Collecting Ancient Coptic / Byzantine Textiles

Clio Ancient Art & Antiquities

Coptic Textile

The colorful textile above is a fragment from a Coptic Egyptian ecclesiastical garment depicting saints and biblical figures and dating to the 7th Century AD, now in The British Museum. Thanks to exceptionally dry conditions, many types of artifacts made from perishable materials that would not survive elsewhere are common finds on Egyptian archaeological sites. Between the late 18th and early 20th Century great numbers of ancient Egyptian textile fragments from all periods were retrieved by local Egyptian treasure hunters and artifacts dealers for sale to foreign visitors, by foreigners conducting their own ad-hoc “excavations” and by archaeologists, often excavating using methods that would by today’s standards be considered little more than treasure hunting.

While textiles of all types, from the most humble garments to the most elaborate, and from every period of Egypt’s long history have been preserved in the dry environment, Coptic textiles are a class unto themselves…

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