Kellis Embroideries (Egypt)

Site of ancient Kellis, Egypt. Site of ancient Kellis, Egypt.

Kellis in Egypt is the old name for the modern-day site of Ismant el-Kharab, ‘Ismant the ruined’. It is an ancient settlement that lies about 11 km northeast of Mut, the capital of the Dakhla oasis. Excavations at Kellis began in 1986, and from 1991 the Kellis excavations were carried out by Monash University, Australia. The main occupation phases date from the early to late Roman Periods (first to the fifth centuries AD).

In addition to a Child's hooded tunic, discussed elsewhere, there were several other fragments of cloth with embroidery. These include:

(a) Two woollen textile fragments from a larger, embroidered patchwork found in Area D at the site. These fragments consist of one, nearly complete cuff and a second partial cuff, apparently from the same woollen, narrow sleeved tunic, dating to the fourth century AD. The complete cuff includes a selvedge and three decorative, woven bands. Between the bands are two embroidered motifs. One is a rectangle (18 x 16 mm) filled in with mauve wool yarn in a random filling stitch, containing a cross worked in pink wool in stem stitch over the top. There is a small, satin stitch dot, also in pink, in each corner. The other embroidered form is a diamond shaped motif with diagonals worked in stem stitch (in pink and red wool).

The other fragment is smaller (130 mm wide) and appears to be the matching cuff from the same tunic. The embroidered pattern is a diamond shaped motif with two crossed lines worked in a mauve and pink woollen yarn using simple couching and stem stitch.

(b) An embroidered fragment (acc. no. 31/420 D6-1/A/5 S92.310f; 21.5 x 19 cm) from House 3, upper fill, may have been blown into the room. It has been given a presumed fourth century AD date. It is made from an undyed weft faced tabby and appears to be the top part of a tunic. There is a line of purple wool stitching in what appears to be a simple form of couching.

(c) Several embroidered fragments (acc. no. 31/420 D6-1/A/3 S87 169; 13 x 15 cm) were recorded in North Room 1 and they probably date to the fourth century AD. They are joined together at the top with a blue square piece embroidered in undyed and pink-dyed wool. There are also three rows of purple embroidery on another attached fragment. The embroidery appears to be worked in stem stitch and simple couching.

(d) A fragment of patchwork (31/420 D6-1/D/1 S95.70c) from Building 1, Zone XXII, Area D and probably dating to the fourth century AD. It consists of several pieces of woollen weft-faced tabby cloth sewn together. It is decorated with curved rows of embroidery worked in blue-green, light orange, pink, purple, and the remnants of a row of brownish orange woollen yarn. The embroidery seems to be worked with a simple couching thread.

Source: VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian (2016). 'Late classical and early medieval embroideries from Egypt and Nubia,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.). Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 58-70, esp. 61-64.

Digital source (retrieved 16 February 2013).

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 3 June 2016).

GVE and RL

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 12:21