Embroidered Textiles from Kerch, Crimea

Ring from the Pavlovski Barrow, Kerch, Crimea. Ring from the Pavlovski Barrow, Kerch, Crimea.

In the nineteenth century, there were various excavations of burial mounds near the Crimean city of Kerch. Textiles were found dating from the fourth - second centuries BC. The textiles include woven, printed, as well as embroidered forms. There are locally made pieces as well as imported examples, notably Chinese silks.

Several embroidered fragments of woollen cloth were found in the burial mound of a woman in the Pavlovski Barrow, south of Kerch, in about 1858. It was found with a large vase with a depiction of rebirth (palingenesis) of the small Iacchus and the sending out of Triptolemus, two Greek mythical characters. The woollen cloth probably came from one of the woman’s garments. The cloth was violet/purple in colour and embroidered in chain stitch and satin stitch using black, green, pinkish yellow, red and white woollen thread. The main design consisted of an Amazon on horseback. Near the Amazon was a section of embroidered foliage including a vine and trail motif.

A second piece of embroidery from the same tomb was decorated with a foliage motif including grape-like forms, tendrils and a palmette. These pieces are generally described as being Greek in inspiration.

Another group of embroidered, woollen textile fragments appears to have been excavated in a woman’s grave by Anton Ashik, director of the Kerch Museum, in 1841. Based on other items found in the same tomb, it would appear that these pieces may date to the third century BC. When the textile fragments were found they were in a very bad condition and were immediately glued down onto a card backing. This has made it very hard to understand the original form of the cloth. It would appear that it was a slate coloured woollen fabric, partially decorated with a fine metal thread consisting of a metal strip spun around a core of some kind. This type of thread is now known as passing. The nature of the fibre core is unknown, as it has deteriorated away. The metal thread was couched onto the ground material.

See also the TRC Needles entry on Embroidered fragments from Smela, Ukraine.


  • STEPHANI, Ludolf (1881). 'Erklärung einiger Kunstwerke der Kaiserlichen Ermitage und anderer Sammlungen,' in Compte-Rendu de la Commission Archéologique Impériale pour les années 1878-1879, St. Petersburg. Amazon embroidery: p. 113 and gold thread embroidery: pp. 135-136 (available here). 
  • TOLMACHOFF, Eugenia (1942). 'Some ancient Greek textiles found in Southern Russia,' The Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 17-57, especially pp. 46-53 (available here).


Last modified on Tuesday, 23 May 2017 19:06