum number: EA72494

1st through 4th centuries. Egypt. Linen cord fragment; Warp: S spun undyed linen, S spun red linen, paired), 10 ends in 8 mm; Weft: S spun undyed linen, c.4tpc; Museum number: EA37125

1st through 4th centuries. Roman. Egypt.

Short length of warp-faced, plain weave linen tape; Bars created by the use of warp threads of alternating colours; Warp: S spun undyed and pink linen, c.12tpc, order of threads in the warp is 2 undyed, 1 pink, 1u, 1p, 1u, 1p,1u, 1p, 3u; Weft: S spun undyed linen, c.3tpc; Edges: two simple selvedges and two ragged. Museum number: EA72402

1st through 4th centuries. Roman. Egypt.

Three lengths of narrow linen tape, alternating red and undyed linen warp threads to create a pattern of bars; Warp: 12 warp ends in 8mm. Museum number: EA74939

1st thru 5th centuries. Roman. Eygpt.

Height: 17.50 centimetres Width: 28 centimetres. Fragment of weft-faced plain weave. Museum number: EA72472

1st through 5th centuries. Roman. Egypt.

Height: 23 centimetres Width: 92 centimetres. Fragment of wool cloth. Weft-faced plain weave. Accession number: EA72468

1st through 5th centuries. Roman. Egypt.

Rag-doll made from linen stuffed with rags and papyrus. The arms are made from a long roll of linen attached at the back. Coloured wool, now faded, was applied to parts of the face and body. The presence of a small blue glass bead attached to the proper left side of the head suggests a hair ornament. Museum number: 1905,1021.13

1st through 8th centuries. Roman. Sheikh Ibada, Antinoupolis, Egypt. Weight: 44 grammes (including container). Linen bag containing cumin seeds (Cuminum cyminum), fragmented coriander seeds (Coriandrum sativum), tiny fragments of papyrus sedge (Cyperus papyrus) stems and leaves, and minute particles of date palm (Arecaceae family) leaves.

190 to 220. Roman. Egypt. Length: 138 centimetres Width: 56 centimetres.

Section of a rectangular linen shroud, painted in tempera with a representation of a young woman, standing and wearing a pink robe with black edges, holding a cup and a floral garland, surrounded by funerary deities. Also fragments removed during Conservation in 1974. Museum number: EA68509

Late 2nd through Eary 3rd centuries. Roman. Egypt. H.: 11 1/4 in. (28.5 cm). Linen, paint. Accession number: X.390


2nd through 4th centuries. Roman. Egypt.

Height: 28 centimetres Width: 18 centimetres. Fragment of undyed, linen, plain on one side and on the other covered with rows of loops. Accession number: EA72388

2nd through 6th centuries. Roman. Egypt.

Height: 24 centimetres (height inc. loops):Width: 39 centimetres. Fragment of yellow wool cloth partly covered with rows of long loops in matching yellow yarn; warp-yellow wool (S/c.9), weft- yellow wool (S/paired/c.10 sheds per cm); pile yarn paired threads. Museum number:


3rd to 4th centuries. Roman. Qaw el-Kebir, Egypt. Length: 20 centimetres Width: 13.50 centimetres. Fragment of brown linen, weft-faced plain weave textile. Decorated with a central panel of foliate ornament between toothed bands/dotted borders. Warp: S spun, c.10 tpc; Weft: S spun, c.26-28 tpc in plain areas, c.35-42 in tapestry. Museum number: 1923,1103.29

3rd to 4th centuries. Roman. Akhmim, Egypt. Height: 23 centimetres Width: 19 centimetres. Sprang hair-net of undyed linen with stripes of dense and less dense netting. Seams at sides, tapering slightly at top due to the grouping of the threads in twos. Adraw string was threaded through the folded top edge, and the ends knotted together. Along one side of the bottom is a browband with a narrow cord of purple and yellow wool; opposite side was originally threaded with a double drawstring, now missing. Warp-linen (S spun Z ply); two selvedges and two ends; side seams top sewn in linen (S spun Z ply); brow band cord in purple wool (Z) and yellow wool (S). Museum number: EA21634

3rd to 4th centuries. Roman. Sheikh Ibada, Antinoupolis, Egypt. Height: 55 millimetres Length: 125 millimetres.

Sock for the left foot of a child with separation between the big toe and four other toes worked in 6 or 7 colours of wool yarn (several S-spun strands, Z-plied) in a single needle looping technique sometimes called naalbinding and worked from the toe upwards. Each toe is made separately from dark green wool (10 rows). The two toes are then joined and worked in bands: salmon pink (4 rows), purple (4 rows), bluish-green (4 rows), dark red (6 rows), green (2 rows). The heel section is worked in bands of salmon pink (3 rows), purple (3 rows), dark blue (2 rows), salmon pink (8 rows), purple (4 rows), yellow (4 rows). A welt across the instep marks where the loops are worked in the round. Museum number: EA53913

3rd to 4th centuries. Late Roman. Egypt. 15 x 91.5 cm (5 7/8 x 36 in.) Undyed linen and dyed wool tapestry. Accession number: 66.377

3rd to 4th centuries. Late Roman. Egpt.

Overall: 51.3 x 12 cm (20 3/16 x 4 3/4 in.)

Neck ornament. Wool, linen, and gold-wrapped silk thread slit tapestry. Accession number: 46.402

3rd to 4th centuries. Late Roman. Egypt.

Overall: 56.9 x 15.8 cm (22 3/8 x 6 1/4 in.)

Neck ornament. Wool, linen, and gold-wrapped silk thread slit tapestry. Accession number: 46.401

3rd through 5th centuries. Roman. Egypt.

Length: 48.25 cm, Width: 20.3 cm. Large decorative panel of purple wool tapestry cut from the plain white linen ground of a curtain. Accession number: ECM 6300

3rd through 6th centuries CE. Roman. Egypt. Length: 7.6cm, Width: 6.4cm. Woll brocade. Accession number: ECM 6343

3rd through 6th centuries. Roman. Egypt.

Length of narrow ribbon or tape in warp-faced plain weave linen; undyed and red linen, threads of the two colours arranged alternately producing a barred pattern. Museum number: EA72471

3rd through 8th centuries. Roman. Egypt. Length: 6.35 cm , Width: 12.7 cm. This textile fragment is a patchwork that consists of a piece of loosely woven blue wool sewn to a piece of white linen with a heavy pink cord. The fragments are joined with a line of running stitches through the center of the piece and a row of whip-stitches along one long edge. Accession number: ECM 6342

4th century. Roman. Egypt. Height: 34 centimetres Width: 25 centimetres. Fragment of plain weave, undyed linen cloth with a leaf-shaped tapestry motif. Museum number: EA72395

4th century. Roman. Egypt.

Fragment of tapestry (grouped warp threads) roundel in bright purple wool and undyed linen; Also flying thread brocading; Repeating outline field design of squares set in a grid, vine leaf border, linked at bottom by curved lines over dots. Museum number:EA72429

4th century. Roman. Akhmim,Egypt.

Height: 41.50 centimetres Width: 152.60 centimetres. One end of a cloth of mainly undyed, warp-faced plain weave linen. Decorative band in dark purple wool. Museum number: EA21621

4th century. Roman. akhmim, Egypt.

Height: 56 centimetres Width: 82 centimetres. Fragment of warp-faced plain weave, undyed linen with purple, tapestry wool decoration. Museum number: EA21620

Early 4th century. Roman. Akhmim, Egypt.

Height: 89 centimetres (larger fragment) Width: 84 centimetres. Two fragments of a plain weave, linen hanging with decoration made in coloured, wool.

Museum number: EA20717

4th century. Roman. Fayum, Egypt.

Fragment of plain weave, undyed linen (a) with an applied tapestry panel (b). (a) has a band of empty warp threads preceding a warp fringe. Panel (b) is a star-shaped tapestry in purple wool with details in undyed linen. Museum number: 1955,0206.8

4th to 5th centuries. Roman. Akhmim, Egypt. Overall: 312.4 x 222.3 cm (123 x 87 1/2 in.) Undyed linen and coloured wool--Ground of undyed linen in plain weave with five roundels and two pairs of stripes in tapestry weave in purple wool and undyed linen. Accession number: 94.120.

4th to 5th centuries. Roman. Egypt.

Height x width: 7 x 11.5 cm (2 3/4 x 4 1/2 in.) Ground of natural-colored linen; design of dark brown wool. Accession number: 50.2406

4th to 5th Centuries. Akhmim, Egypt. Length: 280 centimetres Width: 44.50 centimetres. Linen and wool. One end of a mattress cover. Weft-faced compound design in purple wool. Plain weave textile in linen. Plain bands of weft loops c.3cm long, paired linen threads occurring after 7-9 picks alternating with double rows of roundels with figures from a hunting scene, the figures repeating across the cloth but changing down its length; From right to left - boyspearing boar, dog chasing goat, boy shooting arrow at lion, leopardess chasing bear. Warp: wool, S spun, 6-7 tpc; Weft: wool S spun, linen S spun, c.68-76 tpc in decoration (ie: 34-38 passes), c.50-60 tpc outside; Edges: 2 main selvedges, 1 starting border (linen, single cord). Museum number: 21703

300 to 400. Egypt.

Fragment of undyed, plain weave linen with large ovoid/leaf-shaped tapestry (grouped warp threads) panel in purple wool, details in undyed linen; Inside panel is a repeating pattern of squares with interlaced borders around lozenges, framed with serrated leaves, at one end a lozenge on a stalk (detail missing from the other end); Inc. wrapped float brocading;Warp: linen, S spun, c. 14 tpc; Weft: linen and wool, S spun, c. 10 tpc in plain areas, c. 45 in tapestry; Edges: cut. Museum number: 1955,0206.13

3rd to 5th centuries. Roman. Akhmim, Egypt. Length: 45.75 cm, Width: 25.4 cm. This pair of large decorative medallions appear to be a set and may have been cut from a single curtain, or a pair of identical curtains. Both medallions take the shape of a large purple tapestry diamond enclosing a smaller purple tapestry square filled with a white geometric pattern. The four triangular spaces between the central square and the outer diamond are each filled with a purple, three-lobed, “tree-of-life” motif. The ground is an intermediate shade created by alternating weft threads of purple and white. Narrow bands embellished with an identical pattern of a narrow, curving vine with three-toothed leaves, branch off the upper and lower points of both large diamond medallions. Accession number: ECM 6301

3rd to 5th centuries. Roman. Akhmim, Egypt. Length: 47 cm, Width: 29.3 cm. Slight difference in the fill of the repeating octagonal motif in the central square of each medallion. These differences show the weaver (or weavers) making different choices as to the best way to translate the pattern from a drawing on papyrus to finished textile. Similar, large purple and white decorative medallions in the collections of the British Museum and The Victoria and Albert Museum are recorded as excavated near the town of Akhmim in Upper Egypt. Accession number: ECM 6305

4th to 5th centuries. Roman. Egypt. 36 x 38 cm (14 3/16 x 14 15/16 in.). Dyed wool. Tapestry weave. Accession number: 53.18

4th through 5th centuries. Late Roman. Egypt. 139 x 79 cm (54 3/4 x 31 1/8 in.)

Undyed linen in plain weave; tapestry weave in coloured wools and undyed linen. Accession number: 1973.290

4th to 6th centuries. Late Roman. Egypt.

34.5 x 65 cm (13 9/16 x 25 9/16 in.) Undyed linen in plain weave; tapestry weave in coloured wools. Accession number: 96.331