The site of Halabiyeh, Syria. The site of Halabiyeh, Syria.

The fortress of Halabiyeh, ancient Zenobia, lies along the Euphrates River near the modern city of Deir ez Zor, Syria, about 200 km northwest of another ancient site, Dura Europos. Halabiyeh is first mentioned in a list of Assyrian settlements from c. 1040 BC. The town became an important trading centre between east and west, and remained inhabited until at least the seventh century AD.

Various French and German excavations took place in the 1930's. The necropolis in particular was investigated by the German archaeologists, Ernst Herzfeld and Friedrich Sarre. During their work they identified a wide range of objects, including textiles, but they did not refer to any embroideries.

Various textiles from Halabiyeh were described in detail by the Czech archaeologist, Nikolaj Petrovic Toll, in his 1937 report on the textiles from the French excavations. He describes the textiles from Tomb Tower II and Tomb Tower III of the northern necropolis. Among the textiles from Tomb Tower II (T.II) were several small fragments (T.II.3) of a crimson red silk textile (tabby weave) with traces of chain stitch embroidery (Toll described chain stitch as ‘loop-embroidery’). Unfortunately the size and condition of the textiles meant that the design was not recognizable, but there was enough for Toll to suggest that this piece may have been Chinese in origin.

Another textile (T.II.4) was in yellow and green silk. It was decorated with a blue silk embroidery using a chain stitch, plus gold thread. The metallic thread was made of a narrow strip of gold, spun (z-spun) around an undyed silk core (a form of passing). The gold thread was couched down with a fine silk thread. The design is a series of scales, but unfortunately the fragments were so small that no further details could be discerned.


  • TOLL, Nikolaj Petrovic (1937). The Necropolis of Halebie-Zenobia, Prague: Seminarium Kondakovianum, IX, p. 21; T.II.3, T.II.4
  • VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian (2016), 'Embroideries from archaeological and historical sources from the Eastern Mediterranean and Iraq,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 71-77, esp. pp. 73-74.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 3 June 2016)


Last modified on Monday, 17 April 2017 19:52