Veerle van Kersen is a textile archaeologist who recently passed her MA exams in archaeology at Leuven University, On Wednesday, the 20th February 2020, she wrote:
In the past few weeks I have been spending some time at the TRC to study a collection of fifty medieval textile fragments from Egypt. They were found during archaeological excavations at Quseir al-Qadim in the 1980’s and consist mainly of resist-dyed cottons, manufactured in India for the Egyptian market.
Located on the Red Sea coast, Quseir al-Qadim was an important trading post both in Roman and Mamluk times. These finds come from the latter period, dating between the 13th and 14th centuries AD. I first started by matching the fragments to their excavation numbers, placing them in tissue paper, and giving them a new TRC number.
Next I have been examining the textiles in greater detail, and taking photographs. The textiles have been studied and published before, but modern methods might help to reveal more secrets. For the detailed analysis I made use of a digital microscope. This new instrument, one of which recently acquired by the TRC, has been incredibly helpful for textile researchers, and is often known as a “Dino-Lite” after the most popular manufacturer.
A big advantage of this tool over conventional microscopes, is that it can be used to examine the surface of larger pieces of textile that are difficult to fit under an optic microscope. It also allows the user to take pictures and measurements of specific details (compare the photographs below).
Little details like this are interesting, because they can give an indication in what stage of production the textiles were exported, and how the Egyptians adapted them to their own needs. The outcome of this project will be a small online exhibition, to be published on the TRC webpage soon. In the beginning of October, several pieces will be on display during the large Asian Textiles conference in Leiden, which will co-organised by the TRC.
The Indian textiles from Quseir al-Qadim in Egypt housed at the TRC are catalogued under nos. TRC 2020.0227 until TRC 2020.0275.